Who's who in political history: Just outside Calhoun County
by Star staff
Aug 10, 2008 | 2999 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just outside Calhoun County one can find a number of Alabamians of towering political influence.

The most obvious, of course, is Hugo Black, of Ashland, who was appointed by President Roosevelt to the Supreme Court in 1937. During his time on the court, he came to be one of the most influential legal thinkers in American history. He resigned in 1971, just days before he died.

There was also Congressman Bill Nichols of Sylacauga. Nichols was in many ways a bread and butter politician who made it his business to deliver the goods to the district. He excelled, especially at defense matters serving on the House Armed Services Committee and heading up the Investigations subcommittee.

Nichols, who lost a leg in a land mine explosion in World War II in Europe, was a fervent proponent of the expansion of the Pentagon and increased military spending especially during the Reagan years. He later used his powerful position on the Armed Services Committee to bring about reform in the military and to ferret out wasteful spending.

Perhaps his greatest legacy was in 1986 when he co-sponsored, with Berry Goldwater, a bill that essentially restructured the American military.

"Bill Nichols," says former U.S. Rep. Glen Browder, "was the driving force behind the Goldwater-Nichols Act. Goldwater lent his power and influence to it, but Nichols was the one who got it passed."

Of course, the state's current governor, Bob Riley, is also a native of Clay County. He was swept into power during the Gingrich revolution's heyday in 1996. In Congress, he was allied with the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Since he left Congress in 2002 to run for governor, he has adapted a much more pragmatic approach to politics and has been known as an effective, progressive executive.

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