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Opinion | Roger Bedford remembered

Sen. Roger Bedford was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 1982 at the age of 25.

Roger Bedford

As is my custom, my yearend column is devoted to acknowledging meaningful Alabama political leaders who passed away during the year. This year I will highlight only one. Roger Bedford passed away in October at 67. He was not just a meaningful Alabama political figure; he was a giant. Roger died far too early. Roger was a good friend, legislative colleague, and a great state Senator. We came to the legislature together in 1982. 

Roger Bedford was born July 7, 1956 in Russellville. He played high school football at Russellville High School, which was a powerhouse program. He was president of everything in High School and then went on to University of Alabama and then got his law degree from Cumberland School of Law and practiced law for his living in Franklin County.

Senator Roger Bedford was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 1982 at the age of 25. He actually qualified when he was 24. He is the youngest person ever elected to the Alabama State Senate. Bedford served in the State Senate for 30 years and was an integral part of that body for most of those years. He was referred to as the legendary lion of the Alabama State Senate.

Bedford was renowned for being a retail politician. He loved and worked his district. For close to three decades, he represented the Northwest Alabama counties of Colbert, Franklin, Fayette, Lamar, Lawrence, Marion, and Winston. He represented them well. That area has had some legendary power players. Names like Rankin Fite, and Fuller Kimbrell preceded Bedford from their neck of the woods. These giants were adept at bringing home the bacon from Montgomery. Bedford probably eclipsed them in longevity and largesse.

My column appears in virtually every newspaper in Roger’s Northwest Alabama District, and I would peruse these papers. Hardly a week went by without Roger’s picture in every paper. He was either handing out a check, attending a county commission meeting or eating supper with some sweet little old ladies. He truly loved to “politick” and he loved his people. He had immense statewide influence as Chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, but he always thought first of his Northwest Alabaman constituents. He knew the people of his district like the back of his hand. His folks knew him well and loved him dearly. He knew half of his constituents by name.

One day in the height of his senate reign, he asked me to come up and spend a day with him and see the high school he had built for his alma mater, Russellville High School. I knew it must be nice, but when I saw it, I could not believe it. The school looked like it belonged in Mountain Brook. It was a spectacle replete with tennis courts, the whole nine yards. It was unbelievable and it was evident and obvious that he had taken full advantage of the Chairmanship of Finance and Taxation.

The day I visited with him and saw his school, he called everyone we saw by name. He knew every person in the main downtown meat-and-three diner where we ate lunch. He flashed that brilliant smile and said, “Flowers, I sat with three different coffee clubs at this diner starting at 6:00 this morning before you got here.” As we sat there you could tell by the way they looked at him that they loved ole Roger as he flashed every one of them that big smile.

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Bedford was a born politician. Most people expected Roger to be Governor or United States Senator. George Wallace recognized Bedford’s potential immediately. He asked Roger to introduce him at most of his rallies throughout the state in his last race for Governor in 1982. Wallace’s kickoff rally at the Jefferson County Convention Center that year drew thousands of “Wallace-ites.” Heading the event was none other than Tammy Wynette. The crowd went wild when she sang her famous ballad, “Stand by Your Man.”

It was only fitting that a 25 year old state senator-elect from Franklin County introduced Wallace and the famous Tammy Wynette, who hailed from Roger’s county. She was born and raised in Red Bay in Franklin County.

Roger had lost the love of his life, his wife, the beautiful Maudie Darby in 2022 to cancer. Roger and Maudie have one son, Roge, who lives in Tuscaloosa.

Roger Bedford was a legend in Alabama Politics.

Happy New Year.

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 www.steveflowers.us.

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