November elections receiving media hype
By By Steve Flowers
As the November elections for statewide office get closer there is a lot of media attention and stories written about the power being wielded by special interests, PACs and big money. They focus on the large amount of cash and influence being bet on the horses for Governor. The Business Counsel of Alabama and its allies have loaded up Gov. Riley in his reelection bid. The AEA and its campaign largesse and influence are supporting Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley in her bid to unseat Riley. Quietly behind the scenes is a very real power in Alabama politics, Milton McGregor. You can bet he is playing ball.
Milton's influence is felt in every decision making race in the state, from Governor to every legislative race. Milton McGregor is the E.F. Hutton of Alabama politics. When he speaks people listen and more importantly when he speaks politicians listen. He also transcends party. Although he supports mostly Democrats he is also close to a good many moderate Republicans. He epitomizes the golden rule of politics. He is loyal to his friends. In a day when some people's word is no good, McGregor's is solid as a rock. In politics and business your word is your bond and that is why Milton is revered and respected by the majority of Alabama political officials. If Milton tells someone that he is their friend and will support them they know they can take it to the bank.
There is a political maxim that is used by longtime political veterans who have been in the Legislature for years and have fought major battles over controversial issues. The type of battles where you have to get a good toe hold and stakeout your position and stay put. Thus the saying is analogous to being in a monumental battle where you get into a foxhole to survive. Therefore, if a politician says about another that he is someone I would want in my foxhole in a war they are talking about someone they would trust with their life. That saying has been used to describe Milton McGregor on more than one occasion.
McGregor is so powerful that before other big names such as Paul Hubbert, Jere Beasley, and Bobby Lowder support someone with their campaign contributions they want to know who Milton is supporting. In fact they usually meet together privately and 9 out of 10 times they are on the same horse.
Milton grew up in the wiregrass. His family was very politically connected so he got his love for politics honestly. Milton idolized his older brother Tom who was a political icon in the wiregrass. Tom McGregor was instrumental in electing the legendary George Andrews to Congress. In fact, Tom McGregor got Andrews elected to Congress in abstention. Andrews was overseas in the Navy when he got elected to Congress in the 1940s. Andrews served in Congress over 20 years, became a power, and is the reason Ft. Rucker was located in Ozark. The elder McGregor was his right hand man for over 20 years.
Milton McGregor loves politics but he loves his wife of over 40 years, Pat, more than life. He is considered one of the most loyal family men in the state. Unlike many of his so called religious and pious detractors there has never been a hint of personal scandal around Milton McGregor.
His generosity is unlimited. There are stories about his allowing politicians to ride in his luxury airplanes and they have. The truth is he is doing it more out of friendship rather than for personal gain or favoritism. There are 10 times more occasions where he has given free use of his planes with his pilots to shuttle an indigent cancer patient to a hospital to save their life. Milton has reached the point financially long ago where he does not need any more money. He plays politics for the love of it. He has given more than $220 million dollars to charities over the years. That is $220 million more than the Indian casinos have given to Alabamians.
My mama always said that you can tell who a real gentleman is by the way he treats the person less fortunate. Milton McGregor epitomizes this quality. He treats the lowest janitor in his race tracks with the same sincerity, warmness and dignity that he does to the wealthiest people in America that he rubs shoulders with everyday.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/>