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Cold, cruel, confrontational: inaugurations of Alabama loaded with history



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Pomp, parades, incendiary bombardment and the bitter cold define the Alabama government inaugurations of the last 200 years.

It could be said that the most notorious inaugural speech in the history of the United States occurred on the steps of the Alabama Capitol in 1963, when Governor George Wallace barked his microphone: "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

In the present century, the Alabama inaugurations have been removed from the days of Wallace, and have come to offer a much more picturesque symbolism than furious speech.

"They are parties and donors and bubbles. It's not relevant in any way, "said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University in Washington, DC who has become known nationally for his political forecasts and appearances on Fox, MCNBC and CNN.

Newly elected Governor Kay Ivey takes the oath of office Monday at 10 am on the steps of the Capitol, in the presence of the state's constitutional officers and a series of news cameras showing the proceedings from one end of Alabama to the other. . And she will have to make comments to the assembled crowd before the colorful parade rises at noon on Dexter Avenue.

Jess Brown, a retired professor of political science at the Athens State University, has heard many inaugural speeches in his time. "Some of them have been pretty predictable and cookie cutters," he said.

So, what do you expect from Ivey? He said: "If she has to do something, in light of the current political environment, she needs to say things in her speech to try to build bridges." For Brown it is important, said Brown, to accept that "the full spectrum of Alabama".

Recent controversies

However, no one anticipates any drama, certainly not of the Wallace variety, nor like the tie-breakers that involved Bob Riley and Robert Bentley.

As you can remember:

-The preparation for Riley's first inauguration on January 20, 2002 included a controversy over the event that coincided with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The city of Montgomery issued permits for two parades that day: one greeting Riley and another in honor of the king.

Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes, the then chairman of the King's celebration committee, sought an agreement with Riley's team to cancel the King's parade if, among other things, Johnnie Carr, the civil rights leader of the King, was allowed. 92 years, pay tribute to the king during the inauguration of Riley.

Riley agreed and the controversy vanished.

-Bentley stepped into the hot water immediately after his opening ceremony in 2011 while speaking at King's old church, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist.

Bentley, in his comments, said: "Someone here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I tell you, you are not my brother and you are not my sister, and I want to be your brother. "

"The reaction was quick," recalled Phillip Rawls, a journalism professor at Auburn University who spent 35 years covering Alabama's policy for The Associated Press.

Bentley's apology was written by then communications director Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who told the media that Bentley would be "the governor of all people."

Rawls said that Bentley's second inauguration, on January 19, 2015, was noticeably different from the 2011 event, and for completely different reasons.

"We saw the first signs of friction between Robert and Dianne Bentley," Rawls said. "In its first inauguration, the couple did everything together. At the second opening, the Bentleys walked separately at their "Thanks, Alabama" event at the Multiplex Cramton Bowl behind the Capitol. "

Rawls recalled: "Most people assumed that Ms. Bentley was more comfortable being alone after four years in the spotlight, and the Bentleys moved separately to be able to pose with more people to take pictures. Later we discovered that they were already having problems. "

At that time, apparently, Bentley was already entangled in a romantic relationship with Mason that, by 2017, would lead to his resignation and Ivey's rise from the lieutenant governor to first place.

Promises on strike

The recent inaugurations have brought some surprising promises from the incoming governors.

In 1999, Don Siegelman, the last Democrat to occupy the position, declared that his administration "would dare to do great things". He tried, a few months later, to approve a state lottery, but the voters refused.

In 1979, Fob James took advantage of his first inaugural moment to distance himself from Wallace.

Rawls said James' speech was one of the "boldest" he has heard. James spoke about a "New Beginning," which was his campaign theme, "free of racism and discrimination."

"He emphasized that in his inaugural address and used the name of Martin Luther King to draw a line between Wallace's time and James's," Rawls said. "Of course, James did not run for re-election at the end of his first term and Wallace returned for a fourth term."

Wallace's fourth and final inauguration, in 1983, was "the most discreet I covered," Rawls said. A contrite Wallace, plagued with pain and working from a wheelchair, won a fourth term thanks to the great support of black voters, and appointed African-American directors for two important Cabinet agencies.

"It did not have a parade and kept the festivities to a minimum to reflect the difficult economic times," Rawls said. "In retrospect, the low profile inauguration probably also reflected their health problems and their inability to attend a long day of events."

Historical direction

Wallace's inaugural fulminations in 1963 still resonate in the history books, symbolizing the white reprimand of the South of the Civil Rights era that quickly envelops the Old Confederacy. That speech was written by Asa Carter, a Klan leader in the 1950s who later wrote popular Western novels under a pseudonym.

Brown, the retired teacher, marched in the opening parade that day as a teenage trumpeter in the band of Handley High School. "We do not pay much attention to the speech," Brown said.

But he paid close attention in his academic years ahead.

Wallace, five months after its inauguration, made his "Stand at the school gate", temporarily blocking the way to the Foster auditorium at the University of Alabama to oppose the admission of African-American students.

Vivian Malone and James Hood.

In modern Boston, Brown said, exhibits in the Library of President John F. Kennedy highlight Kennedy's initiatives to promote civil rights. "Between the black and white video clips they play is a Wallace clip during its opening," he said.

Conflict

Even before Wallace, the race could ruin and make inaugurations in Alabama.

Governor John Patterson defeated Wallace in 1958 for painting him soft on segregation. During the inauguration of Patterson in 1959, he refused to allow the black bands to march in the parade.

"Its inauguration was completely segregated," said Derryn Moten, president of the department of history and political science at Alabama State University in Montgomery.

