Shelby sets the trend for state
Steve Flowers, Guest columnist
Since this column is written before Tuesday's electoral outcome, I do not know the election results. Therefore, I cannot comment on the Presidential or statewide elections. However, there is one result I feel confident in predicting. It's a safe bet that our senior Senator, Richard Shelby, won reelection to his fourth term in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
It seems like yesterday when, in 1970, I was a freshman at The University of Alabama, and the toughest governor's race slugfest in modern history was occurring. The Wallace-Brewer race was something for history.
That same year I noticed the Tuscaloosa highways were adorned with billboards for a young, handsome Tuscaloosa lawyer named Richard Shelby. He was making a bold race to challenge an incumbent state senator. Shelby won handily.
He served two terms, eight years and built a reputation for being practical and effective. He worked hard for The University of Alabama which was the lifeblood of Tuscaloosa's economy. His law partner, Walter Flowers, had been the U.S. Congressman for about 10 years and decided to take a plunge at a U.S. Senate seat. Flowers would lose to Howell Heflin that year for the open seat being vacated by the great John Sparkman. Shelby had been positioning to run for Lt. Governor in 1978.
However, when his pal and law partner, Flowers, chose to leave the 7h District Congressional seat, Shelby switched courses and ran and won the Congressional seat. He was effective but felt frustrated by being one of 435 in Congress and looking at the probability of waiting another 15 or 20 years before he could chair a committee.
The extremely conservative Jeremiah Denton had been elected in 1980 in the Reagan conservative sweep. He had been completely cavalier toward Alabama constituent concerns, had refused to answer mail from Alabamians or return calls or come home. Denton had written a script on how to get beat as a U.S. Senator.
However, Shelby, who was an eight-year veteran Democratic congressman, took a big gamble to take on Denton who as an incumbent was still favored.
Shelby, unlike many people who have served in public office and have very little personal wealth, had been successful as a Tuscaloosa lawyer and his real estate investments had made him wealthy. He looked at the race against Denton in 1986 and rolled the dice. His gamble paid off. He narrowly defeated Denton and has never been seriously challenged.
He has worked hard to garner power and has used his power for the benefit of Alabama.
Over the past 18 years he has held more than 1,100 county meetings and even though he chairs major committees that affect our world and national future, he takes time to listen to an Alabamian's concern about his or her missing Social Security check.