HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - One of the most well-known people in Alabama politics passed away this weekend.
Milton McGregor, who is best known for being the man behind the VictoryLand casino and the Birmingham Race Course, died at his home in Montgomery on Sunday.
McGregor made millions in the gambling industry, but was tied up for years in court as he tried to avoid federal charges. Lawmakers who knew him say his personality made him a larger than life figure in Alabama. "He was a very colorful figure," Rep. Mike Ball said. "He was almost a caricature."
"I've never known him to break his word," Ball said. "If he told you something, you could count on it, even if it was bad news." McGregor lived in Huntsville in the 60s. He later made millions from his fast-track vision for the Yellowhammer state, opening the VictoryLand casino and track near Montgomery.
"He was a very effective businessman," Rep. Ball said. "But we had these Alabama laws that kept getting in the way, so he was going to try to find a way to work around that."
McGregor hoped to expand gambling statewide but faced federal charges of trying to buy votes in the legislature. He eventually was acquitted on those charges, but his empire crumbled when VictoryLand was shut down after it was raided for using electronic gambling machines.
"He didn't run from the battles, he ran to the battles," Ball said. "And there'll certainly be some attorneys who have less work."
Though he became less active in the capitol in the last 10 years, McGregor gave much of his money to his passions, including churches, Auburn University and Macon County schools.
"Regardless of his policies, the people who came in personal contact with Milton McGregor will have pleasant memories," Ball said.
McGregor's memorial service will happen at noon on Wednesday at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery. His funeral will follow at 2:00 p.m.