Alabama Scene

Lindsey's death to impact State Senate


Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent E-mail: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent E-mail: bob@montgomeryindependent.com

Wallace Henry “Pat” Lindsey III of Route One, Butler, one of the Alabama Senate’s longest-serving members, died Saturday night of an apparent heart attack. He was on a hunting trip with friends and colleagues in Boligee.

He was one of three Alabamians of note who died in the past week. Cornelia Wallace, 69, the former first lady and second wife of George C. Wallace, died in Florida after a long bout with cancer. Birmingham lawyer Charles Morgan Jr., 78, who The Birmingham News says “forced the city to face its racial problems,” died of Alzheimer’s complications in Destin, Fla.

Pat Lindsey was 72, too young for my longtime friend to leave us. But, according to Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom Jr., who was with him on the hunting trip, he died in his sleep following a day of hunting, political banter, and watching a football game … things he liked to do. He was first elected to the Senate in 1966. I met him three or four years later in Montgomery while covering the Legislature for The Florence Times-Tri Cities Daily, introduced to him by Sen. Stewart O’Bannon Jr. of Florence.

When I wrote a column after Stewart’s death a few years back, the venerable Secretary of the Senate McDowell Lee used these words to describe him: “He was a good-un.” I am sure that Dr. Lee would use the same words to describe Pat Lindsey. In fact I know he would.

Lindsey’s death came as he and other members of the Legislature’s budget committee were preparing to start work Monday on next year’s state budgets. After being elected to the Senate in 1966 he served two terms until 1974. He returned in 1990, defeating longtime lawmaker Rick Manley of Demopolis and was reelected in 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006, most of them close contests. Lindsey’s current district in southwest Alabama includes all of Escambia and Washington counties and parts of Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Mobile, and Monroe counties.

Here are some comments about Pat’s life.

Gov. Bob Riley: “He was a dedicated public servant and his leadership will be missed.”

State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville: “He stopped a lot of bills that looked good on the surface but that would have had bad implications for the people we all serve.”

Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little of Cullman: “He was a senator’s senator, who with intellect, grace and wit, could outplay, outwork and outmaneuver anyone when fighting for the people of Alabama.”

Retired Circuit Judge Hardie Kimbrough of Grove Hill: “If Pat gave you his word he would, as the old saying goes, ‘stay hitched.'”

Lindsey graduated from the University of Alabama Law School. He had a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Alabama and was also an expert on oil and natural gas exploration. Lindsey’s father was an attorney and county solicitor in Choctaw County and his grandfather was the county’s longtime probate judge.

Impact on the Senate

The death of Sen. Lindsey, the vacancy created by the election of Sen. Parker Griffith of Huntsville to the U. S. House, and the impending trial of State Sen. E. B. McClain of Jefferson County could have a detrimental effect on the fragile control of the Senate now held by Democrats. McClain is charged in a 50-count federal criminal indictment with taking more than $300,000 in grant money for himself, or about half of the money he helped a Birmingham nonprofit group obtain for the area’s poor and disadvantaged students.

A conviction of McClain would create a third Democratic vacancy in the 35-member senate, leaving the Democrats with only a 17-15 advantage. The Republicans have only 12 members, but three dissident Democrats, senators Tom Butler of Huntsville, Jimmy Holley of Elba, and Jim Prueitt of Talladega, caucus with them and usually vote with the GOP senators on procedural matters.

Democrat Hinton Mitchem won the office of president pro-tem, the leader of the Senate, by an 18-17 vote two years ago with the promise that he would relinquish the post to Birmingham Sen. Roger Smitherman this year. But now some Democrats want Mitchem to hold on to the post, fearing Smitherman cannot garner the votes to be elected if Mitchem resigns.

The vacancies make that possibility more tenuous and could create even more attempted “power plays” among Democrats and Republicans posing as Democrats. An interesting session looms.