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4 weeks ago

Exclusive — House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter discuss midterm ‘red wave’ in Alabama

Following a historic landslide election that resulted in the largest Republican supermajority ever in the Alabama House of Representatives, Yellowhammer News sat down with Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) and Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) to discuss this “red wave,” the major issues expected to be the focus of the 2019 legislative session and their respective leadership roles and styles.

In the first of this three-part series, we touch on the tremendous electoral success of the Alabama House Republican Caucus, led by McCutcheon and Ledbetter, along with the valued work of their political team.

Check Yellowhammer News in the coming days for parts two and three.

The team

McCutcheon and Ledbetter were both effusive in their praise of the team that worked for months to achieve the 77-member supermajority, which is perhaps unsurprising in itself given the humble nature of the two top Republicans in the Alabama House. However, the full rundown and analysis of their work shows that the plaudits they have received are well-warranted.

Led by political veteran Steve Raby and campaign manager Scott Stone, who together formed the nucleus of the Caucus’ team, and boosted by the exemplary work of data guru Dalton Dismukes and the up-and-coming Rob Green, Alabama House Republicans virtually swept the competition.

Raby, who is a fixture on Yellowhammer Multimedia’s annual Power and Influence List, has a broad range of inside knowledge and relationships. He helped the Caucus secure the resources that were needed and worked diligently with the campaigns to make sure that those resources were allocated efficiently.

“He has so many contacts, he knew a lot of these people [involved in legislative races and state political fundraising] from previous work he had done,” McCutcheon said of Raby, applauding his leadership of the Caucus’ fundraising and with MACC PAC, the House GOP’s political apparatus.

Then there is Stone, who developed the Caucus’ political plan with McCutcheon and Ledbetter, while overseeing the logistics on a day-to-day basis.

“After Doug Jones’ election, everyone was talking about a blue wave, so we tried to get prepared and I think we went out and hired the best that we could find – Scott Stone’s group,” Ledbetter advised. “They did an outstanding job.”

Dismukes and Green joined the team closer to the June primary elections, with McCutcheon and Ledbetter praising their contributions as rising young political operatives, as well.

“We needed groundwork to be done, we needed some organizational work to be done, and that’s where Dalton Dismukes came in,” McCutcheon explained. “He became a very active part of the campaign. He became our statistician, he became the organizer of our door-to-door. He started going into the districts and working with the candidates.”

McCutcheon said that Green was integral in their grassroots efforts, including helping Dismukes with all of the numbers involved in door-to-door and phone banking operations.

“Rob became a very important part of our team,” the speaker added.

And, as McCutcheon and Ledbetter stressed, it was not just them and their political team that got the job done. It was their candidates getting out and working hard, while speaking about the issues that voters most care about, that could not have been replaced.

“For the members that have been elected now, it was a ‘we thing.’ We approached it from a team perspective. It was not ‘big I’s’ and ‘little you’s,’ it was all of us in this together,” McCutcheon emphasized.

Ledbetter added, “We had good candidates. First and foremost, you gotta have good people, and we did.”

Plus, these candidates had consultants of their own who played irreplaceable roles in the Caucus’ electoral success.

In an email, Stone commented, “As Speaker McCutcheon said, the success House Republicans enjoyed on election night was a team effort and that also includes the campaign consultants across the state that worked with the House campaigns. They did a great job and it was a pleasure to work with them. From the very beginning, in the fall of 2017, we started meeting with the consultants to make sure that lines of communication were open. Their input was taken seriously and incorporated into our effort. The Speaker’s team saw it as our mission to support the members’ campaigns and the work that their teams were doing. I thought we worked really well together. The consultants were essential to expanding our Republican majority and should be commended as well.”

The process

While the right people were in place, the House Republican Caucus also needed the right plan, as well as a good process to go about working the plan. This is where Stone’s leadership was especially essential, helping bridge the gap between strategy and execution. The biggest theme to note here is that every decision, every action item, was backed by hard data.

The plan that McCutcheon and Ledbetter identified early on was protecting their incumbents in primary races first. This came down to 17 contested primary races that they were involved with, and the results were resounding.

“If we had written a script, we couldn’t have written this any better,” Ledbetter shared.

