By Steve Flowers
Legendary state senator Jimmy Holley has decided to not seek reelection to the State Senate next year after 44 years in the legislature. He will be missed in the State Senate. For the past decade, Holley has become a mentor and confidante for incoming State Senators, especially the members of this quadrennium’s freshman class. Senator Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), has told me on more than one occasion that he has relied on Senator Holley’s wisdom and experience on a daily basis.
Holley is generally considered the most knowledgeable person in the Senate when it comes to parliamentary procedure and the rules of the Senate. Others like Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) have been mentored by Holley. In fact, at the beginning of each quadrennium there was a clamor and struggle to seek the seat next to Holley by members so that they could learn the intricacies of the senate rules and gather his institutional knowledge and wisdom.
Holley has been my close friend for 40 years. We served together and sat next to each other for 16 years in the House of Representatives. We represented adjoining counties. I have never seen a more diligent and capable legislator.
When his hometown of Elba lost its schools to flooding, I saw Holley singlehandedly fight and secure extra funds from the Special Education Trust Fund Budget to build them new schools. Years later when a tornado destroyed Enterprise High School, which was and is the largest high school in his district, he secured funds from the state to build a new, state-of-the-art high school for Enterprise.
Holley would work at being a good and knowledgeable legislator. When most legislators would simply show up to vote and enjoyed the nightly social events hosted by lobbyists and associations, Holley would go back to his hotel room and study legislation and sharpen up on the rules.
One day Holley and I were sitting at our desks working on a myriad of legislation put out by the Rules Committee, I looked at the calendar and was unfamiliar with a looming bill about three bills down on the agenda. I asked Holley about a certain piece of legislation. He calmly told me all about the bill and told me I probably was not going to vote for it since it was a trial lawyer bill. He knew my pro-business propensity. It occurred to me that he had read the bill in its entirety as well as all the bills on the calendar the night before in his hotel room.
Holley was born and raised in Elba in Coffee County and has lived his entire life there except for the four-years he went to college in Tennessee, which is, by the way, where he met his lovely wife, Mary. Holley and Mary have two fine and successful sons. They all live close by their parents, so they have had the opportunity to watch their grandchildren grow up and go to all their ballgames and school events. They have a wonderful family life. However, even though Holley is only 77, he has had some health problems. The state and primarily his four-county senate district will miss him immensely.
Holley has spent over half of his life as a lawmaker. He is in his sixth term in the Senate and prior to that served five terms in the state House of Representatives. He currently chairs the Senate Government Affairs Committee and has been a fixture on the Legislative Council. His district includes Coffee, Covington and Pike Counties and the northern portion of Dale County.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) summed up Holley’s departure well. He said, “Senator Jimmy Holley is an institution in the Alabama Senate and our body will not be the same without him. I further appreciate the decades of service he has given to his district and to our state in his long tenure in the Senate, and I am grateful for the wisdom and experience he has shared with our membership.”
Holley has a place in Alabama political history as one of the all-time legendary state lawmakers.
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.