Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1545 - January 18, 2017



         

          

 

            What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?  Do you fight on regardless?  Do you cave in and give up?  Do you join what looks like the winning side?  Do you let it ride and do nothing?  What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you? 

            I had to ask myself this question concerning the nomination of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States.  I have more than 30 years of experiences with Senator Sessions.  I know him to have a nice personality.  But this is not about personality: it is about principles and positions.  It is important to understand that Senator Sessions is bad on too many positions.  I know from personal experience because I was deeply involved in the Marion Three cases back in 1985.  As recently as last year, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to  urge him to remove his opposition to potential African American nominees for federal judge in Alabama.  So when I asked myself what should I do? I answered from my experience.  But I did not act until I consulted with various leaders with whom I work.  What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            I am certain others asked their own questions.  I am certain some came up with different positions.  They are entitled to their position as I am to mine.  However, I can in good conscience be disappointed with their positions.  They can also be disappointed with my position. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            I was greatly disappointed when my fellow struggler and former Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, immediately endorsed Senator Sessions upon his nomination for Attorney General of the United States of America.  Former Mayor Johnny Ford is a co-chair of SOS (the Save OurSelves Movement for Justice and Democracy).  SOS has taken a strong position against Senator Sessions’ confirmation.  I recognize that former Mayor Ford probably interacted with Sessions over the years as Mayor of Tuskegee.  I also observed that in his letter of endorsement he asked for a job in the Justice Department under Senator Sessions.  Still, I was deeply disappointed and wished that he had held a phone conference to discuss the matter with other SOS leaders. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            My fellow state legislator, Senator Quinton Ross, quickly endorsed Senator Sessions for Attorney General.  He is entitled to endorse whomever he chooses.  However, he heads the Senate Democratic Caucus of which I am a member.  As Senate Minority Leader, every time he speaks publicly on an issue, he represents me and every other member of the Caucus.  In fact, the headline of a news article read, “Democratic Leader in Alabama Senate Praises Jeff Session.”  I just wish Senator Ross had held a conference call so Caucus members could discuss this most consequential of matters.  When officers were being elected to the Caucus, I deliberately did not take any leadership position because I knew I would be taking strong individual positions on various issues and did not want my actions to infringe on other Caucus members. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            I was not disappointed when Perry County Commissioner Albert Turner endorsed U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General but I was deeply and profoundly hurt.  I know how much his mother and father suffered from the actions of U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions because I suffered with them.  I know how much his mother still suffers with nightmares from her experience with U. S. Attorney Sessions more than 30 years ago.  I know how strongly she spoke out against the nomination of Senator Sessions.  I just wish that Commissioner Turner had considered the deep pain of his dear mother. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            Even though I knew that I would not be a live witness, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Senator Sessions’ nomination.  I had already submitted my written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  It was so painful to sit there and hear the statement of Commissioner Turner being read into the record.  I just wish that the statement of his mother, Evelyn Turner, could have been read aloud immediately after Albert’s statement.  She had submitted strong written testimony against the confirmation of Senator Sessions. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?

            The day after the hearing, I participated in a media conference call with representatives of several organizations.  I knew more clearly than ever that the odds were against our stopping Sessions’ confirmation, but I continued to do what I could.  And so did others. What do you do when something is truly important but the odds are greatly against you?       

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday, January 7, 2017 – It was really freezing, so I stayed home longer than usual on a Saturday morning.  I still handled many matters at my office and worked into the night.   Among others, I communicated with the following:  Dr. Carol P. Zippert and John Zippert of The Greene County Democrat;  Christina Butler of Montgomery on her birthday;  Judge John England and Josh Hayes of Tuscaloosa;  Edwin Ellis and Malika Fortier of Selma;  Alecha Irby of Miles College;  and April England-Albright of Atlanta.

Sunday – It was still freezing (in the teens), but I did Radio Sunday School at 8:30 a.m. and Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard, III at 9:30 a.m.  I handled many matters, had lunch with several leaders and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Senator Linda Coleman-Madison on her birthday;  Willie Cook and Mary Cook of Washington, D.C.;  Charles Sanders of Bibb County;  Faya Rose Toure, Joe Jackson and Minister Mae Richmond of Selma;  Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery;  Kindaka Sanders of Houston, TX;  and Robert Turner and Evelyn Turner of Marion, AL. 

Monday – It was still freezing, but I read Sketches on Faya’s Fire radio program at 8:00 a.m., handled many matters, traveled to Greene County, returned to Selma, and watched some of the College Football Championship Game as I worked until midnight. Among others, I communicated with the following:  Dale Purdie of Selma;  Jill Johnson of DeKalb County;  Gloria Pompey, Sam Walker and Sherry Mitchell of Selma;  Lowndes County commissioners Carnell McAlpine, Dickson Farrior, Joey Bargainer, Joshua Simmons and Robert Harris;  former Eutaw Mayor Hattie Edwards;  Selma Businessman William Scott;  Adjoa Aiyetoro of Washington, D.C.;  Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams;  Leonard Dunston of Durham, NC, whose wife, Gladys Dunston, died a couple months ago;  Felecia Pettway of Wilcox County;  Greene County commissioners Tennyson Smith, Michael Williams, Lester Brown, Allen Turner, Jr. and Corey Cockrell; Reporters Emily Bazelon and Pamela Levy; Greg Foster of Birmingham; Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan; and Harvard Law Professor Lani Guinier.

Tuesday – I walked, handled many matters, traveled to Birmingham, handled additional matters, flew to Charlotte, NC and onto Washington, D.C., where I spent the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Ola Morrow of Maplesville;  Miracle Washington of Uniontown;  Marion Town Councilman Willie Jackson;  Heather Gray of Atlanta;  Shelia Laister of Selma; Arturo Burciago of the Center for Immigration Integrity;  Clark Arrington of Florida;  and Senator Greg Albritton. 

Wednesday – I awakened in Washington, D.C., handled various matters, walked to Capitol Hill, attended the Sessions confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, discussed strategy over a late lunch, handled additional matters, flew from Washington, D.C. to Birmingham and drove to Selma. Among others, I communicated with the following:  Sherrilyn Ifill of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF);  NAACP President Dr. William C. Brooks;  Maria Garcia and Maria Praeli of Washington, D. C.;  Lowndes County Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd;  U.S. Senator Corey Booker; Gold Star father Khizr Khan;  Senator Vivian Davis Figures;  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee;  and Greene County School Superintendent Dr. James Carter.

Thursday – I walked, handled many matters, traveled to Montgomery, handled additional matters, returned to Selma, traveled to Fort Deposit and returned to Selma.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Rep. Thad McClammy;  Rep. John Knight;  Marion Mayor Dexter Hinton and Clerk Laura Hinton; Lieutenant Phillip Taylor of the Alabama State Troopers; Michael Strickland of Montgomery;  Jeffrey Jones of Mobile;  Lowndes County School Board members Steve Foster, Robert Grant, Ben Davis, Travis Rogers and Donald Carter; Yvette Patterson of Lowndes County; and Dr. Bertram Matthews of the Lowndes County School System.

Friday – I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s Fire, participated in several conference calls, made remarks at the One Hundredth Birthday Celebration for Sallie Byrd Jackson and worked into the night. Among others, I communicated with the following:  Patrick LeShore, Ernest Gunn, Khadijah Ishaq, Jelani Coleman, Barbara Fears, Rev. Rufus King and Jim Stallings of Selma; Kim West of Lowndes County; Wallace Community College Selma President Dr. James Mitchell;  Dr. Fannie McKenzie, Bobby McKenzie and Angela Brown Walker of Georgia;  Geraldine Ingram of Lowndes County on her birthday;  and Lowndes County Administrator Jackie Thomas.

EPILOGUE – No matter how much we disagree with the actions of others, we must respect their right to act.  However, their right to act does not compromise our right to react to their actions.  We must also embrace the right of others to react to our actions.  And we must include the weight of the issues in the equation.