One of the finest men to ever serve in Alabama government was Albert Brewer. In my opinion, he was one of the highest-caliber individuals to ever rise to the Governor’s office.
Brewer hailed from Morgan County in the heart of the Tennessee Valley. He was first elected to the Legislature from Decatur in 1958 at the very young age of 28. He was identified early as a rising star. In fact, his star was meteoric. During his second term in 1962, he was elected Speaker of the House at the age of 32. A feat that is almost unheard of.
Besides being on a political fast track by the time he was in mid-30s, Brewer was also considered one of the best attorneys in Decatur. He was a kind, considerate, and genuinely sincere man with the most pleasant and contagious smile and countenance. Once you met Albert Brewer you immediately warm up to him and like him. His smile and disposition can melt the most-hardened enemy.
Gov. Brewer became especially dear to me. When I first met Gov. Brewer, I was a 12- year-old page from Troy and Brewer was Speaker of the House. My mentor and sponsor was my representative from Troy, Gardner Bassett. Mr. Gardner was in his 70s and he loved Brewer. Since Mr. Gardner and I were close, he got me acquainted with the young Speaker from Morgan County. Brewer graciously took me under his wing and would let me run special errands for him. Occasionally he even let me sit next to him in the presiding officer’s chair. These pleased Mr. Gardner because he had told Brewer of my love of politics and that when Mr. Gardner retired that I would run for and take his house seat and that is eventually what happened.
Therefore, it was no secret to Brewer that I aspired to get into politics and eventually run for the Legislature. He and Mr. Gardner would share legislative stories and history with me. When Brewer became Lieutenant Governor in 1966, he took me over to the Senate with him to be head of the pages. This allowed me to work in the Legislature during the summer while growing up.
One day, Brewer said he wanted to tell me a campaign secret. He began his lesson by explaining that when you get ready to run for the Legislature you should start your campaign in the country. He then explained why. It was based on the old bandwagon theory. He said people in the rural towns and hamlets have more time on their hands. They like politics better than their neighbors in the city, they talk more, they appreciate your interest more and they want to be asked for their vote. Therefore, if you work the rural community first, they talk about you being there and they will commit to you early.
At that time, if a person in a rural area told you they were going to vote for you, you could take that to the bank. Therefore, if you got there first, you could wrap up that area early and forever.
Another big plus of working the country first was that whenever any person from that rural box came into the larger town or county seat to shop or get their haircut and the city folks asked about politics out their way, the rural man would say, “I don’t know about the other races but that Brewer boy is going to get all the votes up here for that open legislative seat.” Then the bandwagon domino theory was on. The city folks assumed that if all the country folks were for someone that candidate was bound to win in a landslide so they better get on board too. That was a good lesson. I took Gov. Brewer’s advice in my first race and I got 82 percent of the vote over two opponents.
By the way, Governor Brewer is doing well today. After years as a successful practicing attorney, he went on to become a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. My daughter had the opportunity to get to know the Governor while she was in law school at Cumberland. She took several classes he taught, worked with him on the Alabama Constitutional Law Project, and still looks to him as a mentor. Gov. Brewer still has that endearing warm smile and personality. He is a prince of a fellow.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in over 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.