Former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley and I have been invited to do a joint presentation at the Capital City Club in Montgomery. The event will be in August and the topic assigned to us is “Tales from Goat Hill.” The moderator will be Alva Lambert and I have no doubt that he alone could make the event a success. Alva, who is known as a master political impersonator, does Governor George Wallace and Senator Howell Heflin to perfection.
For those of our readers who aren’t from Alabama, Bill Baxley was a tremendously talented politician. He also was an outstanding Attorney General, serving two terms from 1971 to 1979. At the age of 28, he was at that time the youngest person in U.S. history to hold a state attorney general position. Bill had a special gift of being able to communicate with the masses. The Dothan native also would tell it straight and there was never any doubt as to where Bill stood on an issue.
Bill also was able to attract good young people to come to work in the Attorney General’s office. I was not surprised that all of them went on to be good citizens and were successful in their respective careers. You will recognize names like Judge Myron Thompson, Judge Charles Price, Judge Sally Greenhaw and U.S. Attorney George Beck, each of whom went to work for Baxley in the 1970s.
I guess the reason Bill and I were selected for the Capitol City event was that we were in office at a young age and at the time we were viewed as being political enemies. Actually, for eight years, we were on the opposite side on only a very few political issues. But that wasn’t the way we were portrayed by the media and perceived by the public. The truth is we were two young men – in office at the same time – each with the ambition to be governor. Obviously, neither of us made it.
Many political experts believe that we may have killed each other off politically. If nothing else, we gave the reporters in those days a lot to write about. In the 1978 Governor’s race, Fob James lumped Bill, Albert Brewer and me together and labeled us “The 3 Bees.” I can see Fob now in his first news conference swatting the “Bees” with a flyswatter. The reporters all loved it.
The public could never figure out which office I was in and that was frustrating. I was constantly either being called “Bill” or folks thought I was the Attorney General. That went on for the entire 8 years I was in office.
Politics aside, I really liked Bill. But I must admit that I didn’t do a very good job of showing it while we were both in the office. Good relationships are very important in life. The political arena is not exactly the real world. It’s really more fantasy than reality in lots of ways. It’s difficult for persons on opposing sides in politics to develop real and lasting relationships.
Sadly, things are much worse today. The political climate is such that the divisions are much more hostile and mean-spirited than ever. There is a “hate” factor that makes it extremely difficult for opposing sides to get along. There is too much “hating somebody” or “hating something” and that needs to be changed and very soon. Hopefully, we can find a way to work ourselves out of that situation.
“Tales from Goat Hill” is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 6, at 11:30 a.m. at the Capital City Club in downtown Montgomery. Cost to attend is $20 per person and includes lunch. For your information, the speakers aren’t getting paid. If anybody is interested in attending, call 334-834-8920 for reservations.
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