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Alabama is better because of the service of Bevill, Heflin

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–In his best-selling book Tom Brokaw described the men and women who wore the suit of their country in World War II as the "Greatest Generation," and you could not find two men who epitomized that accolade more than Howell Heflin and Tom Bevill.
It seemed hardly fair that these two giants…and they were giants…should die only a few hours apart. Because of this sad timing, their deaths had to share the headlines and the TV time.
Both men were born under modest circumstances, both served with distinction in World War II–Heflin was a decorated and wounded Marine, Bevill landed at Normandy on D-Day with the Army…both came home to earn law degrees.
And, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Bevill first appeared on the political scene when he was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1958.
Much has been made by folks like me about the remarkable freshmen who came to the House in 1955, but as impressive as that group was they were scarcely more impressive than the Class of '59. In addition to Bevill that class included the likes of Bo Torbert of Opelika (later a Chief Justice); Bill Nichols of Talladega (later a congressman) and Jimmy Clark of Eutaula (later the longtime Speaker of the Alabama House), and a host of others who made substantial dents in public service.
Bevill was an outstanding member of the State House for two terms, then spent 30 years in the U. S. House where he compiled a remarkable record.
This seniority put Bevill in a position to bring billions of federal dollars to the state, and while from the outside he was labeled the "King of Pork" in Alabama he was dubbed the state's "Third Senator." He was that powerful.
Heflin was not in the political arena nearly as long as Bevill but the offices he held were of a much higher profile–Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for six years, U. S. Senator for 18 years.
It was during his one term on the high court that Heflin pushed through the Judicial Reform legislation. While debate still rages about some provisions of that sweeping proposal, it is a fact that much of that legislation has been copied by other states. That is a powerful argument that overall it was a positive step forward.
As a U. S. Senator he looked after his constituents splendidly…particular in the area of agriculture and the space program in Huntsville.
In his folky, aw-shucks sort of way he became a darling of the national news media and in the process made Alabamian's proud. I would go so far as to say that no U. S. Senator from Alabama since Lister Hill and John Sparkman achieved the national status as did Heflin.
The best thing that can be said of them is what we all should hope can be said of us when we depart: That our community and state is a better because you were here. Certainly that can be said of Howell Heflin and Tom Bevill.
Those heady days seem gone forever. Last week Young entered a plea of guilty to charges that he bribed a Cherokee County official in order to get a lucrative landfill contract in that county.
Young had already entered a plea of guilty to charges that he gave Bailey more than $100,000 in cash and gifts.
A date has not been set on when Young will be sentenced for these crimes.
Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery was calling on black athletes to boycott Auburn…still another was calling for a march from Selma-to-Montgomery-to Auburn to protest this discrimination. Every day it seemed there was a new threat against Auburn University from the outraged members of the Black Legislative Caucus.
Funny thing. I haven't seen a word in the newspapers or heard a word on television for a couple of weeks or more about this matter. What happened to all the outrage and indignation? Could it be…could it possibly be…that all of these indignant folks finally took the time to find out why the two AU officials were fired? Could it be…could it possibly be…that after they got the facts they concluded they had best find something else to scream "race" about?

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