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A phone call from Bill

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

July 31, 2022

Now that we got some downtime and while I'm having technical difficulties getting some videos downloaded. I thought I would tell a story. This is a story about a little boy and his political icon.

Okay, let's cut the schematics. You already know the little boy is me. The year is 1986. Winning the Democratic nomination in those days secured the governor's mansion for the victor. With Governor Wallace retiring the democratic party put out a slate of heavy-hitting All-Star candidates that included former Lieutenant Governor George McMillan, former Governor Fob James, Attorney General Charlie Graddick, and my hero none other than Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley.

Now for a politico person, I'm blessed I got to cut my teeth on this race. To this day this is still the dirtiest race I ever witnessed. Nothing seemed to be off the table. They never "took the gloves off" because they never had any on to begin with.

Emerging one and two after a bruising primary battle, Baxley one Graddick two respectively, they headed to the runoff. The next three weeks didn't get any easier as one vicious attack ad followed the next. Graddick took it a step further and implored GOP voters to crossover and vote in the Democratic runoff which, with Alabama being a closed primary state made that illegal. What that means is you could not vote in the Republican primary and then vote in the Democratic runoff.

Election night saw Graddick seemingly emerge as the victor with a little over 8,756 votes. Baxley challenge the results claiming illegal GOP primary voters gave Graddick his edge. Birmingham political science professor Natalie Davis agreed. She estimated that 30, 000 GOP voters crossed over and that 84% of them went to Graddick which without them would have resulted in Baxley being the winner by a little over 2,000 votes. The election got thrown out.

A series of court battles took place before the Democratic Executive Committee finally certified Mr. Baxley as the winner. I sat down and wrote Bill Baxley a letter telling him how much I admired him. A few days later my dad woke me up. I had a phone call.

See I had written my number on the letter, but never dreamed he would call. I still get a feeling of warmth telling this part here. I answered with a hello. On the other end he responded in his distinct accent "This is Lt Governor Bill Baxley I received your letter yesterday..... After I win I'm going to send a limo to pick you up and you will be my guest of honor." Honestly, the best way to describe this is for a little boy to get a second Christmas and I had a lot of great Christmas but I would not have traded anyone of them for that phone call from Bill.

Now for those of you who never heard of this election Bill lost in November to Guy Hunt and I didn't get my limo trip to Montgomery but that's just a testament to the type of man Bill Baxley is. A true public servant. In what had to be the most stressful moments in life he took the time out to call me when others would have just had their secretary type a letter and stamp their name on it. But not Bill. He added a personal touch that helped further ingrain my love of politics which exists today. More politicians should learn from this. You're never too big to give a minute to the little guy.

Chris Peeks

Reporter and Columnist

Alabama Political Contributor

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