Re­mem­ber­ing Heart of Dixie’s po­lit­i­cal icons

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

At the close of ev­ery year my tra­di­tion is to ac­knowl­edge the pass­ing away of sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal play­ers from the po­lit­i­cal stage in Alabama. We have lost some Icons from pol­i­tics in the Heart of Dixie this year.

Lucy Bax­ley passed away in October in Birm­ing­ham at 78. She was born on a farm in ru­ral Hous­ton County in the com­mu­nity of Pansy. She went to school at Ash­ford. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion from high school she went to work at the court­house in Dothan and worked for Judge Keener Bax­ley.

When Judge Bax­ley’s son, Bill, got elected At­tor­ney Gen­eral in 1970, young Bill Bax­ley asked Lucy to come to Mont­gomery to be his ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant. Eight years later she and Bill mar­ried. She was an in­te­gral part of Bax­ley’s first cam­paign for Gover­nor in 1978. Bill be­came Lt. Gover­nor in 1982, then lost again for gover­nor in 1986. Soon, there­after, Bill and Lucy ended their ten year mar­riage.

Lucy then be­gan her own ca­reer in Alabama pol­i­tics. She was elected State Trea­surer in 1990 and spent eight years in that post. She was a nat­u­ral cam­paigner. One of the best one-on-one I have ever seen.

She worked the state dur­ing those eight years as Trea­surer, es­pe­cially among se­nior cit­i­zen groups.

She par­layed that cam­paign into be­ing elected as the first fe­male lieu­tenant gover­nor in his­tory. In that 1998 cam­paign, she coined the cam­paign phrase, “I Love Lucy.” Her signs were all over the state. Her name iden­ti­fi­ca­tion was so pro­nounced that her lieu­tenant gover­nor’s parking space sim­ply said “Lucy.”

She was the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for gover­nor in 2002, but lost to Repub­li­can Bob Ri­ley. She fin­ished her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer by serv­ing on the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion. Lucy loved Alabama and folks loved her.

Judge Perry O. Hooper, Sr. passed away in his home­town of Mont­gomery in April at the age of 91. Judge Hooper’s ca­reer par­al­leled the growth and dom­i­nance of the Repub­li­can Party in Alabama. He was in­deed one of the found­ing Fa­thers of the mod­ern Repub­li­can Party in the Heart of Dixie. He was a Repub­li­can be­fore it was cool. One time when he was state party chair­man, Hooper would joke that he could call a meet­ing of the state GOP in a phone booth.

Hooper was a Ma­rine. His lovely wife, Mar­i­lyn, was a Mont­gomery na­tive and they raised four fine boys. As a pioneer Repub­li­can he led the Gold­wa­ter land­slide of the South in 1964. That crescendo pro­pelled him into the Mont­gomery Pro­bate Judge of­fice. He was re­elected to that post in 1970 and in 1974, he moved to a Mont­gomery Cir­cuit judge­ship.

Twenty years later Judge Hooper broke the ice of con­trol that the Democrats and Trial Lawyers had over the State Supreme Court. He be­came the First Repub­li­can Chief Jus­tice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike noted at his funeral that dur­ing his years as a Judge he treated every­one fairly.

Jim Ben­nett was the long­est serv­ing Sec­re­tary of State in Alabama his­tory. Jim passed away in Birm­ing­ham in August at age 76, shortly af­ter be­ing di­ag­nosed with can­cer. Jim was a writer, re­porter, State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, State Se­na­tor and Sec­re­tary of State.

He be­came a re­porter for the Birm­ing­ham Post Her­ald af­ter grad­u­a­tion from Jack­sonville State. He cov­ered the Civil Rights protests in Birm­ing­ham in 1963 and stood next to Bull Con­ner when he or­dered fire hoses turned on pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing chil­dren. He once told me he in­ter­viewed Ge­orge Wal­lace, Bull Con­ner and Martin Luther King in the same day.

He ran for and was elected to the state leg­is­la­ture in 1978. We served to­gether in the House. He later moved to the Se­nate. He was first ap­pointed Sec­re­tary of State in 1993. He won the elec­tion in 1994 and served two four year terms through 2003. He is not only the long­est serv­ing Sec­re­tary of State, but is also the only one to have been elected as both a Demo­crat and as a Repub­li­can.

He was a long­time mem­ber of the Jack­sonville State Univer­sity Board of Trustees and was Chair­man of the Board when he passed away. Jim Ben­nett was a true pub­lic ser­vant. Have a Happy New Year! Steve Flow­ers is Alabama’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal colum­nist. His weekly col­umn ap­pears in over 60 Alabama news­pa­pers. He served 16 years in the state leg­is­la­ture. Steve may be reached at www.steve­flow­ers. us.

By Steve Flow­ers

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