Bill Bax­ley played a ma­jor roll in Alabama as lawyer, district at­tor­ney and at­tor­ney gen­eral

Cherokee County Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

Bax­ley was the Cir­cuit Judge in Hous­ton and Henry coun­ties. Mr. Keener had been the District At­tor­ney prior to go­ing on the bench. Bill grew up in his daddy’s court­room. There was no doubt in his mind that he would be a lawyer.

Bax­ley was a child pro­tégé. He also had a me­te­oric rise in Alabama pol­i­tics. He fin­ished Dothan High School at 16, the Univer­sity of Alabama at 20 and Law School at 22. He be­came the District At­tor­ney in Hous­ton and Henry Coun­ties at the age of 24. He was elected At­tor­ney Gen­eral of Alabama at the ripe old age of 28 and served eight years as the state’s top pros­e­cu­tor. Un­like many of the re­cent at­tor­ney gen­er­als, who ac­tu­ally know noth­ing about crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion, Bax­ley though young was well qual­i­fied and an ef­fec­tive pros­e­cu­tor. Bax­ley was elected lieu­tenant gover­nor in 1982 and ran sec­ond for gover­nor twice, once in 1978 and again in 1986.

Bill Bax­ley like most politi­cians had his fa­vorite sto­ries and jokes. His best that he told re­peat­edly through­out the years took place in Oc­to­ber over 50 years ago. It was dur­ing the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis. Most of us thought our world was com­ing to an end. The story was about an ole guy named Squat­low. I am not sure whether this story is true or not but it could very well be true.

Squat­low got his nick­name be­cause he would squat down low to the ground when­ever he talked with folks. Ole Squat­low would hun­ker down with a chew of to­bacco in his mouth and gos­sip and swap sto­ries all day.

Bax­ley was a young District At­tor­ney for Hous­ton and Henry Coun­ties. Dothan and Hous­ton County has about 90 per­cent of the peo­ple in the Cir­cuit with Henry County be­ing the home to about 10 per­cent. Bax­ley was a youth­ful 25-year-old district at­tor­ney and would travel to Court on oc­ca­sion in Henry County to pros­e­cute the few crim­i­nals they had in Henry County.

Bax­ley like most politi­cians would stop at a coun­try store and drink a coke with the ru­ral folks in the area. Henry County is a very sparsely pop­u­lated ru­ral county in the Wire­grass with two small towns, Abbeville and Head­land. Abbeville hap­pens to be the county seat.

Squat­low had a me­chanic shop/gas sta­tion/ gro­cery store in the ob­scure com­mu­nity of Tum­ble­ton in Henry County. His whole world was no big­ger than that county. The big­gest places he had ever been were Abbeville and Head­land with a pop­u­la­tion of about 1,000 peo­ple each.

Well, they may have been back in the woods, but they knew about the Cuban Mis­sile Cri­sis and the stand­off be­tween the United States and Rus­sia. It was a scary sit­u­a­tion. I think most peo­ple were afraid that a nu­clear war was im­mi­nent. The whole world was on edge.

Dur­ing the week of this cri­sis, Bax­ley while trav­el­ing to court in Henry County, stopped by Squat­low’s store in Tum­ble­ton. Squat­low and all the folks in the lit­tle com­mu­nity were scared. This was ob­vi­ously the topic of con­ver­sa­tion that day.

Ole Squat­low saun­tered down in his lowest squat­ting po­si­tion and just shook his head. “You know, I’ve been think­ing about it all night, and I just know those damn Rus­sians are go­ing to bomb Abbeville. Yeah, they gonna,’ drop one of them atom bombs right on Abbeville” said old Squat­low.

Bax­ley looked at Squat­low and said, “Squat­low, why in the world would the Rus­sians drop a bomb on Abbeville, Alabama?” Squat­low looked at Bax­ley like he was the most stupid per­son he had ever seen. He shook his head at how ig­no­rant this young, 25-year-old lawyer was. He looked at Bax­ley and said, “Boy, don’t you know noth­ing? Don’t you know that Abbeville is the County Seat of Henry County?”

Steve Flow­ers is Alabama’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal colum­nist. His weekly col­umn ap­pears in over 60 Alabama news­pa­pers.

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