By Steve Flowers
Over the years I have shared a lot of stories about Alabama’s colorful political figures. We have had some characters like Big Jim Folsom and George Wallace. Folsom was gregarious and fun loving. Wallace was a political genius and, without question, the most prolific politician in Alabama history. Both Wallace and Folsom used theatrics to get elected governor, but both were effective once elected to office.
Ole Mo Brooks is a theatrical clown and will make the history books as a colorful Alabama political character. However, unlike Wallace and Folsom, Brooks will never be considered effective or important but Brooks is no fool. He knows what he is doing. He is a graduate of Duke and Alabama Law School. He has always been a right-wing nut. He truly believes in less government even if that means cutting your district’s or state’s throat. He does not want to be an effective emissary for his people. He is proud of the title of being the least effective congressman in Alabama history. He believes his role is to be the most conservative person in the halls of the Capitol.
Brooks and I were freshman legislators together in 1982. Brooks served one four-year term in the Alabama House and left in 1986. He was immediately recognized as a right-wing nut, who was driven by an ideological agenda rather than being an effective legislator for his constituents. He was laughed at and ridiculed by the entire House and placed on the back row by the Speaker. They would recognize him, occasionally, his first year to make a reactionary speech on an issue. However, after a while, they cut his microphone off and would not allow him to talk or be recognized. Prior to that, if we had a bill we wanted to pass and we knew Brooks might be for it, we would quietly go back to Brooks’ desk in the far-right corner and say, “Mo, I would like for you to vote for my bill. However, please do not speak for it.” We knew his speaking for it would be detrimental to the bill’s passage.
Having been relegated to not having any power, which he preferred, he decided to become the Czar of conservatism in the House. He made himself the appointed keeper of all the House members voting records and would rank us on our conservatism based on how we voted on legislative issues. Brooks got a computer, which was a rare device in those days, and sat at his desk keeping track of our daily voting record and ranking us. You can imagine how that upset some of the old crust legislators, some of whom had been around since the early Wallace segregationist days. They figured that the word conservative meant voting against Civil Rights and integration. I was one of the few who would visit with Brooks. I would go back to his desk and ask how he was doing with his list. Some of the old timers would ask me what Brooks and I talked about. You can only imagine the indignation they had toward the young nut from north Alabama when I told them he was keeping their voting record and ranking them on their conservatism.
Ole Brooks moved on to the Madison County Commission for a decade or so. They say that every vote during that time was five yes and one no. Guess who the “no” vote was.
He has continued that same consistency of longing to be a loud voice in the wilderness of ineffectiveness during his 11 years in Congress.
Recently a respected fellow member of our 1982 Freshman Legislative Class and I were visiting and the subject of Brooks’ race for the Senate came up. He said, “You know, I have never known anyone besides Mo Brooks who has served nearly two decades in a legislative-congressional capacity and never passed a bill, nor ever accomplished anything.”
See you next week.
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. Flowers may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.