Alabama loses two leaders
Steve Flowers, Guest columnist
Alabama lost two political giants the last week in March. Howell Heflin's and Tom Bevill's contributions to our state are immeasurable. Their years in Washington will leave an indelible mark for years to come.
It is an interesting twist of fate that they passed away within 12 hours of each other. They were the same age and enjoyed a full and happy life. Both enjoyed some rewarding retirement years. Bevill died one day after Easter Sunday on his 84th birthday with his entire family spending the day with him.
I treasure having had the opportunity to spend a day visiting with Senator Heflin last August. Many of us affectionately called him "Judge." While we sat in a caf/ in Tuscumbia, he enjoyed reminiscing about his senate years. Judge had a wit that was unmatched. He also had a repertoire of jokes that was endless. There was always a gleeful, cheerful, almost mischievous look in his eyes that made you smile along with him. Judge's health had slipped some in recent years. His immobility was impaired and it frustrated him, but his mind was still as sharp as a knife. He had a memory like a steel trap. Senator Heflin and his wife Elizabeth Ann adored each other. She is the quintessential Southern lady.
Tom Bevill's power in Washington was legendary. He served over three decades in Congress, representing the 4th Congressional District. Even though he was a Congressman, the rest of the State referred to Bevill as our 3rd Senator. He wielded as much power as any Senator.
Bevill had been a Wallace ally and floor leader in the State House of Representatives. In 1966, Bevill won his seat in Congress and for over 30 years he never had a close contest. He believed in taking care of the folks in his North Alabama district and bringing home the bacon. Tom Bevill loved the people of the north central part of the state and they loved him. However, as he rose to power and prominence in Washington the rest of the state began to lean on and depend on Bevill and he always delivered. He became chairman of the subcommittee that oversaw all highways and waterways throughout the nation.
The Fourth District and indeed all of Alabama benefited from Bevill's power. He passed away in his beloved home of Jasper.
Both men exemplified the character and perseverance portrayed in Tom Brokaw's book "The Greatest Generation." They were born into the Great Depression, so they saw what real poverty was like in the South.
They believed that government has a place in lifting folks up, especially in a rich nation like ours. They both served their country with honor during World War II. They both became small town lawyers.
They both were hard workers and devoted family men, but through their love for their state and nation they made the whole state a part of their extended family. Therefore, they took care of us.