Bill Baxley and I appeared at The Capital City Club in downtown Montgomery last month, as advertised, and to our surprise there was a capacity crowd. The topic assigned to us, “Tales from Goat Hill,” was quite appropriate. The label Goat Hill was given years ago to the physical site of state government in Alabama. Now everything around the capitol is referred to as Goat Hill. Since Bill had served as Attorney General and also as Lt. Governor, he is quite knowledgeable about state government. During the event, Bill also told some most interesting stories about his campaigns. I only wish I had heard those stories back when the two of us were political rivals.
Guests at the event enjoyed a two-course lunch while moderator Alva Lambert guided a most lively discussion. Alva, who is known as a master political impersonator, does Governor George Wallace and Senator Howell Heflin to perfection. The crowd roared as he brought characters from the Alabama political scene throughout the years to life. Everybody really enjoyed Alva’s being a part of the program.
I had the honor of serving as the 22nd Lt. Governor of Alabama. My time in office was from 1971 to 1979. During my first term, I also served as Acting Governor from June 5 to July 7, 1972, when Gov. Wallace was shot in an attempted assassination attempt during his run for President of the United States. After an unsuccessful race for the governor’s office in 1978, I hung out my shingle as a lawyer, founding what today has grown into a fairly large civil litigation firm, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.
Bill Baxley was a tremendously talented politician and he was an effective public servant He 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 serve as a state attorney general. Bill Baxley also served as the 24th Lt. Governor of Alabama, from 1983-1987. I really feel Bill was much more suited to be on the floor of the Senate engaged in the battle, rather than having to sit above the fray and be restricted to the role of a presiding officer.
Bill was able to attract good young people to come to work in the Attorney General’s office. I was not at all surprised when many of them went on to be good citizens who were highly successful in their respective careers. Alabamians 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. Bill not only attracted quality folks to his office, he also had a special gift of being able to communicate with the masses. The Dothan native would also tell it straight and there was never any doubt as to where Bill stood on an issue. He would have been a great governor in my opinion.
At the luncheon, Bill and I spoke on a wide variety of topics, ranging from recounting how each of them got into politics and memories from early days of campaigning; to the constant confusion caused by the similarity of our names. We shared our thoughts on past governors, and talked about the challenges facing Alabama today. We even gave our current leaders in the legislature and in the Governor’s mansion some unsolicited advice on how to work through Alabama’s current problems and how to find solutions for them.
Bill and I have been asked to take our show on the road, but I’m not too sure about doing that. One time may have been enough for me since I don’t ever plan on being a political candidate again. But now I’m not so sure about Bill. The response he got at the event may have rekindled his interest in serving as Governor of Alabama. I do believe Bill Baxley, who is my friend, would still be outstanding in that role.
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