A salute to Alabama#039;s predecessors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2001

When the Academy Awards are held each Spring, one of the more interesting parts of the program to me is when they pay tribute to high profile movie stars who died during the past year. There is something about this part which is nostalgic and brings back many memories.

In a sense, the same is true in the political world as it is in the show business. Each year several notables in state and national politics pass from the scene.

The past two weeks have been such a time in the state of Alabama. First, my friend and colleague, former State Senator Foy Covington, died after a long battle with cancer.

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I first met &uot;Punk,&uot; as he was known to his friends, during the 1978 campaign when I was running for the United States Congress from the Second Congressional District and Punk was directing Fob James' campaign for governor in this same area.

It was obvious from the beginning, at least to me, that Foy Covington was a gracious, likable person with a lot of ability and a deep-seated belief in serving the interests of others.

After helping Fob James win office as governor, Foy then ran himself four years later for the State Senate and served two very effective terms. He was our senator for Crenshaw and Butler Counties and also had Pike and Dale Counties in his district.

Senator Covington supported me when I decided to run for re-election in 1990 and we remained friends throughout the time I knew him. He will be missed, but his family can be proud of the unselfish public service which he so effectively rendered to our district and the state of Alabama.

A second personality who passed from the scene this past week was Frank Long Sr., a long time adviser to Alabama governors and U.S. Senators, as well as all other levels of public office.

To me, Frank epitomized the term &uot;kitchen cabinet.&uot; I believe this term was first made popular during the Franklin D. Roosevelt presidential term, and to much the same extent Frank Long served that role and did so effectively in the state of Alabama.

Frank is probably best known for his relationships with Big Jim Folsom, George Wallace and our United States Senators Lister Hill and John Sparkman. He also was a good friend of former Attorney General Bill Baxley who gave the eulogy at the funeral.

One of Frank's greatest assets was his loyalty and his interest in supporting the person of his choice rather than necessarily picking a winner. I had a number of personal contacts with Frank through the years, and he was always gracious and very generous with me.

It is just a fact of life that as time moves on, new faces take the spotlight and leadership roles, while others pass from the scene and are remembered for their contribution to the wellbeing of our state and nation. Sometimes we refer to the movies as &uot;make believe&uot; ,but in every sense this part of life is real.

Until next time, please remember that &uot;I'll go with you or I'll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. My mailing address is P O Box 225, Luverne, AL 36049, or you may telephone me at 334-242-7883 or 334-335-3449.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell is a representative of Butler County.