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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Possibilities of reform in Alabama's political system

Though he believes that Wallace's legacy would continue to send moderates into the Republican Party, Nettles also hopes that as Wallace becomes more active on the national political scene, incoming politicians will begin to reform Alabama's state programs.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Bert Nettles, July 13, 1974. Interview A-0015. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

When a new legislature comes in, this new group that's going to be majority newcomers, do you see them working actively for reform and being successful in it?
This is more or less what happened in Florida.
I think they can be successful. In Florida you had this big situation . . . quite different. And I'd be the first to admit it. Kirk gave the Florida legislature no other choice. He was a Republican governor, to begin with. The legislature suddenly asserted itself and said "We don't want a Republican running the legislature or running state government. The legislature's got to be independent of the governor and we've got to keep the Republicans from cleaning out Tallahassee and the state government generally." And Kirk, by his very nature, was his own worst enemy. He even . . . ended up that the sizeable number of Republicans in the legislature . . . . They had a one-third veto control of the legislature. Ended up with the reform movement because of Kirk's hard and fast position against any type of reform. I've talked with Pettigrew and Terrell Sessums and others. And the stories they tell! Just tremendous what they did. But they had . . . . It was not only a vacuum. But they were almost forced into a position of reform. Now here you've got a strong governor and a strong lieutenant governor and others who are building for the future who are playing the old game of keep the legislature weak. They can talk legislative reform all they want to, but there's been no serious effort. Wallace could have got annual sessions passed by just lifting one little finger. By making one statement: "I'm for annual sessions of the legislature." But he allowed that constitutional amendment to be defeated at the state wide vote, primarily by advertising campaign sponsored by the chamber of commerce on one hand and the Farm Bureau on the other hand. This was back in '71, December of '71. That was the biggest reform we've pushed. Now Wallace, in my way of thinking, has never, since he's been governor, done anything in the cause of legislative reform that he wasn't absolutely forced into. He has had several hard brushes with the legislature and we have defeated him on several things.
Would it be true to say this, as you look ahead, not only in the next four years but let's say eight years, that Wallace-suppose he leaves the scene in '78 . . . wide open primary of the Democrats and so on. Plus you've got single member districts. You've got a whole lot of new people coming in. Young people and so on. And that the era of reform may be four years to eight years ahead in this state in terms of the legislature. That it will assert its independence. Become a stronger branch.
Except . . . . I think it's an overstatement because I think it's going to come quicker than that. I foresee Wallace in the next two years very busy on the national scene. Plus Wallace has his health problems. And I think the legislature is going to continue to be somewhat . . . to fend for itself as long as it doesn't get into areas of real importance to Wallace. And I think there's a real possibility we'll see some major reform accomplished during the next four years. But certainly the impetus for further reform will be there from '78 on.