A Lifetime in the Arena
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) -Journalism and politics have always been part of David Azbell’s life. His father, Joe, then working for The Montgomery Advertiser, was the only reporter on scene when Rosa Parks was arrested, an event which became one of the catalysts for the Civil Rights Movement.
Later, David’s dad worked for then Governor George Wallace and when his dad died, David assumed the job as Wallace’s Press Secretary. Today, David’s collection of political memorabilia and his social media posts called The Art of Alabama Politics tell the colorful story of politics in our state.
“I grew up around governors and politicians and candidates and going to rallies and all the excitement,” recalls David.
He tells the story of elections in the days before; when they were won and lost on the back of flatbed trucks, “Elbert Boozer ran for Governor in 1950, and he campaigned across the state with a scale model of the State Capitol.”
Campaign platforms where literally different.
David says some of the political handouts were unusual, “Charles Woods was a World War II Veteran who was teaching pilots to fly in India, and he had a plane crash when a student pilot was flying, and the plane exploded and he was terribly, terribly burned. That did not stop his career. Charles Woods owned radio and TV stations across Alabama. But he also got into politics. He ran for governor in 1970. He also ran for Congress, and he handed out potholders and I’ve always though it ironic that a guy who was so terribly burned would hand out potholders so his supporters wouldn’t get burned, too.”
David says politics can be about rivalry and reconciliation, “Governor Wallace before he died reached out to both Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood the two African American students, he’d stood in the schoolhouse door to keep out of The University of Alabama in 1963 and he became friends with both of them. As a matter of fact, at Governor Wallace’s State Funeral. I was sitting in the Capitol, and I looked up, and there standing quietly in the back of the old House Chamber was Vivian Malone Jones who showed up with no fanfare, no publicity, just came to pay her respects to the man who had befriended her. James Hood earned his doctorate degree from The University of Alabama, and he sent Governor Wallace an invitation to graduation and asked the Governor to present him with his doctoral degree.”
David has worked for a succession of Alabama Governors and most recently for Senator Tommy Tuberville, but politics isn’t what it once was, “Campaigns in the 21st Century are not fun like they used to me.”
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