Steve Flowers: Very few white Democrats left in Legislature. Several legends retire

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Alabama State House

The Republican tidal wave that swept Alabama’s statewide office holders to landslide victories filtered down to legislative races.

Even though our legislature really didn’t need to become any more conservative or Republican, it did anyway. We had a super majority Republican State House and Senate. We now have a super, super GOP majority. Republicans picked up five more Alabama House seats and added another state Senate seat. That gives the GOP a 27 to 8 advantage in the Senate and a 77 to 28 edge in the House.

If you make a trip to the Capitol and view the circus-like atmosphere of the January organizational session, you will be as likely to see a dinosaur on display as to spot a white Democratic legislator. There are two in the 140 membership. The two relics are Billy Beasley in the Senate and Neil Rafferty in the House.

Three Democratic House Icons did not run for reelection this year. Retiring House members, James Buskey of Mobile, Marcel Black of Tuscumbia and Richard Lindsey of Centre, were legends and they will be missed. They epitomized the class and quality of individuals who have rendered outstanding leadership and statesmanship to public service for not only their constituents but also to the State of Alabama.

James Buskey is retiring at 81. Mr. Buskey has served 42 years in the Alabama House of Representatives.  He first won election to his House Seat in a Special Election in 1976. He subsequently was reelected overwhelmingly to 10 four-year terms. His leadership has made an impact for all of Mobile County. Over his legislative career he served on Ways and Means and Rules Committees. Over the past decade he has been the leader and wise shepherd of the Democrats in the House even though he let young members hold the Title.

His professional career was as an educator.  He served as a Vice Principal and Principal of several Mobile High Schools. I watched him be pushed to the limit numerous times in his efforts to represent his constituents.  I never saw him lose his temper or his dignified yet humorous demeanor.

As long as I live I will never forget a speech he made on the floor of the House in 1983. George Wallace was in his last term as governor and he was trying to tax everything that wasn’t nailed down. Even though Mobile had always been good to Wallace, he was aiming a good many of his tax initiatives at the Port City. Buskey took to the microphone and an impassioned yet hilarious portrayal of Wallace’s tax men in a flotilla of vessels sailing into Mobile Bay to rob the Mobilians. I will fondly call him Admiral in memory of that speech for the rest of my life.

Representative Marcel Black is retiring at age 67after 28 years in the Alabama Legislature.  Marcel is one of the finest gentlemen I’ve ever known. He was born and raised in Tuscumbia and represented his hometown of Tuscumbia and County of Colbert for seven four-year terms. He is a proud graduate of the University of Alabama and Alabama Law School. Besides being an outstanding legislator, he is one of the most prominent lawyers in his part of the state. He was a great friend and admirer of Tuscumbia’s most prominent lawyer and judge and Senator Howell Heflin. Heflin, who served as Alabama’s Chief Justice and our United States Senator for 18 years, however, was not Tuscumbia’s most prominent citizen. That title belongs to one Helen Keller.

Marcel served in a host of legislative posts. He was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and would have probably been elected Speaker of the House had the Democrats retained the majority in 2010.

Representative Richard Lindsey is retiring at the ripe old age of 62. He has served 36 years in the Alabama House of Representatives. If you assume that you are an adult at 21, then that means that Richard has served almost his entire adult life representing his home folks in the Legislature, 36 of his 41 years as an adult has been as a legislator.  He was elected in 1982 at age 26.

Even though he has been a State Representative for most of his life, he is first and foremost a farmer.  He was born and raised in Centre in Cherokee County and runs the family farm business. He has been a leader in the Alabama Farmers Federation and his Methodist church. Like Marcel Black, Richard Lindsey is one of the finest gentlemen you will ever meet.

James Buskey, Marcel Black and Richard Lindsey exude integrity.  Legislators on both sides of the aisle should strive to emulate these three gentlemen.

See you next week.

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Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.