Remembering those who left us in 2015
Published 7:37 pm Monday, December 28, 2015
By Steve Flowers
Steve is a former legislator and is now the state’s leading political columnist.
As we close the final page on the 2015 book, my yearend tradition is to reminisce about the passing away of significant players on the Alabama political stage.
The first obituary is not a person but an entity. The Alabama Education Association is essentially dead as a political organization. The king is dead. When Paul Hubbert died the AEA died. It is as though it rose and fell with his life. He reigned as King of Goat Hill for over 30 years.
In 1969, the AEA was nothing more than a professional organization run by the school superintendents. It had no political muscle or organization. There were no political action committees at that time. Then the AEA sought and got Dr. Paul Hubbert. He quickly grasped the understanding of political power. In his first year he defeated Gov.George Wallace and quickly earned his spurs. By the mid 1970s, he had built the AEA into a powerful political machine and by 1982 he and Wallace joined forces and AEA and Hubbert became the Kings of Goat Hill.
Paul Hubbert reigned from 1982-2012. He died in 2014. Today the AEA is back where it was in 1969. It is once again a toothless professional organization. The new Republican legislative majority that came to power in 2010 made it their mission to dismantle and destroy the once omnipotent AEA. The GOP legislature, along with our extremely partisan GOP Supreme Court, took away their dues check off, then continued to shovel dirt onto the grave.
Over the past few years, they have cut teachers’ pay and this past year raided the Special Education Trust Fund to keep the General Fund afloat. They will probably raid it again next year because there is nobody to guard the hen house.
The AEA was the last democratic based political organization to help elect Democrats. Therefore, with the death of the AEA there is a conjunctive death of the Democratic Party statewide in Alabama. The leadership of the Democratic Party, which is essentially Joe Reed and his allies, are content to control a fiefdom that is comprised of local political Democratic bastions of urban and Black Belt enclaves. They do not even field credible or serious candidates for statewide office.
Sid McDonald was not only a player in Alabama politics, he was also an ultra-successful businessman. McDonald hailed from beautiful Marshall County. He represented his home area in both the House and Senate.
He was state finance director and ran a good race for governor in 1978. He and Fob James both financed their own campaigns. Fob won the race. Bill Baxley finished second. Albert Brewer was third and Sid McDonald ran fourth ahead of Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley.
McDonald was one of Alabama’s outstanding businessmen. He was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 2010. Sid McDonald served for 16 years on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater the University of Alabama. The University of Alabama system administrative building located on the university campus on University Boulevard in Tuscaloosa was named for Sid McDonald in 2014. On May 15, 2015, McDonald died on a business trip in Colorado. He was 76.
State Representative Lesley Vance of Phenix City died in November at age 76 from colon cancer. He had wrestled with the cancer for over a year. He was a great man and a good friend. Lesley was a true Horatio Alger story. He was one of 15 children who grew up poor in rural Alabama. He became financially successful as a funeral home director and owner. He had the largest funeral home in Phenix City and Columbus, Georgia. He as a civic leader in Russell County before he went to the legislature. He served in the State House of Representatives for over 20 years.
Although he was a Tennessean, Fred Thompson was born in northwest Alabama. Fred Thompson was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee for 12 years. Prior to running for the U.S. Senate, he was a television and movie star. Best known for his role in Law and Order, he first became famous as a Watergate prosecutor in the 1970s. Thompson died of lymphoma at age 73 at his home in Nashville.