Writers Note: I thought Capstone Report readers might be interested in this story about Steve Flowers, former state representative and syndicated newspaper columnist. Flowers is â€œTHEâ€ political columnist in Alabama. You wonâ€™t find him in the Birmingham News or Mobile Register but you will find him in every small town gazette across the state, which makes his total circulation larger than the big city papers. I am interested in political history, and Flowers is a treasure chest of knowledge.
By the way, Flowers is a graduate of the University of Alabama.
Flowers passion for politics lead to legislature, syndicated newspaper column
By Hunter Ford
Steve Flowers has a passion for politics that began when he was a child in south Alabama.
Flowers grew up in Troy and was neighbors with state Rep. Gardner Bassett.
Bassett befriended the young and eager Flowers and took him to Montgomery to serve as a page in the state legislature during the 1960s.
â€œMr. Gardner took me to see Gov. Wallace,â€ Flowers recalled. â€œHe said â€˜This is Steve Flowers, Governorâ€¦heâ€™s going to replace me in the legislature when I get old.â€
Sure enough, Flowers, at age 30, was elected to the state House of Representatives when Rep. Bassett retired. Flowers served 16 years, from 1982 until 1994.
Ironically, Flowers had been Bassettâ€™s newspaper delivery boy. Now retired from the legislature, Flowers writes a newspaper column about politics that is syndicated in 70 newspapers statewide.
His first term in the legislature was Wallaceâ€™s last term as governor.
â€œGov. Wallace never forgot that (the story of Flowers replacing Bassett),â€ Flowers said. â€œHe thought it was great. I was also his representative. I represented Pike County and part of Barbour County, where Wallace was from. He recognized that I was kind of a political historian and he used to call me off the floor of the legislature to talk politics.â€
Wallace would call Flowers at home, at â€œall hoursâ€ and often he would tell Flowers the same story.
â€œHe was kind of like an old man in a nursing home,â€ Flowers recalled. â€œHe told the same story over and overâ€¦about the people he was related to in Pike County and how many votes he got in Maryland and Michigan when he ran for president.
â€œOne time he called me into a meeting he was having with some Japanese industrialists. He said â€˜This is Steve Flowersâ€™ and he told the same story. They were polite, but I always wondered what those Japanese businessmen were thinking. They were looking for a site for a business in Huntsville, and here was Gov. Wallace introducing them to some guy from south Alabama and telling stories.â€
Flowers said no other governor ever had the political prowess of Wallace.
â€œWallace worked the legislature,â€ Flowers said. â€œNo other governor ever did that as well. Guy Hunt tried. Fob James never came close. If you lined up all 140 of us (legislators) James couldnâ€™t call 40 by their first name. Wallace would know your childrenâ€™s names and who your wife was.â€
Flowers said the biggest change in legislative politics over the years has been the rise of partisanship.
â€œIn the old days there was no decision to be made about party affiliation,â€ he said. â€œOut of tradition, everyone was a Democrat. In my time, the biggest fun I had was developing friendships. Now, they donâ€™t even talk to each other. Everybody is either a Democrat or Republican and they only play within their own group. If you donâ€™t take the time to build relationships, you canâ€™t reach across the aisle to compromiseâ€¦you close off that avenue. Itâ€™s almost childish actually. No wonder we have acrimony and gridlock.â€
In addition to his newspaper column, Flowers serves as a political analyst for a Montgomery television station and will soon teach a class on Alabama politics at Troy University.
â€œAbout 25 percent of the columns I write are historical in nature,â€ he said. â€œI often show how history repeats itself or show a historical basis for why something has happened or how it happened.â€
Flowers said current Gov. Bob Riley has been the most successful governor since Wallace.
â€œHis hallmark will be industrial development,â€ Flowers said. â€œHe has put together a good cabinet of outstanding businessmen and he has accomplished a lot with a contrary Democratic legislature.â€
You can read Flowersâ€™ columns each week in The Western Star. For archived columns or for more information about Flowers, visit www.steveflowers.us.