McCutcheon and Ledbetter both highlighted that the team won 100 percent of these seventeen primary races.

“In the primary, we had some tight races there. Tight races that took a lot of work and we raised close to $1,000,000 to put into the primaries for our 17 House races,” McCutcheon said.

This primary success gave them momentum and experience that was crucial for the general election homestretch.

Using a tested process from the primary and data collected from digital media and polling, they then came up with their plan moving towards November.

From there, McCutcheon outlined, “We just set aside the races for November and went to work.”

A big part of their collective success was not only the amount of money raised (Ledbetter explained that on top of the $1,000,000 in the primary, the Caucus raised another $2,000,000 in the general), but how it was allocated. This is really where MACC PAC came in, with the political action committee paying for polling and social media advertising coordinated by Stone, taking advantage of bulk rates and saving money in the long run.

The PAC also distributed money to campaigns in notably tight races.

McCutcheon explained, “We were providing money as they had a need.”

He clarified that the contributions were not divided up by seniority or committee positions, but on who needed the help most to win.

“We managed the money well. Through that, it turned out to be very successful and we’re very thankful,” the speaker added.

Ledbetter echoed this, saying, “It was a team effort, and the members were good about that. The members understood if they were in good shape in the polling, that we would use the money somewhere where someone needed it more. That worked out well.”

The races

Besides campaign strategy and execution, McCutcheon and Ledbetter both spoke about how the booming economy under Governor Kay Ivey’s leadership, the national political climate and economy under President Donald Trump and other major issues of the day all benefited Republicans in the November House elections.

While both men stipulated that different districts’ data showed varying levels of interest in various issues, with some localized concerns popping up here and there, some of the nation’s biggest talking points drove Alabama voters to the polls.

“The Republican brand, what we’ve stood for – low unemployment, economic growth, pro-economic legislative work that we’ve done. I feel like some of the amendments on the ballot were good, because they represented a sense of moral values to the people of Alabama,” McCutcheon said, beginning to list major factors in the races.

He continued, “The pro-life amendment, Amendment Two, that was a help, because when I would go around and speak to people across the state, I would talk about the Ten Commandments, ‘In God We Trust,’ which was not an amendment but a piece of legislation we passed this year, and the pro-life amendment. I think these were things that resonated with the people. And it just reinforced the Republican brand that we had worked on.”

Voters did have D.C. on their minds as well, McCutcheon thinks.

“At the end of the day, in some areas, I think Washington helped us a little bit,” McCutcheon outlined. “With some of the circus that was going on up there during the campaign season, I think that was a benefit.”

“But people were responding to the issues we talked about, such as budget reform, looking at people’s tax dollars and how they’re being invested, people responded to that issue very well. And then if you tie that with a candidate that’s really worked their district, they’ve been in the community, they’ve tried to do good things for their community, I think all of those things linked together just resonated with the people powerfully and they turned out to vote,” McCutcheon added, before praising the statewide Republican ticket for constitutional offices led by Ivey.

“For the state as a whole, the economy certainly was an important issue. Protecting the borders was an important issue for the people of Alabama, as well,” Ledbetter further advised.

They also believe that the general election was a “referendum” on not only economy, but the overall positive direction of the state.

Ledbetter opined that the competitive June primary season in Alabama boosted Republican turnout in November, too.

“We had candidates [in June] in every pocket of the state that were putting out the word – the Republicans are thriving in power and we have the lowest unemployment rate the state’s ever had, we’ve got the best budget for education that the state’s ever put their money in, we’re putting money in the classrooms, we’re adding teachers, it was just a lot of great things happening for our state,” Ledbetter said.

With these positive sentiments lifting Republicans to an overwhelming victory on November 6, now comes four more years of the party governing in the Alabama Statehouse. In Yellowhammer News’ second part of this interview series, we will share what pressing issues McCutcheon and Ledbetter see coming up in the 2019 legislative session.

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

Alexander Shunnarah gives back to the community with the first annual ‘Shunnarah Seasons of Giving’ initiative

Most people know Alexander Shunnarah for his infamous “Call me Alabama” slogan and the massive trail of billboards commonly spotted by travelers along I-65. However, what many aren’t aware of is Shunnarrah’s heart for giving back to the city he calls home.

