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Opinion | We lost some great leaders in 2018

As is my custom at the close of the year, I like to memorialize great Alabamians who have appeared and lived legendary lives upon the stage of political history in the Heart of Dixie.

This year we have had some real legends. I have expanded the geographical limits to outside of Alabama to include two of the greatest men in American history. America’s greatest preacher and one of the nation’s great presidents passed away. Most of these fellows lived a long time.

One of my favorite men I ever had the privilege to know, Mr. John “Bubba” Trotman, died in February at age 93 in Montgomery. Mr. Bubba was born and raised in Troy, but he spent his entire life in Montgomery. He was the best known cattle farmer in Alabama. He served a stint as President of the National Cattleman’s Association. Bubba played football at Auburn and loved the Loveliest Village on the Plains. Bubba Trotman epitomized the term, a true southern gentleman. My mama grew up with Bubba in Troy. They graduated high school together. One day I told mama that Bubba was one of the finest gentlemen I had ever met. She said he was just that way growing up in Troy. A lot of people in Montgomery loved Bubba, but a lot of people in Troy did too.

Billy Graham died in February at the age of 99 at his beloved mountain home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. He was probably the greatest preacher in American history. He was America’s preacher.

Speaking of great preachers, Dr. John Ed Mathison, the legendary Methodist minister in Montgomery did not pass away this year, however, he has made his mark as one of the greatest preachers in Alabama history. John Ed Mathison gave a masterful Eulogy for his friend, Milton McGregor, who passed away in March at age 79. Milton McGregor had a lot of friends throughout the state. He was born and raised in Hartford, and spent his early adult life in the Wiregrass.

Alabama lost one of its greatest entrepreneurs and charitable benefactors when Milton passed away. He created thousands of jobs and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes for Macon County and the State of Alabama. There are untold stories of people who he personally helped who were down on their luck. He used his personal jet to transport people he did not even know to hospitals all over the country for medical care, more than he used it for himself. He and his wife, Pat, donated millions to charitable organizations as well as their church, Frazer United Methodist in Montgomery.

Milton McGregor was the ultimate family man. He was devoted to his wife, Pat. They were married 50 years. He loved his wife Pat and their two daughters, Cindy and Kim, better than life itself. He was an intensely loyal friend to those he called his friends.

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Birmingham Congressman, John Buchanan, Jr. passed away in March at age 89. He was one of Alabama’s and Jefferson County’s first Republican Congressman, having been elected in the 1964 Goldwater Republican landslide in the state. His father was the longtime pastor of the legendary, prominent, Southside Baptist Church. His congregation included most of the City’s wealthiest and most powerful businessmen. It was where Liberty National Life founder, Frank Samford, went to church along with his friends and associates. Samford University was built with Liberty National money.

C.C. “Bo” Torbert passed away in June at age 88 in his beloved Lee County. He served eight years in the Alabama House and served two four-year terms in the Alabama Senate. He was elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 1976 and was Chief Justice for 12 years. He was a great Alabama leader and a gentleman.

Our 41st President, George H. W. Bush passed away at the age of 94 in Houston, Texas on December 1, 2018. Bush served as President from 1989 to 1993.

Bush was a true statesman and gentleman. He served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later as a Congressman, U.S. Ambassador, our CIA Director, and Vice President prior to being elected President of the United States.

Even though the above resume of distinguished service puts him in a league very few Americans in U.S. history can lay claim to, he personally was probably prouder of having been a star first baseman on his Yale Baseball team.

We lost some icons in 2018.

Happy New Year.

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Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at

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