The tight-knit community of Smiths Station is grappling with a profound loss following the suicide of their mayor and local pastor, F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, whose life came to a tragic end after an involuntary outing by a conservative news outlet.
Copeland, also a pastor at First Baptist Church in Phenix City, was a beloved figure and married father of three. His death has ignited a firestorm of controversy and widespread condemnation on social media, with many accusing the conservative blog 1819 News of pushing Copeland to his breaking point.
The late mayor faced an outpouring of scrutiny after 1819 News published an exposé, revealing his private transgender identity and online persona, Brittini Blaire Summerlin. The news site, previously affiliated with the Alabama Policy Institute, displayed screenshots from Copeland’s deleted Instagram and Reddit accounts, where he expressed his transgender identity.
In a final statement to 1819 News, where he begged the outlet not to publish the story, Copeland insisted that his alter ego was merely a stress-relief hobby. “Just my wife knows about it,” he admitted. He vehemently defended the separation between his private activities and public roles, questioning the relevance of his private life to his duties as mayor and pastor.
The events reached a climax when the police, conducting a welfare check, came upon Copeland in his car where he exited the vehicle and fatally shot himself. This tragedy has shone a spotlight not just on the individual involved but also on the responsibilities of media outlets and their influence on public figures’ lives.
Jeff Poor, editor-in-chief of 1819 News and a notable figure with connections to Alabama’s Republican political scene, has extended his thoughts and prayers to those affected by Copeland’s death.
In a statement to AL.com, Poor wrote, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Smiths Station, the parishioners of First Baptist Church of Phenix City and the victims and family of Mayor Copeland.”
However, his choice of the word “victims” has raised eyebrows and sparked speculation that some source may come forward with further allegations surrounding the late mayor who now cannot defend himself. Other outlets also piled on the Copeland story, notably Dale Jackson at YellowHammer News and syndicated radio show hosts Rick and Bubba.
As the community mourns, questions about privacy, media ethics and the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in conservative Alabama have surged to the forefront of public discourse. Copeland’s passing is not just a private tragedy but a public reckoning with the consequences of forced outings and the balance between a public figure’s private life and public responsibilities.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours.