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Former First Lady was brunt of political barbs

By Staff
Bob Ingram, Capitol Scene
MONTGOMERY — Former First Lady Martha Brewer, who died last week after a long bout with cancer, occupies a place in Alabama political history which is almost too shameful to remember.
In the very ugly gubernatorial campaign of 1970 between her husband, Gov. Albert Brewer, and former Gov. George C. Wallace, she was the target of some of the most vicious smears in state political history.
Never before nor since has the wife of a gubernatorial candidate been treated so shamefully. Sadly, the Wallace campaign didn't stop there. They also distributed smear sheets attacking the two Brewer daughters as well.
Little wonder that this campaign only recently was judged to be the nastiest in American history.
I know what I speak of because I was in the heart of that disgraceful campaign as a member of the Brewer cabinet.
I remember early in the campaign Mrs. Brewer said she would like to do what she called “country politicking.” She would drive through the heavily populated rural areas of north Alabama, stopping at every crossroads store or gas station and visit with the owner and the shoppers.
Her campaigning was so effective that the Wallace forces counter-attacked. They had a group of clean cut young men, all wearing Brewer lapel buttons with Brewer posters and the like in their cars, follow Mrs. Brewer.
Shortly after she left a business a couple of these young men would rush in, concerned looks on their faces, and ask if Mrs. Brewer had been there. When told that she had been, they asked if her speech was slurred. Was she staggering? Was she drunk? There were countless smear sheets which said she was an alcoholic and another which said that one of their daughters was addicted to drugs and another was pregnant by a black man.
Some felt that when Gov. Brewer lost that election he was not as gracious to Wallace as he should have been. After what the Wallace campaign had said about his wife and daughters, few could blame him for his response.
Hopefully no wife of a candidate, and most especially a First Lady, will ever have to go through what she went through.
As First Lady, Mrs. Brewer left her mark at the governor's mansion during the short time the Brewers lived there. She turned one of the rooms into the First Ladies Parlor, where portraits of all the First Ladies who lived in the mansion were hung. It remains to this day one of the most popular attractions at the mansion.
You could almost here a chorus of “it's about time” from the taxpayers. With one scandal after another coming to the surface from these institutions there seemed to be no justification that Johnson should continue to receive his generous annual salary of $265,000.
Dial, a Democrat, was defeated for re-election despite public support from Gov. Riley. That he will land a cabinet post still is likely, but it will not be the choice transportation department post.
At first glance he was thought to be something less than a heavyweight. But in his seven terms in the Alabama House he became one of its most effective members.
In his “aw, shucks” manner, he was a worthy foe on the floor of the House. And in what is the highest of compliments, you never had any doubt where he stood on an issue. As the line goes, he stayed hitched.

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