Riley pardons Bates’ turkey

Published 4:33 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

MONTGOMERY – Governor Bob Riley pardoned a Thanksgiving turkey on Wednesday as part of an annual tradition in Alabama that dates back to 1949.

The event, held at the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, marks the 59th time an Alabama governor has issued a pardon for a turkey – always named Clyde – provided by Bill Bates of Bates House of Turkey in Greenville.

During their time at the Governor’s Mansion, Governor Riley and First Lady Patsy Riley have added a new tradition to the event that promotes Mrs. Riley’s effort to collect donated blankets for the less fortunate.

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Mrs. Riley began “Blankets with a Blessing” in 2004.

Each donated blanket has attached to it a written prayer because “we try to warm their hearts and their spirits,” Mrs. Riley said.

This year, students from three elementary schools – Dalraida Elementary, Bear Exploration Center Elementary and Fort Dale Elementary – brought blankets that will be given to the homeless in the state.

Governor Riley said Thanksgiving is a time when Alabamians can “pause to thank God for all the ways He has blessed us and the great state of Alabama.”

The Governor also said Alabamians should remember the thousands of American troops who cannot be home this holiday season because they are deployed.

“Remember how much they’re sacrificing by not being at that table,” Governor Riley said. “Today and every day, but especially during this holiday season, let us remember them and their families in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Governor’s pardon, which he read to the students, pardons Clyde for being convicted of “being a big, delicious looking turkey” and orders that “all barnyard rights” be restored.

Now that he has been pardoned, Clyde’s new home will be at the State Farmers Market in Montgomery until February, Bates said, where he can be visited by children.

After that, Clyde will be returned to the farm.

“This is a wonderful day and a wonderful time in my life,” said Bates, who has presented every Alabama governor since 1949 with a turkey to be pardoned. “I never dreamed I’d make it this far.”

Joining Bates at the event were three of his daughters and several of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.