“If you know your history, you will know where you’re coming from.”
— Bob Marley, “Buffalo Soldier”
Recent political reports had me looking at Alabama’s 7th Congressional district, which is about to be redrawn, as is the requirement each time new census data is released. You see, they want the districts to have balanced population numbers, taking into consideration demographics so that racial minorities are given
one token seat in Congress fair representation in the political process. But people keep moving around, dying, being born, and so forth, meaning that everytime they do a head count, they also redraw the political lines. And since most people don’t vote, nobody really cares all that much about whether they live in district X or district Y.
But like some sort of sadist, I decided to look at the 7th Congressional district anyway. It’s an especially interesting one since our state is represented in the House of Representatives by all white dudes except for in the 7th, where there’s an African-American lady (who replaced an African-American dude). And if you don’t know the racial political coding that has been in place in Alabama for the last few decades, the black district is repped by a Democrat and the rest of Alabama’s Congressional delegation (the white dudes) is made up of Republicans. [In case you were wondering, our city, Montgomery, is represented currently in Congress by a former member of our city council, Martha Roby, who defeated our former mayor, Bobby Bright, and has gone on to become a surprisingly extreme fringe far right-wing member of the Tea Party freshman class].
Anyhoo, I was scrolling through the Wikipedia entry for ye olde 7th Congressional, looking down the list of folks who had repped the district up there in the Congress.
The district has only once been repped by Republican (from 1965-1967) and is notable for having recently been repped by now-Senator Richard Shelby, who is from Tuscaloosa and can be seen on billboards across the state, sternly glowering his evil waxy Grinch-like face at terrified Alabama motorists.
Anyway, scroll back through the list of D7 reps, long before the time of Shelby, and discover that the district was once repped by the absurdly-named Zadoc L. Weatherford. The good people of D7 were only represented by Dr. Zadoc for a few months in 1940. Sidebar: Is Dr. Zadoc not an amazing comic book name? Sounds like someone that Captain America would fight.
Why did the nefarious Dr. Zadoc only go to Congress for a few months? Turns out he was just filling out the term of William Bankhead, who had died in 1940 while in office. Bankhead was the father of Montgomery’s own, the amazing and immortal Tallulah Bankhead. Bankhead was also the Speaker of the House, making him the highest ranking member of the national political scene from Alabama other than Vice-President William R. King (more on him in a moment).
So Bankhead dies and Dr. Zadoc leaves his medical practice in Red Bay, Alabama, (where he was also president of the bank) to go to D.C. and serve in Congress. He came back and was the mayor of Red Bay for a few years, probably quite a step down from the halls of Congress. Curious about what’s in Red Bay, I looked at the city’s Wikipedia entry, which contains (as of this writing) a strange amount of information about a fire that destroyed the city hall and jail. To wit:
In the summer of 2006, the Red Bay city hall caught fire. Local residents have speculated that the fire started when a squirrel suffered an untimely end at the hands of an electrical transformer. The transformer exploded shortly there after, setting fire to city hall and the city jail. The structure’s ceiling caught fire which then spread to roof above it as well as the more recently added secondary roof structure above the original. City Hall burned to the ground. Construction on a new city hall building has recently begun. The contractor bid for the new city hall by Burton Construction of Belmont, Mississippi was supposedly $750,000 dollars. Bids were also let for a new police department and the lowest bid was $500,000 dollars.
God, I love Wikipedia.
But back to Bankhead, who was the highest ranking national official since our Vice-President. What? Alabama had a Vice President?
Yes. William R. King. Sure, he was VP for only a few months (under Franklin Pierce) before dying of TB, took his inaugural oath in Cuba (which required a special act of Congress), and was thought by historians to have been gay (noted murdering douche Andrew Jackson referred to King and his lover, James Buchanan, as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.”) Oh, and King founded Selma and came up with the name for the city based on a set of poems that are fiercely contested as to their authenticity.
I took Alabama history multiple times as a child growing up in Alabama public schools. I, for one, am outraged that I didn’t get this kind of information from my education and instead had to gather this from the Internet in between sessions shopping at www.greatbigstuff.com.
People of Montgomery, rise up. Demand more from your educations. Let us embrace the total weirdness of our history. It is the only hope for moving forward in these dark days that surround us.