Because he didn't, and because his record of important service to the state continues to the present, Albert Brewer is The Anniston Star's 2008 Alabamian of the Year.
The Star's definition for AOY is, "An Alabamian (or Alabamians) who made a significant mark on events over the past year; someone who lived up to the state creed's dictate 'to foster her advancement within the statehood of the world.'"
Albert Brewer fits the bill. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a law degree in 1952. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 1954. He served as governor from 1968 until 1971. He's been a law school professor since 1987. His focus through that time and until today has been progress for his state.
Brewer's tireless work on behalf of constitutional reform for Alabama this year and for the many preceding qualify him as Alabamian of the Year.
Brewer is a board member for Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform. ACCR is pushing to rewrite the state Constitution, an effort that would render this unfair and undemocratic document obsolete. Brewer's good temper and statewide stature lend tremendous weight to the effort.
Since the creation of the Bailey Thomson Award in 2007, Brewer has played a key role in the program to honor those working fervently to fix this state. Until his death in 2003, Thomson, a writer and educator, was a driving force behind constitutional reform. Brewer is among those hearty souls who are carrying on Thomson's cause.
"He is a true statesman of Alabama, with guiding leadership and moral vision," says Mark Berte, grassroots education director for the ACCR Foundation. "He truly believes constitutional reform will happen in the state."
Brewer is the co-founder and chairman of the board of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, a vital research nonprofit dedicated to examining the state's policies with an unblinking eye. PARCA's examination of the state's inequities in terms of taxation and other public policies provides policymakers with example after example of the need for a better and smarter government for Alabama.
James W. Williams Jr., PARCA's executive director, has known Brewer for more than 20 years. "I came here because I was confident that he really wanted to bring about such improvements, and that he truly had the people's interest at heart," Williams says of Brewer. "Twenty years later, I am even more confident of his commitment to serve the people of our great state, and I admire more than ever the objectivity and integrity with which he approaches this goal. He is the most outstanding public servant I have ever met, and Alabama is blessed beyond measure that he calls this state his home."
Brewer is an educator, as well. He teaches at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. He was the 2005 inductee into the University of Alabama's College of Communications and Information Sciences Hall of Fame. He is an inductee into the Alabama Academy of Honor. Brewer is the co-author of a law school textbook on the state Constitution.
It's a great third act for a life that began in 1928 in Tennessee.
The apex of the second act twisted and turned over a few weeks in 1970. Following the death of Gov. Lurleen Wallace in 1968, Lt. Gov. Brewer ascended to the governor's office.
"(A)lmost everyone who followed Alabama politics agreed that Brewer was one of the most capable chief executives his state had known in the twentieth century," writes Dan Carter in his book, The Politics of Rage.
Brewer's time as the state's chief executive coincided with the post-Civil Rights Act era of New South governors. It was a re-ordering of the Southern political landscape, a time when small-minded, racially charged politics were on the decline. Competence, quality public schools, racial moderation, economic growth and good government rose to the top. Governors Ruben Askew (Florida), Jimmy Carter (Georgia), Dale Bumpers (Arkansas), William Winter (Mississippi) and others put aside the old ways. Brewer set about to do these good-government tasks, increasing funding for schools, creating a state vehicle motor pool, making the state's appeals courts more efficient and fair, establishing a state Ethics Commission, increasing Medicaid payments and overseeing passage of clean-air and clean-water legislation.
"A quiet, thoughtful problem solver, Brewer typified the emerging New South governors who were transforming southern politics," historian Wayne Flynt writes in Alabama in the Twentieth Century.
Alabama's time in the New South sunshine was to be short-lived, however.
Brewer faced several foes in the 1970 Democratic primary race for governor. The first ballot called for a runoff against a one-time ally of Brewer, George C. Wallace, the once and future governor of Alabama.
Wallace, a demagogue appealing to old and divisive hatreds, tempted a majority of the state's voters to return the state back to its dungeon.
For two weeks in the spring of 1970, Brewer was the lone target in what political historians consider one of the nastiest smear campaigns in electoral history, and certainly the nastiest in Alabama history. Despite heavy financial support from Richard Nixon's henchmen, Brewer, who was described by historian Dan Carter as "a man of uncommon decency, integrity and administrative ability," lost his bid for a full term as governor.
Leaving office in 1971, Brewer summed up his time as an era of "peace and progress." True enough, as Brewer helped modernize the state, creating a more efficient and more accountable government that looked after its citizens.
His reform-minded zeal serves him and us well to this day. Brewer retains his relentless drive toward peace and progress, gently and persuasively pushing Alabama toward constitutional reform, good government and adherence to the rule of law.
"Albert Brewer combines the best qualities of my two favorite lawyers, Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, and Atticus Finch," says Judge John L. Carroll, Cumberland School of Law dean. "He is a man of great wit, keen intellect and lionhearted courage. He is also a man of deep faith who carries his faith not on his sleeve but in his heart. I simply have never met a finer person."
Timeline: Albert Preston Brewer
• Born Oct. 26, 1928, in Bethel Springs, Tenn. Family moved to Alabama in 1935.
• University of Alabama graduate with undergrad and law degree, 1952.
• Elected to the state House of Representatives, 1954.
• Speaker of the House of Representatives, 1963-66.
• Elected lieutenant governor, 1966
• Became governor in 1968 when Lurleen Wallace died. Served until 1971.
• Private law practice, 1971-1987.
• Joined Cumberland School of Law faculty, 1987.
• Helped create Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, 1988.
• Active on board of Alabama Citizens for Consitutional Reform.