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Bill Baxley

25th Alabama Lieutenant Governor
In office
1983 – 1987
Preceded by George McMillan
Succeeded by Jim Folsom, Jr. (D)

41st Attorney General of Alabama
In office
1971 – 1979
Preceded by MacDonald Gallion
Succeeded by Charles Graddick

District Attorney Houston County
In office
1969 – 1971

Born June 27, 1941 ( 1941-06-27) (age 68)
Dothan, Houston County, Alabama, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Marie Baxley
Children 5
Residence Birmingham, Alabama
Religion United Methodist

William Joseph Baxley II (born June 27, 1941) is an American Democratic politician and attorney. He was born in Dothan, Alabama and attended law school at the University of Alabama, graduating in 1964. He served as Attorney General of Alabama two terms 1971-1979 ( the youngest to hold that position in U.S. History at the age of 27), and one term as Lieutenant Governor of Alabama 1983-1987. During his time in politics Baxley aggressively prosecuted industrial polluters, strip miners, and corrupt elected officials. Baxley appointed the state's first African American assistant attorney general, Myron Thompson, who later became a federal judge.

Baxley's tenure was noted for its racial unrest, and Baxley himself incurred the wrath of the Ku Klux Klan when he reopened the case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. In a letter, the Klan threatened him, compared him to JFK, and made him an "honorary nigger", but Baxley responded, on official state letterhead: "My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is--kiss my ass."[1][2]

Contents

Church Bombing Case

As attorney general, Baxley was made famous for his most prestigious case against the Ku Klux Klan, his 1977 prosecution of Robert Chambliss for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963.

"We know who did it," Alabama Atty. Baxley said Wednesday as he confirmed that he has reopened the investigation of a church bombing that killed four young black girls in Birmingham in 1963. Baxley said in an interview with Birmingham radio station that the list of suspects had been narrowed down, but he declined to predict if or when arrests would be made. He said premature published reports about the investigation might have hurt. "There are some people in Jefferson County who ought to be pretty nervous right now," Baxley said in an earlier telephone interview.

The Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, dynamite blast at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church occurred during the time of racial demonstrations led by the late Martin Luther King. Twenty-three other people in the church were hurt and debris was scattered for blocks.Baxley later confirmed that he had talked to Rowe, and he was cooperative, "But we were working on this thing long before that. We had a lot of stuff already. Rowe was just another person we interviewed."He said Rowe didn't give him a list of names as such, "but nine is too many."''

Baxley succeeded in convicting Chambliss with minimal evidence (as the FBI refused to relinquish tapes necessary to the case). The victory eased the minds of the parents of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair.

Run for Governor

In 1986 the Democratic primary for the gubernatorial race saw Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick in a runoff with Baxley, then the Lieutenant Governor. Graddick won by a few thousand votes, but Baxley appealed to the state Supreme Court which ruled Graddick had violated primary regulations by encouraging Republicans to “cross over” and vote as Democrats. The court told the Democratic Party to hold another election or pick Baxley. The party picked Baxley.

Alabamians, used to a one-party state where anybody and everybody could vote in a primary, were outraged and took out their frustrations by voting against Baxley and for H. Guy Hunt, the GOP nominee. Alabama got its first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Hunt's election surprised many Alabamians since no living person in Alabama had seen a Republican win the election for governor. The press usually paid scant attention to the Republican gubernatorial primaries, fully expecting that the nominee would be the next loser in the general election.

Current Life

Baxley is presently an attorney in Birmingham with the firm of Baxley, Dillard, Dauphin, McKnight & Barcliff. He has five children: Louis, Robert, Richard, Evelyn, and Johnson. He is currently married to Marie (Prat) Baxley. His former wife Lucy Baxley was the Lieutenant Governor of Alabama from 2002 to 2006. Baxley is a strong supporter of his ex-wife's campaign, giving political advice to her and has contributed (and raised) over 250,000 dollars. Since 1962, Bill Baxley has served in the Alabama Army National Guard, beginning as an enlisted clerk and rising through the ranks to retire as Colonel on May 29, 2001 (though he turned down the position of General), JAG Corps.

In 1979, Baxley founded the firm known today as Baxley, Dillard, Dauphin, McKnight & Barclift. He primarily represents large business corporations, yet continues to represent individuals of modest means. Those efforts have earned him the distinction of being selected as a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Baxley played himself in the Spike Lee movie Four Little Girls.

References

  1. ^ Sikora, Frank (1991). Until justice rolls down: the Birmingham church bombing case. U of Alabama P. p. 48. ISBN 9780817305208.  
  2. ^ Sims, Patsy (1996). The Klan. Lexington: UP of Kentucky. p. 128. ISBN 9780813108872. http://books.google.com/books?id=2-84635lwKYC&pg=PA128.  

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