The passing of a statesman

By Larry Lee

How do you give due respect to someone like former Governor Albert Brewer?  I’m not sure you really can.

He was definitely an anomaly in today’s “kill or be killed” world of politics. For one thing, he was a gentleman of the highest order. And his integrity, passion and intelligence were never questioned that I know of.

It was as if he [was] an Eagle Scout when all around him were just children making mud pies. Though slight of stature, there were few times when he wasn’t the biggest person in the room. And he was always approachable. I have known many elected officials who made you think they were doing you a favor by stopping to listen to you. Never Albert Brewer.

Years ago when Alabama was far more concerned about who was going to school than what was being taught, Governor Brewer gave us a too-brief glimpse of what might have been. He only sat in the governor’s chair for 33 months having risen from lieutenant governor to governor when Lurleen Wallace died in office.

He ran for governor in his own right in 1970 and lost to George Wallace.

He never ran for office again and we are all the worse for it.

Within the last year I drove to Birmingham one weekday to be part of a small group who listened as he, along with Gerald Johnson of Auburn, talked about Alabama and politics. It was a special moment. Elected to the legislature in 1954 at the age of 25, he was a walking history book. “Big” Jim Folsom was governor when Brewer went to Montgomery.

A special memory I have is of an email I got from him years ago after he read an article I did for the Birmingham News. The story was about spending several hours walking the land in Covington County my grandpa bought in 1935. I recalled times of long ago when daddy and his family worked hard to wrest a living from this land.

I will always remember Governor Brewer’s note and the fact that he took a moment to write and the kindness of his words to me.

Most of us can recall the scene in the movie To Kill A Mockingbird when Scout is in the balcony as the trial of Tom Robinson ends and all the spectators with her rise to their feet as Atticus Finch walks by below. She was directed to also stand out of respect for her father.

That brief scene seems fitting at this moment.

Larry Lee led the study Lessons Learned from Rural Schools and is a longtime advocate for public education. larrylee133@gmail.com. Read his blog: larryeducation.com.