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Old Times There

June 25th, 2004 - 5:21 am

Facinating first-person account here by John Patterson, a former Attorney General of Alabama who took over that position after his father’s murder in 1954. Patterson’s father Albert had been elected AG in a tight race, only to be assassinated by corrupt Phenix City police officers before he could take office.

I was born and raised in south Alabama, and while you don’t see political murders there these days (at least as not far as I know), corruption in state and local government is still very much a reality. The primary and run-off elections Patterson refers to were in the Democratic Party. For over 100 years in Alabama, general elections at the state level were mere formalities. Until 1986, when an internal Democratic power struggle resulted in the improbable election of Republican Governor Guy Hunt, winning the Democratic primary was effectively the same thing as being elected to an office.

As you might imagine, this kind of one-party domination did not tend to encourage “clean” government. While the Republicans have made extraordinary gains statewide over the last 20 years, the old corrupt Democrat machine still dominates the state Legislature.

UPDATE: Corruption, particularly from a long-dominant political party, isn’t exactly unknown in my current home state of Georgia, either. Grab an anonymous login and password at BugMeNot, if you need one.

UPDATE II: As James Joiner reminds me, John Patterson is also a former governor of Alabama. Unfortunately, his record in running for and holding that office was considerably more checkered than his reminiscence above would indicate. Patterson was the man whose virulently racist 1958 campaign for governor led George Wallace to declare that he’d never be “out-segged” again. For once, Wallace was as good as his word, riding “segregation forever” to a victory over Patterson four years later.

Speaking of Wallace, I wrote a column about him shortly after his death in 1998. Here’s a link.

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