Old Times There

Facinating first-person account here by John Patterson, a former Attorney General of Alabama who took over that position after his father’s murder in 1954. Patterson’s father Albert had been elected AG in a tight race, only to be assassinated by corrupt Phenix City police officers before he could take office.

I was born and raised in south Alabama, and while you don’t see political murders there these days (at least as not far as I know), corruption in state and local government is still very much a reality. The primary and run-off elections Patterson refers to were in the Democratic Party. For over 100 years in Alabama, general elections at the state level were mere formalities. Until 1986, when an internal Democratic power struggle resulted in the improbable election of Republican Governor Guy Hunt, winning the Democratic primary was effectively the same thing as being elected to an office.

As you might imagine, this kind of one-party domination did not tend to encourage “clean” government. While the Republicans have made extraordinary gains statewide over the last 20 years, the old corrupt Democrat machine still dominates the state Legislature.

UPDATE: Corruption, particularly from a long-dominant political party, isn’t exactly unknown in my current home state of Georgia, either. Grab an anonymous login and password at BugMeNot, if you need one.

UPDATE II: As James Joiner reminds me, John Patterson is also a former governor of Alabama. Unfortunately, his record in running for and holding that office was considerably more checkered than his reminiscence above would indicate. Patterson was the man whose virulently racist 1958 campaign for governor led George Wallace to declare that he’d never be “out-segged” again. For once, Wallace was as good as his word, riding “segregation forever” to a victory over Patterson four years later.

Speaking of Wallace, I wrote a column about him shortly after his death in 1998. Here’s a link.

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10 Responses to “Old Times There”

  1. spongeworthy Says:

    Try suing one of those Bammy good ole boys if you’re from out of state. “There’s a far. All them papers got burnt up in it.” Then they’ll look you right in the eye and laugh.

  2. sulizano Says:

    I didn’t know you were from “L.A.” (that’s “Lower Alabama” to those who don’t already know). Where specifically?

    I’m in NE AL but went to school in Montgomery during the Wallace years… very strange.

  3. Will Collier Says:

    I’m from Enterprise. My family is native Alabamian since forever, on both sides; Dad is from Grady (blink and you’ll miss it), south of Montgomery, Mom is from Albertville.

    There was a whole lot about George Wallace that qualified as “very strange,” at a minimum.

  4. sulizano Says:

    I was in a madrigal group during that time. We were invited to sing at the Governor’s mansion one holiday season.

    Our group stood on the staircase in the front hall of the building, and could see George sitting in his wheelchair just above us on the landing. The man looked comatose. Someone lit his cigar for him and put it in his mouth.

    I don’t know which thing was creepier — seeing the Zomby-Gov or having our pictures made with that Lisa thing he was married to at the time.

  5. Will Collier Says:

    Back then, we called George “The State Vegetable” (I was in high school). He was in bad shape, and the “royal court” of cronies was running the show and robbing the state blind (not that things would have been much different if Wallace had been healthy).

    I wrote a column about Wallace after he died, here’s the link:

    http://webpages.charter.net/willcollier/com092498.html

  6. James Joyner Says:

    Patterson also served a term as governor.

  7. Will Collier Says:

    Thanks, James. I had forgotten that Patterson was the guy who caused Wallace to swear he’d never be “out-segged” again, in the wake of the ’58 election.

    Hard to imagine anybody being worse than George Wallace, but there you are…

  8. Outside the Beltway Says:

    Albert Patterson Assassination Plus 50

    Via Will Collier, I learn that the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Alabama Attorney General Albert Patterson was last week. A Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer interview with John Patterson, who replaced his father in office and was later ele…

  9. Chrees Says:

    Hey! From Montgomery originally.

    Wallace is an interesting character. I find myself half-repulsed, half-admiring of him. OK, maybe the ratio isn’t quite right.

    But the whole performance on the steps of Foster auditorium leaves me in a quandry. I find the views of segregation utterly repellant, but by closing down the campus (so rabble rousers couldn’t turn Tuscaloosa into another Oxford) was smart. Then capturing so much of the black vote for his last term as gov was absolutely surreal…

  10. Will Allen Says:

    Maybe I’m wrong but I think Wallace was even more profane than Will indicates; I think his vow was to never be “out-niggered” again. Also, Alabama’s political culture is a microcosm of why people remain poor all over the word; when the culture is throughly imbued with the notion that corruption is an acceptable and inherent component of everyday life, economic dynamism withers, if it ever gets started at all.

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