Few politicians could shake as many hands as Col. Mann
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–It is one of those dreaded times for me. I am writing this column several days before the election, many of you will be reading it after the election. You know who won, I don't.
That being the case, I have the opportunity to do what I like to do on occasion…share a story with you from the political past. Hopefully one you will find amusing.
This one is about my late friend, Col. Floyd Mann. I suspect some of you remember him. He was an outstanding law enforcement officer…police chief of Alexander City and Opelika, and served as Director of the Department of Public Safety under Gov. John Patterson and Gov. Albert Brewer.
Not only was he a good lawman, but Floyd was a born politician.
He could work a crowd as good as anybody, shaking every hand in sight. (One day he and several other Brewer Cabinet members, including me, drove out to a tuxedo rental place to get suited up for some upcoming event. After shaking a half-dozen hands in the parking lot Floyd walked into the rental store. saw what he thought was a man standing behind him, and turned and stuck out his hand. It was a life-size manikin wearing a tuxedo.)
But back to the story I want to tell. Col. Mann came up with a dandy public relations stunt during his days in the Brewer Cabinet. He had printed and then distributed thousands of Honorary State Trooper cards.
They were fancy cards…state seal embossed in gold…blue ink..the outline of the Capitol in the background. Understand they weren't worth the paper they were printed on, but everybody wanted to be an Honorary State Trooper.
One day Col. Mann was buzzed by his secretary and told that he had a visitor. His name was Charlie Burns, now deceased.
I need to tell you about Charlie. He was about 5 feet 6 inches tall, about as wide, and he had a high-pitched voice. But more than that, Charlie was a funny guy. He made people laugh. You have all known someone like him.
Charlie came into Col. Mann's office with a sad story.
"Colonel, as you know I work for the Alabama Trucking Association…I do a lot of driving around the state…and your boys are giving me a lot of tickets for speeding," Charlie said. "I thought if you made me an Honorary State Trooper it might help me out."
Col. Mann said he would be honored to make him an Honorary State Trooper.
"I'm not sure it will do you any good," Mann added, "but it can't hurt."
Mann had his secretary type Burns' name on a card, he signed it with a flourish, and Charlie departed happy.
Floyd later told me the story, we both chuckled and thought no more about it.
About a month later Floyd and I were having lunch one day at the Elite Cafe…how I miss that place. I looked up and saw Charlie waddling toward our table.
He walked up to the table, greeted us, and then turned to Mann.
"Colonel, I was driving back from Dothan late last week and just north of the Ross Clark Circle one of your Blue Light boys stopped me," Charlie said.
"He said he clocked me at 83 miles per hour and was going to give me a speeding ticket," he said.
Col. Mann, trying to suppress a smile, responded: "Charlie, did you show him your Honorary State Trooper Card?"
With a pained expression on his face, Burns replied: "I sure did, Colonel, and when he told me what I could do with it I was darn glad it wasn't a metal plaque."