Bentley pardons Clyde, honors late Bill Bates
Published 2:49 pm Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Gov. Robert Bentley, with First Lady Dianne Bentley by his side, pardoned both Clyde the Turkey and his girlfriend, Henrietta, at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery on Wednesday.
Bentley also presented a commendation for the late Bill Bates Jr., former owner of Bates Turkey Farm, to his daughter Rebecca Sloan, who was accompanied by her brother Thomas Bates.
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Thomas Bates operates the family turkey farm in Fort Deposit, and Sloan operates Bates House of Turkey in Greenville.
Wednesday marked the first turkey pardoning ceremony since Bill Bates died in August.
“It was so emotional,” Sloan said. “You’ve got to get up and do what he wanted you to do. So, that’s what you do. And then the pride that you feel to be able to carry on something that he had done for so long and was so proud of just means the world to be able to carry that on.”
For more than six decades, Bates Turkey Farm has provided a turkey to the sitting governor each November as Thanksgiving approaches. The governor then pardons the turkey, which is always named Clyde.
The tradition started in 1949 when Bill Bates Jr. took the first Clyde to Gov. Jim Folsom to be pardoned.
It’s become a Thanksgiving tradition in Alabama
“It’s hard to think about with him not here,” Thomas Bates said of Wednesday’s event.
He said this year Clyde 65, as he was tagged, is about a 65 pound, 14-month old turkey, and Henrietta is 16-weeks old. Both will be on display at the state Farmers Market
Sloan thanked everyone for attending the traditional turkey pardoning her father started in Alabama.
“I knew it was going to be hard the first year without my dad,” she said.
But she said her father was most proud of growing up in the depression, serving his country during World War II, and living the great American dream.
She said it was fitting her family made their dream come true by “raising and marketing the American turkey.”
Sloan said her mother, Teresa, was unable to attend Wednesday, but that she worked side by side with her father to keep the family business going.
According to Sloan, the pardoning tradition is something her family wants to continue for another 65 years.
Bentley said Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. He thanked turkey growers and farmers who provide food for families.
Bentley described Bill Bates as a man of honesty and integrity who also loved God, his family and his country and called him a source of pride for the state of Alabama.
He commended the Bates House of Turkey founder and the entire Bates family for their role in continuing this Thanksgiving tradition in Alabama.