MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Former Alabama Governor Albert P. Brewer has passed away at the age of 88.
Brewer took over the role of governor in May of 1968, after Governor Lurleen B. Wallace lost her struggle with cancer. Albert Brewer is the only governor in Alabama history to have held the offices of speaker, lieutenant governor, and governor in succession.
Albert Preston Brewer was born October 26, 1928 in Bethel Spring, Tennessee. According to our news partners at AL.com, Brewer was born in Tennessee but spent most of his life in Decatur, where he practiced law, and where he and his wife Martha raised two daughters, Becky and Alison.
The son of a TVA employee, Brewer was first elected to the Legislature in 1954 at age 25. With Wallace's approval, he became House speaker at age 34 in 1963. In 1966, he was elected lieutenant governor while Wallace, unable to run for a second consecutive gubernatorial term, successfully ran his wife Lurleen for the state's top job.
In 1969, according to Brewer's biography with the state Department of Archives and History, "appropriations for public schools received the largest increase in state history and funding from the state to local school systems was equalized." The previous year, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, the state had funded education at $200 less per child than the national average and $81 less than the southeast average, with only Mississippi providing less. Alabama teachers' salaries ranked 46th in the nation.
The Brewer years also saw the creation of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and the Education Study Commission, and approval of a constitutional amendment that set up an elected state Board of Education which appointed the state school superintendent.
Brewer also created the state's primary industrial recruitment arm, the Alabama Development Office, set up the state's first ethics agency. He got Medicaid, the health program for the poor, up and running, while expanding its coverage to eyeglasses and prescription drugs. When he ran for a full gubernatorial term in 1970 he saw, up close and personal, what those provisions meant to people.
The Brewer years also saw a number of cost-cutting steps, including the creation of the state motor pool which reduced the number of vehicles in the state fleet. He successfully supported, despite heavy opposition, passage of an law under which any motorist on Alabama's roadways must consent to a sobriety test or lose his license.
“Alabamians have lost a great leader today in the passing of Governor Albert Brewer," said Governor Robert Bentley in a statement. "He lived his life as an example of integrity and professionalism in public service, and displayed an unwavering commitment to making Alabama a great state. Always a friend to me, Governor Brewer was ever ready with a kind and encouraging word. Most of all he loved serving the people of this state. In addition to serving as the 47th Governor, Brewer was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives and as Lieutenant Governor. The State of Alabama is grateful for his faithful service. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Senator Arthur Orr says he only has good memories of Governor Brewer. He spoke of Brewer's heart for education when he was governor, and making Alabama a better place to live.
"We've had several votes in the last several years where various articles of our state constitution has changed and Albert Brewer's finger prints are on those," said Orr. "Politics can be a contact sport sometimes, but Albert Brewer never lost his head and never knew an enemy. He was a gentleman."
Brewer became a distinguished professor of law and government at Samford University and in 1988, he helped form the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA). PARCA is a good government think tank, also based at Samford, and Brewer was its first executive director.
Twenty years later, a year after his retirement from the law school faculty and a year and a half after his wife's death, he was honored by Samford University's Cumberland School of Law with the dedication of the Martha F. and Albert P. Brewer Plaza.