UPDATED: Former state Sen. Wendell Mitchell passes away

Published 9:32 am Sunday, February 5, 2012

Former state Sen. “Walking” Wendell Mitchell has died. He was 71.

According to a report from the Associated Press, Mitchell’s wife of 48 years, Rosalind, said he suffered from congestive heart failure and died about 4 p.m. Saturday.

Mitchell served the 30th District for almost three decades before he lost his seat in 2010 to Republican Bryan Taylor, an Iraq veteran and former aide to Gov. Bob Riley.

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“Since I took office, Sen. Mitchell would check in on me from time to time, always with a kind word of encouragement or a friendly piece of advice,” Taylor said. “He did so because he was a gentleman, he loved the Alabama Senate, and he cared deeply for the people of District 30. I’ll never forget his gracious telephone call to me on election night to tell me how lucky I was to be able to represent such fine folks. Although we had our disagreements on the issues, Wendell served our district well in countless ways over his long and distinguished career in public service. On behalf of my family and all the people Wendell represented for so many years, our heartfelt prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his family in this difficult time.”

During his time in office, Mitchell was instrumental in helping Greenville grow, Mayor Dexter McLendon said.

“He was a great statesman,” McLendon said. “He loved Greenville and Butler County, and he did his job for the right reasons.”

McLendon cited Cambrian Ridge, the construction of Greenville High School and the YMCA, and attracting Hwashin America and Hysco America to Greenville as a few of the projects that Mitchell was involved in.

“I never called him when he didn’t call me back,” McLendon said. “We had developed a close friendship over the years and I will miss him dearly. He’ll also be missed as a great community leader.”

Rep. Charles Newton, who served alongside Mitchell while representing Butler and Crenshaw counties in the House of Representatives, said he “couldn’t have found a colleague to help represent the area that was more forthright” than Mitchell.

“His service to the district is well known,” Newton said. “He was always professional, candid and honorable in all of our dealings. … I was saddened to learn of his death and my condolences certainly go out to his family.”

Mitchell earned his nickname “Walking” by walking from town to town during campaigns.

“The passing of Wendell Mitchell this weekend marked a great loss for the Alabama Democratic Party,” ADP Chairman Mark Kennedy said. “Wendell served the people of district 30 for (nearly) 30 years as a state senator, earning the nickname, ‘Walking Wendell,’ for walking several hundred miles during his campaigns to meet with his constituents face-to-face. Wendell was indeed one of the most respected individuals in the Alabama Democratic Party and will be greatly missed by all. Many throughout the state thought highly of Wendell, as both a senator and dean emeritus of Jones School of Law in Montgomery, and he could always be counted on for sound advice and encouragement.”

Mitchell was a former professor and dean emeritus of Jones Law School at Faulkner University.

Funeral services are scheduled for Friday at Vaughn Park Church of Christ in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Visitation will be held at the church from noon to 2 p.m.