Patterson, who is the oldest living governor of Alabama at age 97, has issued apologies and expressions of regret for his decision.

In 1894, according to Wayne Flynt, a distinguished author and professor emeritus in the Department of History of the University of Auburn, racial tensions and the suspicion of political deceptions almost caused the inauguration of William Oates to erupt in violence.

Oates, an officer of the Confederation during Gettysburg, won the governor's race in August 1894 partly due to the stuffed urns in the state's "Black Belt" region. As the day of the inauguration took place on December 1, 1894, the defeated candidate Reuben Kolb and some 200 supporters marched down Dexter Avenue to the Capitol, to be quickly received by the state militia.

"Kolb's followers then crossed Bainbridge Street, where they pulled mules out of a car, which Kolb rode amid the cries of 'Come on, captain, they can kill you but you'll go down in history as a martyr of the populist cause ! ", Said Flynt.

"After a long pause and surrounded by several militias and armed police controlled by the Democrats, Kolb asked his followers to demand electoral reforms that would guarantee honest elections in Alabama, urged them not to pay taxes until such reforms were implemented, but also to avoid violence. " . "

Angry followers soon dispersed and, as Flynt said, "what could have been the opening that ended in a shooting at the Capitol, quietly moved into the history of Alabama."

Celebrities, cold weather

For those attending the inaugurations, the most vivid memory sometimes involves one of two things: celebrities and intense cold.

"It was the coldest thing I've ever had in my life," said Jim Zeigler, a Republican who will be sworn in for another four-year term as state auditor on Monday. He was referring to the first opening he attended, in 1967, to a member of the marching band of Sylacauga High School when Lurleen Wallace took over.

Wallace, the wife of George Wallace, was the first woman elected as governor of Alabama until Ivey defeated Walt Maddox during the November general election.

"My trumpet froze and did not play," Zeigler said on that 1967 afternoon.

"Traditionally, Alabama Opening Day has been the coldest day of the year," said Zeigler. Temperatures for the opening of Ivey on Monday are for temperatures in the low 50s.

At the opening of Seigelman in 1999, Jimmy Buffett, a son of Mobile, sang "Stars Fell on Alabama." In 2003, for the first opening of Riley, Randy Owen of the country music group Alabama sang "My Home's in Alabama".

In 2007, at Riley's second inauguration, Arizona Senator John McCain of Arizona sat in the front row and joined the Riley family to watch a part of the parade. McCain, at that time, was considered the main Republican in securing the 2008 presidential nomination and speculation that that day focused on whether Riley would be his election as vice president.

At the opening of "Big" Jim Folsom in 1947, a band called "The Strawberry Pickers" provided music for the inaugural dance. The band helped to increase the populist image of Folsom, and its opening attracted a large crowd of 100,000 to Montgomery. In the 1994 book, "Alabama, The History of a Deep South State," written by Flynt, the great day of Folsom is described as a "Jacksonian Inauguration designed for the common people" and that black voters attended easily.

"A lot of ordinary people came out of the hills for it," said Waymon Burke, a political science professor at Calhoun Community College. "It was like the inauguration of Andrew Jackson (in 1829), they were not used to seeing people like that in Washington, I think that in modern times, the Folsom inauguration, there were people who thought he was the common man."

Symbolism and opportunity

Monday's events in Montgomery are unlikely to attract a large audience to Montgomery.

"Today they are less important for the obvious reason and that is that people are saturated with political news from cable networks, regular networks, newspapers and countless websites," said Lichtman at American University. "It used to be that Americans received their news from some networks and from local newspapers and some national newspapers. And in most of our history, people never saw or heard their governors. "The inaugurations were important and symbolic events and an event to get some impression and information from their leaders."

There have been some openings this year that carry fragments of symbolism or a bit of personality and uniqueness. In Colorado, Democratic Governor Jared Polis culminated a historic day as the nation's first openly gay governor by organizing an "inaugural ball of blue sneakers." Polis is known for wearing sneakers with suits.

In Wyoming, former Senator Alan Simpson offered some humor by offering incoming Republican Gov. Mark Gordon advice: "Never slap a guy who is chewing tobacco."

In Wisconsin, newly-elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers used his inaugural speech to encourage voters to put aside political interests and "work together to solve problems." His speech came after Republican lawmakers approved a package of bills during his flat-footed session aimed at limiting his power to do several things while in office.

And in California, Governor Gavin Newsom caused a stir by calling President Donald Trump incompetent and corrupt during his inaugural speech. Newsom also held an inaugural dance with multiple acts of entertainment that included rappers Pitbull and Common, the rock band X Ambassadors and the Australian singer Betty Who.

Ivey's pre-opening party in Gulf Shores on Saturday featured country music performer Neal McCoy.

It is not clear if Ivey will have notable personalities at Monday's opening in Montgomery.

David Hughes, a political science professor at Auburn University in Montgomery, said he is more interested in hearing what Ivey has to say, and if the new governor will provide some clue as to how he will focus on his agenda in 2019.

"Prior to his election, his leadership style could largely be described as 'going according to what he's leading,'" Hughes said, referring to Ivey's mantra since 2017 of "stabilizing the boat" of the Alabama government since Bentley I quit.

"Many assume that Ivey will not run for re-election (in four years)," he added. "If that is the case, then expect her to show a little more independence during this (legislative) session." She understands that 2019 is one of the best opportunities she will have to make her mark on state policy, and lawmakers will be eager to see what ambitions you have in mind. "

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