To show his love and appreciation for Birmingham, the Alabama lawyer just launched the first ever “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” initiative and is surprising locals in the community with various acts of service throughout the month of December.

Shunnurah described this initiative as a, “…small part in giving back to the community and paying it forward.”

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To begin the month-long program, Shunnarrah stopped by Etheridge Brother and Sister Barber and Beauty Shop in downtown Birmingham last week where he gave locals an opportunity to receive a complimentary haircut.

“It’s been a great initial kickoff in the seasons of giving,” Shunarrah said.

In addition to these pop-up visits, Shunnarah’s law firm is partnering with The Shoe Clinic LLC for the clinic’s third annual ‘Saving One Sole at a Time” Sneaker, Sock and Coat Drive. The drive will take place at The Shoe Clinic LLC on Saturday, December 15th from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Donations are accepted now through December 15th. Both organizations hope to collect 500 sneakers and coats, and 1000 pairs of socks by December 15th.

To donate to the sneaker, sock and coat drive, visit one of the two drop-off locations listed here:

The Shoe Clinic
1801 11th Ave S. Birmingham, AL,

Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
2900 1st Ave. S. Birmingham, AL.

To see where Alexander Shunurrah visits for the next “Shunnarah’s Seasons of Giving” pop-up, visit his Instagram page at @alexander_shunnarah.

1 hour ago

West Alabama woman points to bullying, race after her nine-year-old daughter’s suicide

A mother in west Alabama is grieving after her nine-year-old daughter, McKenzie Adams, died by suicide.

CBS 42 reported Monday that Jasmine Adams’ daughter was a fourth grader at U.S. Jones elementary school in Demopolis, which is close to the family’s home in Linden.

Following her tragic death on December 3, Adams reportedly advised CBS 42 that McKenzie told her teachers and her assistant principal a number of times that she was being bullied.

“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class. It was just things you wouldn’t think a nine-year-old should know. And my baby, to tell me some of the things they had said to her, I was like where are they learning this from,” Adams shared.

Adams also opined that race played into the bullying, as McKenzie rode to school with a white family friend every day.

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“Part of it could have been because she rode to school with a white family,” Adams outlined. “And a lot of it was race, some of the student bullies would say to her ‘why you riding with white people, you’re black, you’re ugly. You should just die.'”

Alex Brasswell, the Demopolis City Schools attorney, advised that the case is under investigation.

“We are working fully with the Demopolis and Linden police department. They are doing a joint investigation of these allegations. We are cooperating fully and I can’t comment on any of the aspects of the investigation until they conclude it,” Brasswell said.

Adams said that she believes that the school system let her daughter and her family down. She also explained that McKenzie only attended U.S. Jones in Demopolis because she had previously been bullied at the local school in Linden.

“I just felt that our trust was in them that they would do the right thing,” Adams said, “And it feels like to me it wasn’t it wasn’t done.”

“That was my angel, you know. She was a straight ‘A’ student, very smart,” Adams emphasized.

Funeral services for McKenzie are scheduled for Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at U.S. Jones elementary school.

Watch the full report:

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

2 hours ago

7 Things: Nation of Islam is leading Hoover boycott, gas tax may meet some resistance in Alabama, President Trump seeks a new chief of staff and more …

7. More Americans get news from social media than from newspapers

— Somehow, more Americans get their news from social media (20 percent) than print newspapers (16 percent). This is because of a steady decline in newspapers, but both get crushed by the Internet and television.

— American television consumption of news is still the most popular of all mediums at 49 percent, while 43 percent use “either news sites or social media” according to a Pew Research Center study.

6. Protesters were arrested in Washington D.C. for “protesting” for a “Green New Deal

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— The Democrats’ new face, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has a trillion dollar plan to solve the climate crisis and create “16 million new good-paying jobs.” Ocasio-Cortez supporters in D.C. participated in a “take over”of  the offices of Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA).

— Police arrested protesters for “unlawfully demonstrating in the Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings,” but Democrats showed support for them with Hoyer tweeting, “I welcome visitors from @sunrisemvmt to my office today, and I’m happy to hear from them about one of the most pressing issues of our time. Speaking out is exactly what our democracy is all about, and I appreciate their passion. The new Dem Majority will #ActonClimate.”

5. Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and soon-to-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi may offer up some border funding

— With the December 21 budget deadline nearing, Democrat leaders say they will offer President Donald Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border wall, but Trump wants $5 billion.

— Trump lacks leverage here, except a government shutdown. He put out a series of tweets including, “I look forward to my meeting with Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi. In 2006, Democrats voted for a Wall, and they were right to do so. Today, they no longer want Border Security. They will fight it at all cost, and Nancy must get votes for Speaker. But the Wall will get built…”

4. The drama over Hillary Clinton’s emails continues as Judicial Watch does the work the FBI/DOJ should

— U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth called it “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency” and ordered the U.S. Departments of State and Justice to determine “(a) whether Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email while Secretary of State was an intentional attempt to evade FOIA; (b) whether the State Department’s attempts to settle this case in late 2014 and early 2015 amounted to bad faith; and (c) whether State has adequately searched for records responsive to Judicial Watch’s requests.”

— While the FBI/DOJ seems to have dropped this case in the Obama-era, one activist group continues to fight for the transparency that the then-secretary of state worked so hard to avoid by creating a homebrew server, bleach bit-ing the hard drives and smashing mobile devices.

3. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could be the next White House chief of staff even after commenting that President Trump could be criminally exposed

— After Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, turned down the White House job, the speculation machine ramped up and came up with new options for the job, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former campaign adviser David Bossi and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) for White House chief of staff.

— Christie may be a favorite because Trump reportedly wants “a functioning White House,” but he said on ABC’s “This Week” that the President seems to be in some legal trouble because of Michael Cohen’s issues with the Southern District of New York, citing “[t]he language in the sentencing memo is different from what we’ve heard before”

2. Gas tax increase may be hitting a snag; Gas prices in Alabama are below the national average

— All three of Alabama’s biggest dogs support a new gas tax: Governor Kay Ivey, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, but local legislators are finding the issue to be a bit of a harder sell to their constituents given the ALGOP/GOP’s anti-tax positioning.

— Currently, Alabama’s average price of gasoline is $2.08 a gallon, which is far below the national average of $2.42 a gallon. Alabama’s price has decreased seven cents in one week and 36 cents in one month.

1. The Nation of Islam is leading the boycotts in Hoover and sees it as a “war” to separate races

— The Birmingham chapter of the Nation of Islam, which Yellowhammer News notes “is deemed an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center” is leading a boycott movement in Hoover that has a goal of moving black-owned businesses out of Hoover and in to majority-black areas of Birmingham.

— As the protesters attempt to make Hoover go “broke,” yet another arrest for blocking freeways in Hoover has taken place, bringing the total to three as the city of Hoover appears to have had enough of the protesters.

4 hours ago

Hoover boycott leader defends Louis Farrakhan, talks about ‘the enemy’

Student minister Tremon Muhammad, who leads the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham mosque, took to Facebook Monday evening to defend Louis Farrakhan and attack the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and “all of those that are aligned with them.”

Muhammad, who posted his thoughts in an approximately 45-minute Facebook Live video, was reacting to Yellowhammer News’ article from earlier that day that revealed he was leading the Hoover boycott efforts in the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

“[W]hat’s happening in Birmingham is just a sign of what’s going to be happening all across America,” Muhammad said.

He called Yellowhammer News “the enemy” and reaffirmed that the Nation of Islam’s involvement leading the Hoover boycott was part of a bigger plan.

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Locally, this is an opportunity for them to immediately advance their agenda.

“Boycott Hoover and build up black Birmingham,” Muhammad summarized.

Again using the term “the enemy,” he affirmed that the Nation of Islam’s efforts were to be a “war” against the City of Hoover and its citizens, however Muhammad emphasized they were not advocating violence.

“So, the word ‘war’ was used a few times [last week at the protesters’ organizational meeting], but of course we know that language – the English language – is not our language,” Muhammad asserted, gesturing to himself. “You taught it to us, I’m just trying to do the best I can with it.”

