Larry Langford, the charismatic and popular former mayor of Birmingham, has died following a lengthy illness. He was 72.
Most widely known for his push for a $500 million domed stadium … or maybe for trying to lure the Summer Olympics to Birmingham .. or, more likely, for both of those and his oversized personality, optimism and undeniable love for Birmingham, Langford died Monday in a Birmingham hospital.
The former mayor had recently been transferred from a Kentucky federal prison, where he was serving time for his 2009 public corruption conviction on 60 counts of misusing his office while serving as a Jefferson County Commissioner.
“Mayor Langford had an unmatched love for his community — a love he expressed through his boldness and creativity,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said in a statement. “Mayor Langford was an unabashed advocate for the city he served. Above all else, Mayor Langford loved this city.”
Until his legal troubles in 2009, Langford’s rise to mayor in Birmingham was an inspirational story. Coming up from very little and working his way to the mayor’s office, Langford was a relatable and inspiring character — able to draw the votes of both the business elite and the working poor.
Langford’s biggest contributions to the City of Birmingham came, arguably, in public education — a passion of the former mayor’s. He pushed for new schools and funding for school supplies, led an initiative that provided tablets for Birmingham school kids and was a staunch advocate of higher pay for public school employees.
He also was an advocate for the poor. Having grown up in poverty, Langford knew the struggles and knew that often a chance was the only thing standing between a rich man and a poor man.
Even after his conviction, in which he received 15 years for steering county bond business to friends in exchange for gifts and money worth around $230,000, Langford remained a popular figure with the working class citizens of Birmingham.
He was allowed to return to Birmingham after the judge who sentenced him to 15 years changed the sentence at the request of the federal government to time served.
Langford is survived by his wife, Melva, who fought until the end to have her husband released.