A look back at Dr. Bill Stewart
Long time newspaper columnist, Hartselle native dies at 81
For a quarter of a century, avid readers of the Hartselle Enquirer have learned the history of the City of Southern Hospitality from one of her sons. Dr. Bill Stewart researched and wrote his column “A Look Back” on subjects ranging from weddings to the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic and, most recently, a three-part series on buggies.
Stewart passed away last week.
Leaving behind his wife Connie and son William H. Stewart III, who goes by Trey, Stewart was a family man, a Christian and faithful member of the University church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, the city that had been his home for most of his adult life.
Connie said her husband of 45 years was an “avid researcher” and loved researching and writing about his hometown.
“You should have seen him every day at that computer, reading something or looking at something online,” she said. “Just recently he bought a few books that were filled with old news clippings from Morgan County … He read that book cover to cover more than once, just gleaning information he could use in his column. He was such a diligent researcher.”
An excerpt from his final column, submitted just days prior to his death at 81 years old, reads “May 19, 1910—J. W. Grizzard, who lives on Somerville Route 1, bought a new top rubber tire, single-harness buggy in Hartselle today. Mr. Grizzard is a single man, 22 years old. It is believed that his marriage prospects will improve considerably as a result of his acquiring this new buggy. He already has a six-year-old black mare mule.”
Stewart meticulously covered these historical topics and more, writing his weekly column with fervor and sometimes a bit a humor.
“He loved Hartselle; that’s where he grew up, and he was just a small-town boy,” Connie added. “He was truly a gentleman of that era and really loved sharing with people everything he learned about Hartselle. (The column) gave him something to do after his retirement that had value and kept him busy.
“It was a wonderful thing, and I’m glad it was well liked.”
Stewart was an expert on Alabama politics, having spent the better part of five decades as a professor and later professor emeritus at the University of Alabama, where he taught political science.
Some of his interests included state and local government, federalism and public administration. Several Alabama legislators, and former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, studied at Stewart’s feet. Stewart also wrote more than 20 books.
According to his obituary, which can be read in its entirety on page A-2, Stewart earned his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Alabama and his master’s degree from George Washington University.
Connie said her husband had a dry sense of humor that stayed with him until a couple of days before he passed. “A lot of people didn’t catch it, but once you caught it, it was so charming,” she said.
Stewart was born in Hartselle August 29, 1939, to Opal Cross Stewart and William H. Stewart Sr. He also leaves behind a sister, Susan Stewart Greayer, brother-in-law Lamar Scott and sister-in-law Judy Scott. A private family graveside service was held Jan. 9 in Hartselle.