By Steve Flowers, Political Columnist
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Some of you may wonder how many past governors we have in Alabama who are still living and how they are doing. We have six living past governors.
Governor John Patterson is our oldest living chief executive. Patterson is 99 years old and living on his ancestral family farm in rural Tallapoosa County in an obscure area named Goldville. Patterson is a legend in Alabama politics. He was Governor from 1958-1962 and was at the forefront of the beginning of the Civil Rights issue. He has the distinction of being the only person to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race in the Heart of Dixie. When he was elected in 1958, he was 37-years-old and was dubbed the “Boy Governor”. Patterson was Attorney General of Alabama for a term prior to being governor and served several decades on the Court of Criminal Appeals after his governorship.
He spends his time on his farm reading and tending to his animals. In fact, visitors to his home will find he has a pet goat named Rebecca. She sits and listens intently to your conversation and her head will move and look at those talking as though she is part of the conversation. Governor Patterson is totally on top of his game and has attended numerous weddings and funerals in the past year. He recognizes and converses with friends and relatives.
Forrest “Fob” James served two terms as governor, although not concurrently. He was first elected in 1978 as a Democrat, serving 1979-1982, and secondly in 1994 as a Republican serving from 1995-1998. He is the only person in state history to be elected governor as a Democrat and a Republican. Fob is 85 and doing well. He lives primarily in Miami, Florida and spends his days walking and caring for his wife, Bobbie.
Robert Bentley was one of the most successful and respected dermatologists in the state prior to entering politics. Bentley served two terms in the Alabama House prior to his being elected governor, twice. He was first elected governor in 2010 and reelected, overwhelmingly, in 2014. He served over six years as governor and did a good job. He is 77-years-old and in good health. He has resumed his medical/dermatology practice in Tuscaloosa.
Bob Riley served two successful terms as governor. He was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, therefore serving as governor eight full years. He is only 75-years-old. He was raised in Clay County, and now lives in Birmingham with his lovely wife, Patsy. He has several lucrative lobbying contracts.
If anyone was ever born to be governor, it was Don Siegelman. He was born and raised in Mobile. He went on to the University of Alabama where he was SGA President and then went on to graduate from Georgetown Law School. He served in Alabama politics for 26 years. He was elected Secretary of State, Attorney General of Alabama and Lt. Governor prior to his election as Governor in 1998. He served one term as governor. Siegelman is the last member of the Democratic party as well as the only Roman Catholic to serve as Governor of Alabama.
Don is doing well at 74. I enjoy visiting with him over lunch. He enjoys time with his wife, Lori, and his two grown children, Joseph and Dana and his dog Kona. He has a book out entitled, Stealing our Democracy, which is doing well in sales.
Speaking of being born to be governor, Jim Folsom, Jr. was literally born in the Governor’s Mansion in May 1949, while his daddy, James “Big Jim” Folsom was governor his first term, 1946-1950. Jim Folsom, Jr. had an illustrious career in Alabama politics. He was elected and served several times as a member of the Public Service Commission and three terms as Lt. Governor, prior to becoming governor in 1993. He did an excellent job as governor and is credited with bringing Mercedes to Alabama.
Little Jim was a brilliant politician inherently being the son of the legendary “Big Jim” Folsom. However, most folks say his beautiful wife, Marsha Guthrie, is the better politician of the two. Jim and Marsha are doing well and live in their hometown of Cullman. Their son and daughter are grown and are doing well.
Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. He served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.