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Best football coach, Alabama politician lived in same era

Published 9:41am Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When I am an old man and reminisce and recant stories of years gone by with any young folks who will listen to stories that old men generally tell over and over again, I will love to tell them that I lived during an era when the two greatest Alabamians of their professions lived.

A hundred years from now and probably for eternity, no person will ever rival the supremacy of Paul “Bear” Bryant in college football nor George Wallace in Alabama politics. Their feats, accomplishments and records speak for themselves.

They will never be matched. God simply sat down one day and said, I’m going to make the greatest college football coach in history and the greatest Alabama politician in history and I’m going to send them down to Alabama to live in the same era. I was fortunate enough to know both of them and actually got to know Wallace very well over the last 30 years of his life.

Nobody can reach the pinnacle of success in their worlds as these two men. However, there are two men on the political scene today who will go down in the history books as two of the greatest in Alabama politics. Ironically, they are both in their 70’s today.

They both have been on the Alabama political scene 40 years. They both have made their mark on Alabama political history and will be remembered as legends long after they are gone. These two men are Senator Richard Shelby and Dr. Paul Hubbert.

Richard Shelby has reached the zenith of power as one of our greatest U.S. Senators. However, Shelby has rivals for the mantle of greatest U.S. Senator in Alabama history.

We had a tandem in the 1950’s and 60’s that will never be matched with Lister Hill and John Sparkman but Shelby has, in my opinion, arrived in their league and that speaks volumes in and of itself. While Hill and Sparkman were more reserved, Shelby is not bashful about wielding his power. He loves power and he loves the Senate and he knows how to bring home the bacon.

If you think that Shelby has been good for Alabama over the past 24 years, if the GOP takes over the U.S. Senate in two years Shelby is in line to be Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. If that happens, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Dr. Paul Hubbert has made his mark as the most powerful and prolific lobbyist in Alabama history and he also knows how to bring home the bacon for Alabama school teachers. He has done it with power and grace for four decades. Hubbert built the AEA into the most powerful group on Goat Hill.

When he took over in 1970, the AEA was little more than a sleepy professional association controlled by the superintendents and politically ignored by the legislature. Although the AEA is not a one man show, if you take Paul Hubbert out of the equation it would have been nothing more than a benign professional organization.

The AEA will always be a powerful organization in future years but when Hubbert retires it will never be the same. He is the key to the power. His knowledge of politics and the legislative process will never be matched. Hubbert knows every intricate detail of parliamentary procedure. He knows exactly how much money is in the Education Trust Fund at all times and how his teachers can get their portion.

Furthermore, he knows every legislator and senator like the back of his hand. He knows what makes them tick, he knows their habits, their church affiliations, their wife and children’s names, what is important to them, what is important to their districts, whether or not they can be defeated, how much money he has given to their campaigns in the past and who their third grade teacher was because, if need be, he will bring her to the Capitol to make sure they vote right. In other words, Paul Hubbert will most likely never be rivaled.

Both Richard Shelby and Paul Hubbert have made their mark on Alabama political history. Hubbert may be eying retirement. However, Shelby is quick to tell you that he plans to run again six years from now in 2016.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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