Alabama’s 47th Governor and Samford University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Law & Government Albert P. Brewer passed away tonight, according to AL.com / The Birmingham News.
Below are my thoughts on his passing.
Tonight, we lost a giant. At once, a real life Atticus Finch and the closest thing to living Frank Capra character. This is a long post, but I can’t help but tell a story.
I met Governor Brewer while in college at Alabama. He was the guest lecturer in Bob McCurley’s University of Alabama Honors College seminar. Throughout the semester, that class, without a doubt, had a profound effect on me, but I couldn’t help but think of this particular story tonight.
The week before Governor Brewer was to attend, Bob had broken us into groups, each assigned a section of the Alabama Constitution to review and present suggestions about to Governor. Cate Kennedy, Sarah Ann Hughes, myself, and some others were assigned the Declaration of Rights.
In some regrettable amount of confidence, I volunteered to be the speaker for our presentation.
We were to go midway down the list of groups, so, by the time I am speaking, I feel good about our suggestions. About halfway through, Governor Brewer stopped me mid-sentence. He wanted to know the practical implications of our suggestions on about fourteen points of analysis. My silence as he moves down a list of precise and pointed questions seemed like the longest I had ever been quiet in my life. Finally, Bob sensed my utter fear and saved me from total embarrassment with some joke about how this was an undergraduate class who only had a week to prepare.
I don’t know if I turned ghostly white or bright red, but I know how embarrassed I was by the whole ordeal.
That evening, we all went to dinner. Governor Brewer walks up, tells me that he knew I was considering law school, then spends what felt like the majority of the dinner encouraging me to go.
When I arrived at Cumberland School of Law, Governor Brewer was again one of the first faces I saw, reminding us that in communities across the South, lawyers are called upon to serve the people around them outside our ‘actual’ job representing clients. Be it on a nonprofit board, on a school board, on a city council, or in a legislature: lawyers lead. As my involvement in politics grew while at Cumberland, every time I saw Governor Brewer, he never failed to encourage me to continue working for the causes which make Alabama better.
I know there are countless folks who have some variation of the same story, but that’s my version of it.