Over the years, certain counties in Alabama have bred an inordinate number of governors and state political leaders.
The three most prominent enclaves, historically, have been Tuscaloosa, Barbour and Cullman counties.
In the earlier years of statehood, Tuscaloosa was the most heralded county. They have continued, intermittently, throughout the years. The most prominent senator in Alabama history, Richard Shelby, who retired after 36 years in the Senate calls Tuscaloosa home. Indeed, the state capital was in Tuscaloosa one time in the early years. They have had a fairly recent governor in Dr. Robert Bentley.
Barbour County is called the “Home of Governors” and for a good reason. They have had more governors than any county in state history. This sparsely populated Black Belt county has had six governors hail from there. George Wallace is, of course, the most prominent Barbour County Governor but they also have Chauncy Sparks, John Gill Shorter, William Jelks, Braxton Bragg Comer and Jere Beasley.
Barbour County and Tuscaloosa both claim Lurleen Wallace. She was born and raised in
Northport in Tuscaloosa County, but married George Wallace and moved to Barbour County.
This split county claim of governors also applies to legendary Gov. James “Big Jim” Folsom. Big Jim was born and raised in Coffee County near Elba but moved to Cullman as a young man. So, Cullman gets bragging rights since he lived in Cullman when he was first elected in 1946. Cullman has indeed come on strong in the past few decades. They have had two
governors in recent years, Jim Folsom Jr. and Guy Hunt.
Today, we have two counties emerging as hotbeds for breeding state political leaders. Coffee County is percolating with political success. More particularly, though, is the growing city of Enterprise.
Our new U.S. senator, Katie Boyd Britt, was born and raised in Enterprise. She is only 40. The congressman from the second district, Barry Moore, is from Enterprise although Dothan,Montgomery and Elmore County have more population in that Congressional District. Moore is only 56. A rising popular star in the State House of Representatives, Rhett Marquis, 48, is from the Boll Weevil City. Enterprise is the home of the new state senator from that southeast Alabama hub. Josh Carnley just took the seat of retiring legend, Jimmy Holley, thus keeping that seat in Coffee County. Carnley is a Coffee County farmer and insurance broker. Enterprise has a very good mayor in William “Bill” Cooper. He has been in city politics for a good while.
Coffee County also dominates all the judicial posts in this circuit. All three circuit judges hail from Coffee County, in Enterprise. Sonny Reagan, Jeff Kelley and Shannon Clark are all
relatively young. The new district attorney, James Tarbox, is very young. Jimmy Baker, who is chancellor of the Alabama Community College System hails from Coffee County and lives in Enterprise. Enterprise has always laid claim to Fort Rucker, which has been the impetus of their growth, but they are emerging as a political powerhouse.
The other county that is set to be called an Alabama political spawning ground powerhouse is Marshall County. They currently have a cadre of the state’s most powerful and promising
Alabama leaders. The most prominent is 41-year-old Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who may be
our next governor. State Sen. Clay Scofield is only 42 and is Majority
Leader of the State Senate. Attorney General Steve Marshall, 57, is in his second term as
Attorney General. It is rare that two of the state’s highest ranking officials, Will Ainsworth and Steve Marshall, are both from the same county.
There are two rising stars in the Alabama House of Representatives from Marshall County.
Young Wes Kitchens, an emerging leader in the House, is from Marshall. Also, the youngest
member of the House of Representatives, Brock Colvin, has just been elected at the ripe old age of 26 and is catching people’s eyes on Goat Hill.
Enterprise and Marshall County are emerging as new political breeding grounds for Alabama politicians.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers’ column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.