He then said that he has been using “war” in strictly figurative terms when it comes to unrest in Hoover, before asserting that, “You have never heard the Nation of Islam call for a race war.”

It should be noted, in context, that Muhammad said at the meeting he referenced last week that “the Nation of Islam does not subscribe to the theory of nonviolence.”

“If we go out there, we ain’t going out there to play. If we go out there, and we get engaged in combat, … If they touch one of our sisters or hit one of our young people or hit one of the brothers, we’re not out there just to fight,” Muhammad emphasized. “Everybody and everything got to die on sight.”

In the video, Muhammad then read a definition of “war” and then explained that he would continue using the word to describe the Nation of Islam’s efforts in Hoover and the Birmingham metro area.

“The creation of the City of Hoover was an act of war against Birmingham,” Muhammad reflected.

About a minute later, while talking about “white flight,” Muhammad seemed to take his definition of “the enemy” to mean white people in general. Later on, he also criticized “oreos,” which he defined as “black on the outside and white on the inside,” as well as “graham crackers,” which he referred to as “brown on the outside.”

Muhammad transitioned into a line-by-line analysis of Yellowhammer News’ article, starting with the opening line that references the SPLC calling the organization an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group.”

“By black people – no. By the masses of white people – no. By the Southern Poverty Law Center. Stop right there,” Muhammad retorted.

The minister then launched into a tirade against the SPLC, referring to their “wicked pen” and saying if they could not prove their claims about the Nation of Islam, they should “shut [their] mouth.”

Muhammad then referenced a recent speech made by the Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan, outlining that Farrakhan had “challenged the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ADL and all of those that are aligned with them.”

The ADL is focused on opposing anti-semitism, while working for civil rights for all. The SPLC describes itself as being “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Just this year, Farrakhan compared Jewish people to “termites,” saying, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.”

Muhammad, in the video, continued to defend Farrakhan, saying he was not an “extremist,” “deeply racist” or “anti-semitic.”

“I’ve got a question for you. Did Farrakhan bring you into slavery?” Muhammad asked his followers.

After asking more similar rhetorical questions, Muhammad said, “Farrakhan didn’t do none of that, Farrakhan redeemed fallen humanity.”

It should be noted that members of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan included, hold a core belief that the white race was created by a black scientist named Yakub (it is their characterization of the biblical Jacob) thousands of years ago. The Nation of Islam refers to the race he created – white people – as “devils” while black people are the “Original People.”

The organization’s doctrine, which is shunned by mainstream Islam, also holds that black people’s destiny is to wrestle control of the world back away from these “devils” and put them in their supposed rightful place.

Indeed, Farrakhan has not been shy about this belief. When asked by Tim Russert in a 1997 appearance on “Meet the Press,” Farrakhan acknowledged his belief that “whites are blue-eyed devils,” adding the following:

In the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon which is America.

In the video, Muhammad continued, “The only thing [Farrakhan] did was raise his people up to a certain level [from what] they put us in. So, you charge a man that’s trying to pick us up from the condition that you put us in and you’re gunna charge him with hate.”

He went on to criticize Yellowhammer News’ article as trying to separate him from mainstream members of “the movement” and thanked the publication for saying he was following in Farrakhan’s footsteps, calling that a “compliment.”

Tremon Muhammad with Louis Farrakhan

“Trying to force brother Carlos [Chaverst] to say he’s not with [us], trying to force me to say I’m not with him, but we are family. … Even if we disagree, we’re not going to disagree in front of you, Yellowhammer,” Muhammad said.

He then continued to selectively go line-by-line attempting to rebut Yellowhammer News’ article, skipping over parts that quoted both he and Farrakhan in their own words, as well as a key line noting, “This group is so virulently ‘racist’ that they are founded on the belief that white people, as well as Jewish people, are ‘devils.’”

While his method of rebuttal throughout most of the video was to lash out at the SPLC, the ADL, Yellowhammer News, etc., simply saying they were lying and challenging them to “prove it” throughout, the clearest example of his struggle with the truth came during his version of Malcolm X’s assassination, which was quite unequivocally false.

Regarding Malcolm X’s death, Yellowhammer News originally wrote the following:

Many have blamed the organization for his assassination, with three of its members being convicted in his killing. The so-called ringleader of the three, who confessed to firing upon Malcolm X, was promoted to become the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque after his release from prison.

In the video, Muhammad responded directly to this passage, concluding, “That did not happen.”

“You are a damn liar,” Muhammad said. “I want to say something else but I’m trying to be a good representative of the ‘honorable minister’ Louis Farrakhan. But I really want to tell you what kind of liar you are. And really I can say that you’re a God-damned liar. Because God damns all liars.”

He continued to say that there was “only one man that confessed to actually shooting Malcolm X” and “that man didn’t even get out of prison.”

“Prove it!” the Muhammad emphasized, ending his claims about the assassination.

The facts do not support Muhammad. Three Nation of Islam members were convicted of the murder. Talmadge Hayer (Thomas Hagan), Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were all convicted. Hayer maintained the other two charged were innocent but a decade after his conviction admitted four other Nation of Islam members participated in the killing. Malcolm was shot 21 times.

All three of the convicted men were eventually released from prison, despite life sentences. Butler, today known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz, was paroled in 1985 and became the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque in 1998. In prison Johnson, who changed his name to Khalil Islam, rejected the Nation of Islam’s teachings and converted to Sunni Islam. He was released in 1987. Hayer, who also rejected the Nation’s teachings while in prison and converted to Sunni Islam, is known today as Mujahid Halim. He was paroled in 2010.

Nevertheless, Muhammad decried that his followers were being misled – and not by him.

“[W]hen you throw these lies out here and then our people read it, and some are young and don’t necessarily know the history, or you may be a little ignorant, I’m not being disrespectful, ignorant of the ways or the history of the Nation of Islam and you may believe what they say, that’s why I gotta come out here and knock out the brains of falsehood,” Muhammad claimed.

He added, “I know the steps of the white man, because Farrakhan trained me well.”

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

Bradley Byrne: The light and life of President George H.W. Bush

Our nation came together last week as we mourned the loss of a truly great American. No matter our race, religion, creed or political party, we were drawn toward the light that was President George H.W. Bush.

His life spanned nearly 100 years of American history and was dedicated to serving the United States.

History often records the works of great leaders. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill all led with a sense of service and devotion to their people. But what makes a leader truly special is humility, humor and a deep moral code guiding their every day.

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President Bush embodied those very attributes.

His biographer, Jon Meacham, summed up the Bush life code best in his eulogy, saying, “Tell the truth. Don’t blame people. Be strong. Do your best. Try hard. Forgive. Stay the course.”

In every walk of life, President Bush did just those things. Integrity guided everything he undertook, and his lifetime of achievements testify to this. He was a decorated war hero in the Navy during WWII, an extremely successful businessman in Texas, congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison to the People’s Republic of China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President and president of the United States of America.

His sense of humor was always charming, sometimes teasing, but never out of malice or needling. He knew how to tell and take a good joke, and he loved to make people laugh.

He took everything he did seriously and with dignity. His first and foremost goal was to serve the American people to the best of his ability and let the thousand points of light in our communities shine bright by one small act of kindness and devotion to each other at a time.

In his inaugural address, President Bush emphasized this point: “What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”

Since his presidency, George H.W. Bush has remained an example of leadership. For him, it was never about accolades as much as it was about service to the American people.

He was the brightest of those thousand points of light in everything he did. The light that shone through him came from his devotion to his country, to his family, and to God.

I had the honor to pay my respects to President Bush in the Capitol Rotunda and attend the funeral service held in the National Cathedral last week. It was the most moving church service I have ever attended. The testimony shared by everyone there spoke to a life well lived and firmly grounded.

He loved life and loved the people he spent it with. As his son, President George W. Bush, said at the service, “The idea is to die young as late as possible. … As he aged, he taught us how to grow old with dignity, humor and kindness. And, when the good Lord finally called, how to meet Him with courage and with joy in the promise of what lies ahead.”

President George H.W. Bush will be remembered as a true American leader; someone who served totally, cared deeply, laughed fully and loved completely.

As we move on to the New Year, I hope that in some small way we can embody just a small measure of those traits. If we do, one can only imagine how much brighter the light of our nation will shine.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.