Wallace thought Yankees were the target
Steve Flowers, Guest columnist
A good many of you seemed to like the series of September columns on George Wallace. Several of my legislative friends have chatted with me and told me how much they enjoyed the Wallace series and how it evoked memories of the governor. It prompted them to share their most memorable Wallace stories with me. We have swapped tales that many of us enjoy telling about Gov. Wallace.
I will share a funny story that I remember well with you. It happened on an early fall day much like today. I was a 30 year old freshman legislator. Wallace was in his last term.
Since I was his representative and supported him in the legislature, he had made me a floor leader and seemed to take a liking to me. As I mentioned earlier, he had known me since I was 11 years old and a page in the legislature during his first term as governor. My relationship gave me access to him. So on this fall day I ambled down to the governor's office one floor down from the House Chamber in the capitol. I walked into the office and the secretary whisked me back to his office pretty quickly. They said he would love to visit with me as he was not having a good day with his health, and would like to reminisce with me about his younger days and first term. It would cheer him up. Well, he seemed to be in good spirits when I went in, and he had his ever-present cigar in the corner of his mouth.
Wallace's health had deteriorated badly from the effects of the bullet wounds he had endured and his hearing was really bad because he had been assigned to work around airplanes during World War II. Most veterans of that war have a hearing impairment directly related to the war.
My mission that day was to get $10,000 out of his discretionary fund for a pioneer museum for my district. He controlled all of the extra pork money we appropriated. So, we had to see the governor for our pet project money.
I knew we had put money into the tourism budget for projects like my museum.
After listening to his story about politics and earlier days, I got down to business. He led in by asking, "Steve, what did you want today?" I had to shout so Wallace could hear and began by selling the fact that my pioneer museum was located on a well traveled four lane highway which was a corridor and travel route for northerners traveling to the beaches for their winter escape, and that they would stop at our museum and spend tourist money in Alabama. Therefore, $10,000 of tourism funds for my museum was wise stewardship of Alabama taxpayer money. Wallace still seemed like he didn't hear me well, so I almost shouted that we were catching the snowbirds as they traveled north or south. I had just heard the term snowbird and was loudly and proudly using it.
Well, Wallace had not heard the term but he heard me and said, "Steve, what kinds of birds are y'all catching down there?"
I knew he was confused so I dropped my snowbird terminology and said, "Governor, we have a lot of Yankees that come through Pike County and we want to stop them at our museum and get them to spend tourist dollars."
He looked even more puzzled and looked at me aghast and said, "Steve, what in the world are y'all doing to the Yankees down there in Pike County?" The poor fellow thought I was asking for money to set up a speed trap of some sort for unsuspecting Yankees traveling through Alabama.
He finally gave me the money for the museum but I still think he was a little concerned about how it was going to be spent.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He served 16 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.