2 years ago

Alabama’s fallen conservation officers memorialized — Dave Rainer

Governor Kay Ivey addresses visitors in front of the memorial Conservation Officers wall
(Outdoor Alabama)

What started as an idea to honor the greatest sacrifice a conservation enforcement officer can make blossomed into a capacity-crowd commemoration of 12 game wardens who gave their lives in the line of duty during the 110-year history of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Governor Kay Ivey, Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Matt Weathers, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division Enforcement Chief, shared their appreciation for the officers’ sacrifices as DCNR celebrated its birthday.

Weathers said when he became head of Enforcement a year ago, one of his priorities was to come up with some way to honor the officers who have lost their lives on duty.

“This is a long overdue honor of your friends, family and coworkers,” Weathers told the crowd that filled the halls on the fifth floor of the Folsom Building in Montgomery. “I’m overjoyed to see this turnout.

“The first thing on my list was to honor the men who had given all they had so that the state could continue to enjoy the natural-resource wealth it has, to protect it from the rampant commercialization that has persisted.”

Weathers said he considered several options to honor the officers, including a statue or plaques, but soon realized portraits would be the best option.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of speaking to you without having these guys looking over my shoulder,” he said. “When this is all over, I think we’ll all agree we couldn’t imagine having this dedication in any other location.”

Weathers said he came to understand what family meant when he joined WFF two decades ago after serving as a police officer for several years.

“It was a lifelong, childhood dream to be a game warden,” he said. “I thought I knew what a work family was about, what having brothers and sisters I would die for was about. When I got to Game and Fish, which is what we called it in those days, I realized there was a deeper meaning to family within this agency. As a young officer, not really knowing what I was doing, that I could pick up a radio or telephone at 3 o’clock in the morning and could call an officer in Limestone County or in Baldwin County. They would get out of bed and do anything it took to get me the information to get the help I needed.

“I had found a home. I had found people that I may not ever see or see them on a day-to-day basis who would go to bat for me and get me through any situation. It’s family.”

Weathers also said the loved ones and friends of those who died in the line of duty would always be members of the Conservation family.

“Their names are forever etched on the history of this organization and will be forever,” he said. “To the families, thank you for giving those men to us. They missed Little League games. They missed birthdays and school functions. It’s part of the job. Thank you for giving them to us. They serve a goal, a mission, that is greater than any one person.”

Governor Ivey read the names of the men who are memorialized on the WFF wall. They are: George S. Wilson, 1922, Montgomery County; Bart Cauley, 1932, Baldwin County; Vernon W. Wilson, 1951, Randolph County; Lloyd C. Hays, 1964, Morgan County; John Roy Beam, 1976, Marshall County; Frank Stewart Jr., 1978, Escambia County; Cecil Craig Chatman, 1982, Lowndes County; Grady R. Jackson, 1984, Pike County; James C. Vines, 1985, Greene County; Jimmy D. Hutto, 2002, Fayette County; James Lance Horner Jr., 2003, Clarke County; and Nathan B. Mims, 2008, Chilton County.

“I’m honored to be with you as we celebrate the history of the Department of Conservation and the 110 years since it was formed,” Governor Ivey said. “We’re also celebrating the folks who continue to work today to keep our state beautiful and our wildlife healthy and protected. The men and women of this Department do a great service for the people of Alabama, and we want to thank you for your good service. All of us in state government have the same goal. We want to work hard to make our state better for not only now but also future generations.”

Governor Ivey recalled the history of the Department of Conservation since it was formed in the Legislature by resolution from Representative John Wallace, who went on to become Conservation’s first commissioner. Commissioner Wallace appointed a game warden for each of Alabama’s 67 counties.

“From its beginning, the Department has been committed to protecting and conserving wildlife and the natural beauty for our state and generations to come to enjoy,” she said. “As citizens of Alabama the beautiful, it is our job to help keep it that way.

“From the very beginning, God told mankind to take care of the earth. And with the efforts of the men and women who work in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, you are helping us fulfill that responsibility. This state is so very special. We are proud to live here. We call it home. We are grateful for you protecting what God has given us.”

In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the Department, Governor Ivey said it was her honor to join in the dedication of the wall memorializing the sacrifice of the 12 men who gave their lives in the line of duty.

“With this salute to these people, we are reminded of the truth we all know but rarely talk about,” Governor Ivey said. “The truth is every day members of law enforcement put their lives on the line to serve Alabama and protect us, including game wardens and other officers who work in Conservation.

“Today we honor the legacy of those who have given their lives in service to this great state. We gather in solemn accord to acknowledge that freedom in a free society is not free. We’re reminded of the high price some are called to give in their service on behalf of their fellow man. As Alabamians and Americans, it’s important we honor not only this sacrifice but the daily sacrifice of these men and women who serve.”

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship thanked WFF Director Chuck Sykes, the WFF Enforcement Section and the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association for the support that made the wall possible.

“I’m proud to be Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” Blankenship said. “I enjoy getting to work with such good people every day that are out there protecting our natural resources to make sure our way of life here in Alabama continues. We have a lot of people who respond to the laws of this state and the things we do. But there are some people who don’t, which makes the Department of Conservation necessary.”

Blankenship said during his early career as an enforcement officer with the Marine Resources Division, he issued one individual multiple citations for the same infraction.

“I asked him why he continued to flaunt the laws,” he said. “He told me, ‘They didn’t save me any dinosaurs, and I’m not planning on saving them any speckled trout.’ That is the attitude of a small percentage of the people we deal with.”

Blankenship said the first conservation laws in Alabama were implemented in Mobile County in the mid-1800s to regulate oyster harvest. In 1907, legislation was passed that established the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“Our department is necessary because of those people who break the laws and to ensure we have game and fish throughout our state for us, our families and future generations,” Blankenship said. “We need our biologists, who assess the populations and recommend seasons and bag limits, and enforcement officers who ensure those regulations are followed. Without enforcement, a certain element would never limit themselves in the taking of the resources. It’s called ‘tragedy of the commons.’ When there is a common resource, some people won’t limit themselves. They want to take what they feel is their fair share or more than their share.

“If we do that, we’ll end up like we were in the late 1800s, with very few deer, very few turkeys and songbirds in our state because people were not taking care of the resources we have.”

Blankenship said because of the work of the Conservation Department, Alabama has thriving deer and turkey populations, great inland fisheries for bass and crappie and the best red snapper, king mackerel and redfish fisheries anywhere along the Gulf Coast.

“I’m especially honored to dedicate this memorial wall to the 12 conservation officers that gave their lives protecting the resources we hold so valuable,” Blankenship said. “Ninety percent of the people care about our natural resources and follow the law and want to see our natural resources flourish. It’s that other 10 percent that make the enforcement officers’ jobs necessary and dangerous. There are many dangers our officers face. Every person our officers encounter has a gun, knife or some other weapon. The weather is also dangerous. I’ve been caught in bad weather on Mobile Bay or in the Gulf of Mexico where I’ve prayed that the good Lord would allow me to make it home.

“It was shocking to me that there would be 12 men pictured on this wall. I know how dangerous the job is, but it’s still sobering to see this many portraits of lives that have been lost. All of these men are special. All of these families are special. I hope you will join me and pray for the safety of our officers during your time with God every day.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

9 hours ago

Sessions makes closing pitch, knocks Tuberville with eight days until election

PIKE ROAD — Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday attacked his opponent for connections to a failed hedge fund and made the case that he was the right choice for Alabama Republicans in next week’s primary runoff.

Sessions’ remarks came during a campaign appearance at SweetCreek Farm Market in Pike Road, a suburb to the east of Montgomery. He and his opponent, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, compete at the ballot box on July 14 to be the nominee that will take on U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

The details of Tuberville’s involvement in a hedge fund that ended in disaster were first printed in the New York Times over the weekend.

“Either he was greedy, incompetent, naive and lacked knowledge; or he actually deliberately participated in an activity that was criminal,” Sessions said Monday about the former coach’s alleged involvement.

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Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald told the Times that Tuberville’s involvement in the hedge fund “was a big mistake, and he’s paid for it.”

McDonald says the coach was “as surprised as anyone” to learn that his partner in the venture, John David Stroud, was engaging in fraudulent behavior with the money in the fund.

Neither the regulating body in Alabama or Washington, D.C. that oversees hedge funds chose to charge Tuberville with a crime, though a former attorney for Stroud alleged Tuberville had knowledge of the dealings. The Times reported that the coach “was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office.” Coach Tuberville settled out of court after being sued by investors in the hedge fund and reportedly lost all of the money he invested in the venture.

Sessions also brought up a piece authored by an opinion writer at the Washington Examiner that detailed how Tuberville suspended a player for one game after the individual pleaded guilty a misdemeanor: contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The incident in question involved Auburn wide receiver Clifton Robinson allegedly having sexual relations with a 15-year-old girl while he was a 20-year-old college student. The young woman involved in the encounter was visiting her sister on Auburn’s campus.

Robinson was initially charged with statutory rape but later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was sentenced to one year of probation and 200 hours of community service.

Tuberville suspended Robinson indefinitely while the charges were being prosecuted as a rape but lessened it to a one-game suspension once prosecutors lowered the charge to a misdemeanor.

Sessions believes that the one-game suspension was insufficient.

“You simply cannot place winning football games ahead of responsibilities to young girls, you can’t put winning football games ahead of teaching important life lessons to young men,” Sessions commented.

“I think he made a mistake,” Sessions said of Tuberville.

At the event in Pike Road, the former senator from Alabama continued to express his frustration with Tuberville for choosing not to participate in a debate.

Sessions alleged that Tuberville “promised Bradley Byrne and I” that he would debate if he made the runoff.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) took third place in the initial Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on March 3.

Yellowhammer News asked Seth Morrow, who served as Byrne’s campaign manager, about the alleged promise Sessions talked about on Monday.

Morrow told Yellowhammer that no formal agreement or promise was ever made between the three men to debate in a runoff scenario. Morrow added that he had checked with Byrne himself on Monday to make sure.

Tuberville’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment about the debate assertion. The campaign has in the past maintained that their declining to debate is a matter of prudent strategy.

Sessions continues to say that Tuberville should “come out of hiding.”

With regards to why he was the right choice for voters, Sessions pointed to his conservative record and said he had “come out of the soil” of Alabama.

Sessions argued that he was a staunch supporter of the American First agenda since before Donald Trump began campaigning for president.

He mentioned that two conservative challengers have recently beaten Trump-endorsed candidates, because in his view, those challengers were more effective than their opponents at communicating their support of the president’s agenda. Sessions believes he will be the next member of that group.

Sessions was asked if it was disappointing to be trailing Tuberville in the polls to try and represent the seat he held for 20 years.

“The voters will decide,” he responded. “The polls have often been in error.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

11 hours ago

Doug Jones to host Dr. Anthony Fauci for Tuesday press conference

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has a big-name special guest for his next weekly live-streamed press conference regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones on Monday announced that National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci will join him for the remote press conference, to be held Tuesday, July 7, at 11:15 a.m. CT.

Fauci rose to national attention as a leader in the White House’s response to the coronavirus outbreak this spring.

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Jones’ press conerence can be viewed live on his office’s Facebook page.

Fauci’s public appearances have waned recently compared to earlier in the pandemic.

Recent guests featured in Jones’ press conferences include Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Why won’t the Trump candidate act like Trump?

Are we heading toward a Roy Moore 2.0 (even though he ran like 10 times)?

The media and their Democrats sure hope so. They want Tommy Tuberville as the nominee. They want a blank slate that they can paint however they desire.

Look at the stories about Tuberville’s past that are being floated by national media outlets in the last two weeks of the election.

Keep in mind that this is the GOP oppo research, not Democrats with their deep-pocketed allies and their slim hopes to hang on to a blue seat in a red state.

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U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) knows that he needs people to vote against the GOP candidate and not for him. This is just a math question at this point.

Can Jones and his allies in the media (national and local) damage his opponent and make people skip the race?

Doubtful, but I bet there are zero surprises in former Senator Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) record. It’s the main reason so many Republicans are mad at him. They know all about his recusal as U.S. Attorney General and how mad that made President Donald Trump.

Trump wants Tuberville, and Trump may get his way.

But, if Tommy Tuberville is not the Republican nominee after next Tuesday, it will not be the fault of Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Clifton Robinson, John David Stroud, the Washington Examiner or the New York Times.

It will be his own fault.

The former football coach has run a campaign for the attention of President Donald Trump while running the least Donald Trump campaign of all time.

The premise that Trump would sit on a lead and run out the clock is absurd, but Tuberville has said that is what he is doing.

Trump wants 10 debates with his opponent, but Tuberville won’t do one.

People say Trump is a counter-puncher, but that is a lie. Trump is an aggressive punch-thrower and is constantly looking to knock his foes out of the fight.

Whether they are worthy of the fight or not, Trump swings away.

Tuberville does not.

When the Washington Examiner brought to the surface a story that has been bubbling on social media and in text messages about a more than 20-year-old allegation that then-coach Tuberville was soft on a player charged with statutory rape, his campaign barely responded.

The most that was mustered in response was from Tuberville campaign chairman Stan McDonald during a weekly appearance on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” who said, “It is something that originates from people who are trying to bring Tommy Tuberville down. So, that is not something we’re going to participate in.”

This was a different time in America, obviously, which is why it will get new legs in a 2020 general election.

Is this politics? Yes. Last-minute campaign noise? Obviously. A reason to swallow the whistle? Nope.

When the New York Times reported on a shady hedge fund that Tuberville was involved in, did his campaign respond?

Nope.

There are allegations that Tuberville’s business partner was involved in a massive fraud that saw him sentenced to 10 years in prison, and the Tuberville response was one of weakness.

McDonald and pro-Tuberville Grit PAC employee Brad Presnall both begged off the question by claiming that the coach was just a small-time football coach who didn’t know any better. The big city folks conned him, too.

Tuberville said he was just a swindled pawn, a victim, and he was manipulated.

“They sued me because I invested in it, and he used my name to get other people to put money in,” he stated.

Could you ever see that from Donald Trump? I can’t.

The facts also paint a different story, but not a better one:

But a review of public court records shows that he had a broader role. While he was not picking stocks, or even a frequent presence in the office, Mr. Tuberville made introductions to potential investors, had business cards identifying himself as managing partner, and leased a BMW and got his health insurance through the company. Its offices in Auburn were filled with his coaching memorabilia. In 2010, he traveled to New York with Mr. Stroud to meet potential brokers for the fund, and was kept in the loop on decisions about hiring, according to email traffic.

But what would Trump do here?

Why would the Trumpian candidate sit back and let this all go on around him without firing off a few tweets taking on the New York Times or the fake news media?

Why wouldn’t Tuberville seek out the cameras, which he could summon at any time, to come take his testimony about what really happened?

None of this dooms Tuberville on July 14. Everyone knows he has a lead.

And we all know the media and their Democrats can’t wait to attack Tuberville on these issues, but the idea that Alabama voters will go into a polling place to vote for President Donald Trump in November while also pulling the lever for soon-to-be-former U.S. Senator Doug Jones is laughable.

The real question in all of this is where is Tommy Tuberville, and why isn’t he punching back? Trump supporters want a fighter and an outsider. His huge early lead was indicative of the outsider part, but the fighter part never materialized.

If that is who Tommy Tuberville is, then he needs to get out there and prove it.

Right now he is taking body blows. Maybe he can withstand them, but that is harder to do while sitting on a lead and hoping he can run out the clock.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

 

12 hours ago

Carl, Coleman lead pre-runoff fundraising in Alabama’s GOP congressional races

The latest fundraising reports have been filed in the respective Republican primary runoffs for the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama’s First Congressional District and Second Congressional District.

Covering April 1 to June 24, the pre-runoff reports were due by Thursday, July 2 — 12 days ahead of the July 14 election.

Reports filed with the FEC show that Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, running in AL-01, raised $215,740, spent $183,035 and finished the period with $238,925 cash-on-hand.

Meanwhile, his opponent former State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) reported raising $174,057, spending $192,156 and ending the period with $194,924 on hand.

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The campaigns have also filed 48-hour notice reports in the subsequent days. These mandatory reports only include donations of $1,000 or more and thus do not include all money raised in a 48-hour window.

Carl reported raising $9,500 from June 25 through July 3, while Hightower reported raising $30,950 during the same timeframe.

In AL-02, Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman led in fundraising for the pre-runoff report period.

From April 1 to June 24, Coleman raised $328,502, spent $257,761 and finished the period with $132,054.

In comparison, his opponent former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) brought in $92,343, spent $126,784 and concluded the period with $92,583 on hand.

Moore has not filed any 48-hour notice reports for June 25 through July 3. Coleman reported raising $12,500 during this period.

While in different races, fundraising leaders Carl and Coleman share the same fundraiser: EBW Development.

Hightower and Moore are both backed by Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth, which has spent large sums for both candidates during the runoff.

RELATED: Tuberville leads Sessions in final fundraising report before July 14 runoff

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Tuberville leads Sessions in final fundraising report before July 14 runoff

The latest fundraising reports have been filed in Alabama’s Republican primary runoff for the U.S. Senate.

Covering April 1 to June 24, the pre-runoff reports were due by Thursday, July 2 — 12 days ahead of the July 14 election.

Respective reports filed with the FEC show that former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville raised $652,389, spent $663,004 and finished the period with $448,204 cash-on-hand.

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Meanwhile, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reported raising $439,734, spending $688,639 and ending the period with $500,331 on hand.

The two campaigns have also filed 48-hour notice reports in the subsequent days. These mandatory reports only include donations of $1,000 or more and thus do not include all money raised in a 48-hour window.

Tuberville reported raising $195,300 from June 25 through July 3, while Sessions reported raising $36,800 during the same timeframe.

The winner of the GOP runoff will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn