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3 months ago

Brooks’ bill naming Athens post office passes the House

The courageous Alabama judge who originally set aside a guilty verdict in one of the infamous “Scottsboro Boys” trials will be posthumously honored with a post office bearing his name.

On Thursday, Republican Congressman Mo Brooks’ (AL-5) bill to designate the United States Postal Service Office located at 1110 West Market Street in Athens, Alabama as the “Judge James E. Horton, Jr. Post Office Building” passed the United States House of Representatives by voice vote.

The legislation has clear bipartisan momentum, with every other member of Alabama’s House Delegation cosponsoring the bill.

In a press release, Brooks said, “For his bravery in the face of extreme racial prejudice and for his willingness to support justice that risked and ended his judicial career, Judge Horton deserves the posthumous honor of having the Athens, Alabama Post Office named for him, and it is appropriate that his legacy be held up as a guide for future generations.”

The congressman outlined, “Judge James Edwin Horton was born in Limestone County, Alabama on January 4, 1878. Despite having no formal education until he was eight or nine, Judge Horton was accepted to Vanderbilt University’s medical studies program and, later, to Cumberland University where he earned his bachelor and law degrees. Judge Horton served in the Alabama State Legislature until he took a Limestone County, Alabama chancery court position. Thereafter, he was elected circuit court judge for Alabama’s Eighth Judicial Circuit. After reelection to a second term, Judge Horton was appointed to preside over the retrials of the highly controversial and nationally renowned ‘Scottsboro Boys’ cases.”

Brooks continued, “By way of background, the ‘Scottsboro Boys’ cases involved nine African Americans, ages 13 to 20, accused of raping two white women on a train in 1931 as it traveled through Scottsboro and Jackson County, Alabama. In the first trials, eight of nine defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death, a verdict later reversed by the United States Supreme Court. After a guilty verdict and death sentence during the second set of Scottsboro Boys trials, Judge Horton bravely issued an order setting aside the jury’s guilty verdict against Haywood Patterson and ordered a new trial. In 2013, the Scottsboro Boys were formally pardoned under Alabama law.”

Horton, speaking about the case and the falsely accused defendants at the time, explained that “the man who engages in anything that would cause the death of any of the prisoners is a murderer; he is not only a murderer but a cowardly murderer.”

“I absolutely have no patience with mob spirit. … Your very civilization depends upon the carrying out of your laws in an orderly manner,” Horton said.

The judge believed that everyone should fairly receive due process, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Immediately after setting aside the verdict, Horton was removed from the case by the Alabama Supreme Court. He was heavily criticized for his ruling, but he stood his ground and did not back away from his decision.

At the next election, Horton was overwhelmingly voted off the bench and, after growing threats to his life by white supremacists, he and his family were forced to flee from town. He left politics and spent the rest of his days working on his farm and running a small private practice.

Horton died on March 28, 1973, at the age of 95 and was interred in the Athens City Cemetery. Shortly after his death in 1973, county officials installed a plaque in his old courtroom with a quote of his from the trials: “So far as the law is concerned, it knows neither native nor alien, Jew nor Gentile, black nor white. This case is no different from any other. We have only to do our duty without fear or favor.”

He was posthumously elected into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2010 by the Alabama State Bar. One of the main reasons that he received that honor was because of his outstanding dedication to justice.

In October of last year, Athens dedicated a statue of the judge in front of the Limestone County Courthouse. The Limestone County Bar Association decided to erect the statue, and the Judge Horton Monument Committee was established to raise the $60,000 needed in private donations.

Next to this statue, a plaque describes the way that Horton lived his life. His most famous quote – “Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens May Fall” – is written at the very bottom.

Brooks’ bill, H.R. 6513, still needs to pass the United States Senate.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

Byrne first to officially declare run vs. Doug Jones – ‘Future is too important to sit on the sidelines’

Just down the street from where he grew up, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced Wednesday evening his candidacy for the United States Senate while surrounded by family, friends and supporters gathered at Wintzell’s Oyster House in beautiful downtown Mobile.

Byrne became the first candidate to officially announce a run against the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). In doing so, Byrne made clear his campaign will focus on his record as a fighter for Alabama’s values, drawing a clear and direct contrast between his traditional Yellowhammer State roots and the “radical policies” being pushed by Jones’ Democratic Party.

In his announcement speech, Byrne emphasized, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.”

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The congressman spoke about the “disconnect” between hardworking, everyday Alabamians and people stuck in the bubble of Washington, D.C.

Byrne urged attendees, “Look in Washington and tell me you don’t see people that have a vision that’s fundamentally at odds with what America is.”

“We need a Senator who will fight with President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable and protect the Second Amendment,” he outlined. “I will fight every day to bring Alabama’s conservative values to Washington.”

Answering questions from reporters following the announcement, Byrne decried the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and “[killing] babies as they’re delivered.”

He also warned voters that Democrats should be expected to try and interfere in the Republican primary through “fake news” and  manipulative social media efforts. This comes in the wake of revelations that “Project Birmingham” was orchestrated to aid Jones’ general election candidacy in 2017.

Byrne, a labor-employment attorney by trade, is the former chancellor of the state’s community college system and one-term member of the state senate. He has served southwest Alabama in Congress since January 2014.

The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama will be held March 3, 2020, with the general election to follow in November.

You can watch Byrne’s announcement speech and hear him answer questions from reporters afterwards here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Watch live: Bradley Byrne announces U.S. Senate run against Doug Jones

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is set to announce his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) live at the Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile.

Watch live below:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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11 hours ago

Heavy rains swamping Deep South

Heavy rains are causing problems in parts of the Deep South.

Police in Huntsville, Alabama, say a half-dozen roads are blocked by downed trees or utility poles plus water from flash floods.

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Flood watches and warnings cover the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia and nearly all of Tennessee is at risk for floods.

Several school systems are delaying classes or closing.

The weather service is predicting as much as eight inches of rain in spots through Saturday, and freezing rain and sleet are possible in western South Carolina.

Forecasters say moisture from the Gulf is mixing with weather systems moving eastward in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys.

As much as one inch of rain an hour is possible, and the weather service says some areas could get more.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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11 hours ago

Ivey announces plan to turn old Jefferson County mine into technology park with $85 million economic impact

Alabama is working again — including in places that have been dormant for decades.

Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Labor’s (ADOL) Abandoned Mine Land Program (AML) and United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) announced Wednesday that long-abandoned mine land in Jefferson County will be reclaimed, making way for the new Grand River Technology Park project and relocation of the Southern Museum of Flight.

“This reclamation project has the potential to bring millions of dollars in economic impact, and hundreds of jobs to the Greater Birmingham area,” Ivey said in a press release. “The new Grand River Technology Park will be a regional nexus for research and development, tourism, and light manufacturing. This project will bring positive improvements to the citizens who call this community home.”

This project, which is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $85 million, has been made possible through funds appropriated from the U.S. Treasury through the AML Pilot Program Grant. The funding was secured by the stalwart leadership of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Shelby said he is looking “forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The senator said, “The Grand River Technology Park project will attract new businesses and promote economic development throughout the Birmingham area. I am proud that the AML Pilot grant funds I worked to secure have helped make this effort possible and look forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The project is possible through a collaborative public-private effort and includes participation by ADOL’s AML Program, U. S. Steel, the City of Birmingham, the Southern Museum of Flight, Jefferson County and the City of Leeds.

In 2018, U. S. Steel and its community partners were given approval for a $6 million grant by the ADOL AML Pilot Program toward the development of its Grand River Technology Park.

“We are pleased to see the redevelopment of this land. We are grateful for the partnership of Governor Ivey, [ADOL] Secretary Washington, and the AML staff during this process and thank Senator Shelby for securing AML Pilot grant funds. We look forward to providing quality economic and community development projects that will benefit the Birmingham community,” U. S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt commented.

The technology park represents a multiphase opportunity to reclaim and transform approximately 105 acres of undeveloped land surrounding and including several pre-1977 abandoned coal mine lands in east Jefferson County. An initial assessment conservatively estimated that 1,200 new employment opportunities will be created by this project.

Plans for the Grand River Technology Park (Contributed)

Dangerous abandoned mine land features previously reclaimed on the property included many portals (openings to old underground coal mines) and vertical openings (former air shafts associated with underground coal mines) connected with Red Diamond Mines #2 – #5, #7, #9, #11 and #12, as well as the former Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI) Mine #6, all of which ceased operations in 1948.

After the closure of these underground mines, a major portion of proposed development was strip-mined for coal prior to August 3, 1977, leaving extensive spoil piles (waste rock and soil overburden removed to access the coal seam) on the property and a highwall cut (a hazardous vertical bluff left where mining of the coal seam ceased) adjacent to the current location of the Barber Motor Sports Park. Evidence of the highwall cut and spoil piles still remain on the property today. As part of the redevelopment of the property, extensive reclamation will be performed on these remaining spoil piles.

“Our Abandoned Mine Land Program does a wonderful job in helping to ensure that old, dangerous mines are properly reclaimed, which eliminates safety hazards and allows the land to be redeveloped,” ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington advised. “In addition to cleaning up this site and making it safer, this project will help to improve the lives of many.”

To date, the ADOL AML Program has reclaimed 81.6 miles of dangerous highwalls, eliminated 1,613 dangerous mine openings and completed approximately 661 reclamation projects in the coalfields of Alabama.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Alabama law requires the state and local governments fund The Democrat-Reporter’s racist rants — It is time to stop

Almost every politician in Alabama wanted to get in on condemning, and in some cases calling for the resignation of the editor, publisher and owner of a rag out of Linden, Alabama, with roughly 3,000 subscribers.

The governor, both United States senators, multiple congressmen and congresswomen, the State Senate pro tem, the lieutenant governor and surely countless others went on the record to say this is unacceptable.

It is obviously unacceptable, but now what? You can’t really force a guy who owns a newspaper to quit. Especially when he seems to think he has done nothing wrong.

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All of this is a minor problem. The Democrat-Reporter is a small-town nothing newspaper. If the Auburn Plainsman hadn’t posted the editorial in the form of a photo, no one would have ever known.

This raises another issue. The state of Alabama is providing revenue to this newspaper and other newspapers around the state of Alabama. And it is actually worse than that: Current state law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets, which is not cheap.

So, how much does The Democrat-Reporter get from the governments?

Well, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) alone spends thousands every year.

Maybe these aren’t all required expenditures, but for what other reason would ALDOT be spending this money here?

What have the local governments been required to pay this newspaper? What about average citizens and businesses that have to post foreclosures, abandoned property and other matters in a local newspaper by state law?

Even without the racist overtones of this story, this matter should offend you. There is currently a state law that requires we do business with a series of private entities.

This may have been a necessity decades ago, but it is time for the state legislature to readdress this issue for the 21st century.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN