Former governor Hunt deserves a state pension
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY-Maybe I am growing soft in my old age but unlike some of my other editorial colleagues, I cannot bring myself to oppose having former Gov. Guy Hunt being named a "Counsellor to the Governor" and thus qualifying for an $18,000-a-year pension.
I know all about how he was removed from office for violating the law…and he did indeed violate the law when he took $200,000 in money raised for inauguration expenses and converted it to personal use.
But as guilty as he was, I have always had the uneasy feeling that the prosecuters in the Hunt case went after him with far more gusto than prosecutors did in cases involving officials of their own party.
The fact is, Gov. Hunt is almost destitute. Recently he lost his wife…and a dear lady she was…and now he faces the sad burden of providing the sole care for their elderly handicapped daughter….his "special child" as he calls her.
If we can afford to pay retirement benefits to judges of $125,000 a year and more for doing nothing…and many of them are well-off without these benefits…I can't get indignant about paying Hunt $18,000 a year.
Rep. David Grimes, R-Montgomery, chief sponsor of the bill, said an agreement had been reached with opponents of the measure which he expects will lead to it being reported out of committee.
One of the changes Grimes agreed to was to reduce the fine for motorists charged with running a red light from $250 to $100.
It wasn't a difficult assignment because there weren't that many of them–the State Flag was a red cross of St. Andrew on a white background; the State Flower was the goldenrod (later changed to the camellia when it was learned that the goldenrod was a Yankee weed brought south by Union horses), and the state bird was the Yellowhammer.
That was it. There were no more "official" state anythings.
Have you looked at the list lately? Any fourth grader who can memorize (and pronounce) all of them should be instantly promoted to the 10th grade. We now have 30 official symbols, and the number is increasing almost by the week.
Space doesn't permit to list them all but I know you would want to know that our official fossil is basilosaurus cetoides and our official shell is scaphella junonia johnstoneae.
When he came to Montgomery early in 1955 for his first legislative session we became friends and remained so for a half-century. Mathews died last week at 87 and he left quite a legacy.
The "Bald Bachelor from Clay County" will be remembered by many as a colorful character, a story teller par excellence, a charmer of attractive women, but it should not be forgotten that he was also a thoroughly competent legislator.
Oftentimes he used his wit and his charm to defuse situations in a committee meeting or on the floor of the legislature, and he holds a unique record in legislative history: He is the only legislator ever to chair the money committees of both houses-Ways and Means in the House, Finance and Taxation in the Senate.
For more than a decade Mathews was honored each year with a birthday party in Montgomery which attracted a who's who of political figures. It was the social highlight of the year, politically speaking. It was my pleasure to emcee those events, no easy task when you have so many old time politicians who want to talk.
I will miss those parties…but I will miss Pete a lot more.