This week’s Rising Stars consists of a group of dedicated individuals who were Republicans in Alabama when it was not cool to be a Republican. We recognized them this week-end at the ALGOP Summer Dinner as Alabama’s Republican Pioneers. These brave and committed Republicans paved the way for our current party dominance in Alabama by standing strong, creating true change, and believing in their conservative values.
Alabama’s Republican Pioneers became active in the Republican Party in the 1950’s and 1960’s and laid he groundwork for the Republican majorities that we now have in Alabama. The Pioneers are: Jerry Barksdale, Robert B. French, Doug Hale, Jim Holliman, Perry Hooper, James. D. Martin, Frank Mason, Charlotte Tanner, Harold D. Wall Jr., and W. Edgar Welden.
>>>> In 1962, Jerry Barksdale stood up for his beliefs and was the first member of his family to support a Republican and actively campaigned for U.S. Senate candidate Jim Martin. The following year, Mr. Barksdale founded the Limestone County Young Republicans and served as their President while helping other chapters across the state grow and ensure their success. From there he went on to be Campaign Manager for Bob French who ran for the U.S. Congress in 1964. Jerry still resides in Limestone County.
Bob French started his work in the Republican Party in 1959 and was one of the nine “conspirators” who planned the demise of the “PostOffice Republicans,” and helped organize a viable Republican Party in Alabama. He became County Chairman of Tuscaloosa County Republican Executive Committee in 1962 and was elected as State chairman of the Alabama Young Republican Federation in 1963. Bob was the Republican nominee for Congress in 1964 and the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in 1970. Bob currently practices law in Fort Payne, AL.
After the 1964 Goldwater Landslide, Doug Hale was inspired to leave his fellowship at MIT to return to Alabama to help build the Alabama Republican Party. Doug later became the second Republican to be elected to the Alabama Legislature after the Reconstruction, and during that time he cosponsored the ethics bill that was eventually passed in the Senate. Doug resides in Huntsville.
In 1960, Jim Holliman began his political career by holding several leadership positions in the Young Republicans at the University of Alabama. He then went on to become the State Young Republican Chairman for the Goldwater in 1964, and later became the deputy treasurer for the Jefferson County Courthouse. Jim served as the Deputy Treasurer at the Jefferson County Courthouse at the age of 24. He served on the ALGOP State Executive Committee from 1966 until 1982. Jim also served as a delegate to for Ronald Reagan at two conventions. Jim practices law in Shelby County where he and his wife Judy live.
Perry Hooper Sr. was nominated as the GOP nominee for the State Senate in 1962 in Jefferson County. Mr. Hooper won a historical election and became one of two Republicans elected that year as Probate Judge in 1964. The other Republican elected Probate Judge in 1964 was the late Governor Guy Hunt. Judge Hooper served for many years on the Republican National Committee as the Committeeman from Alabama. Judge Hooper went on to become the first Republican elected as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 1994. Judge Hooper and his sweet wife, Marilyn, live in Montgomery.
In 1962, James D. Martin entered the political scene in Alabama in 1962 and ran for the U.S. Senate against Senator Lister Hill. Republicans had not made aserious attempt to capture a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama for over 100 years. But, Jim Martin was not deterred. When most people went to bed on that November evening in 1962 they thought Alabama had just elected the first Republican to the U.S. Senate in Jim Martin only to find that Sen. Hill picket up just enough votes in some “selected” boxes to barely get by Martin. That defeat did not slow Jim Martin down. In 1964, Jim was elected to the U.S. Congress along with 4 other Republicans in the Goldwater landslide in Alabama. Congressman Martin later served as the Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the administration of Alabama’s first two Republican Governors since reconstruction – Guy Hunt and Fob James. Jim and his wife, former Miss Alabama Pat Martin, reside in Gadsden.
In 1950’s Frank Mason founded the Jefferson County Republican Party and served as the President in 1954. Mr. Mason went on to become the first Republican to be elected Justice of the Peace in Jefferson County in 1956. He was the Republican candidate for Congress in 1958 in the Jefferson County area. Mr. Mason continued to serve the Republican Party by providing office space in his building for the ALGOP headquarters and later became the Party’s Finance Chairman 1970s. Mr. Mason is retired from the Mason Corporation in Birmingham and makes his home in Mentone with his wife Betty.
For more than fifty years Charlotte Tanner has planned and organized hundreds of events for the Alabama Republican Party, includingserving on the ALGOP staff for several years. She has hosted multiple Republican Presidents including Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Gearld Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. She also served as volunteer Press Secretary for Ronald Reagan’s Presidential campaigns in Alabama. She resides in the Birmingham area.
Harold D. Wall Jr. jumped on the scene in 1956 with his efforts on the Eisenhower Campaign and then again in 1960 on the Nixon Campaign. He and his late wife, Martha, were instrumental in assisting Chairman Armistead start the Howard College Republicans (now Samford University) in 1963. Harold held positions ranging from being the full-time assistant to ALGOP Chairman Dr. Tom Brigham to becoming the Chairman of the Jefferson Young Republicans. Later on he was the personal escort and aide to Senator Barry Goldwater and then again for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Edgar Welden got the political bug in the 1960’s and worked in numerous campaigns including former State Chairman John Grenier’s race for the U.S. Senate in 1966. He has served in about as many positions as one can in the Alabama Republican Party and many refer to him as “Mr. Republican”. Edgar served as ALGOP Executive Director and later Chairman. He was actively involved in the campaign of Guy Hunt in 1986 when Hunt became the first Republican to be elected Governor in Alabama in over 100 years. Edgar went on to serve in Hunt’s Cabinet as Special Assistant to the Governor for Economic Affairs (and was succeeded by current ALGOP Chairman Bill Armistead). Edgar served with distinction for many years as the RNC National Committeeman from Alabama.
One of the things Edgar is most proud of is a program he implemented to enable supporters to make small financial contributions to the party in a monthly pledge program that later became known as the Capitol Club. This program has been a great success to in funding the day-to-day operations of the State Republican Headquarters. Edgar and his wonderful wife, Louise, live in Mountain Brook.
These ten individuals laid the groundwork for the excellent success that the Republican Party has continued, and without our Republican Pioneers the Party would not be the majority party in Alabama today. We all owe these Pioneers a debt of gratitude for what they have done for our party, state and nation. It was my great honor and pleasure to work along side of all of these Pioneers at one time or another over the last 50 years. Where has the time gone?