By Steve Flowers, Guest Columnist
The Alabama Education Association (AEA) was the most powerful and influential political organization in Alabama for close to three decades. The late Dr. Paul Hubbert was the builder and King of this powerful organization. He became known as the King of Goat Hill. He reigned omnipotently over the Legislature.
All dynasties have to end. The AEA reign began to end with Dr. Hubbert’s retirement. The choice to succeed Dr. Hubbert with Henry Mabry was devastating for the organization. Mabry’s ludicrous and foolhardy stay was the worst nightmare that Hubbert could have imagined.
The AEA was Dr. Hubbert’s child. He was a steward and fierce and frugal protector of their financial resources. He did not throw his organizations money away. Henry Mabry did.
Mabry appeared to be on a mission to dismantle and ransack AEA’s treasury and he succeeded. It made Dr. Hubbert sick and probably helped drive him to his grave. Mabry frivolously depleted the organization’s resources as well as their Political Action Committee’s dollars.
I witnessed a prime example of Mabry’s spiteful frivolity. Dr. Hubbert had an in-house polling group, probably the best in the state. He knew through his polling what legislators could be beaten and who could not be beaten. Mabry inherited this pollster.
Veteran State Senator, Jimmy Holley, had refused to do Mabry’s bidding on an issue. Mabry decided to come after Holley. AEA’s polling showed that Holley could not be beaten and that he would win 60-to-40 against whoever ran. Mabry went to Coffee County and found a candidate to run against Holley, an inept fellow who couldn’t win regardless. Mabry promised and gave the candidate $100,000. They spent it and the polling revealed the same, Holley 60-40. The pollster told Mabry the result was going to be the same. Mabry stubbornly and stupidly spent another $100,000 on the erstwhile candidate. The final result was Holley won, 60-to-40. This scenario played out all over the state.
Mabry began the death of the AEA. A fellow with a name similar to Dr. Hubbert, Mike Hubbard, rode the Republican sweep of the Legislature into a reign as Speaker of the House. Hubbard in true Machiavellian form laid the final stake in the heart of the AEA. Hubbard made it his mission to lay the AEA to rest. The most destructive stake was the legislative prohibition of their automatic payroll deductions. This dealt a fatal blow to the funding stream that supported their powerful PAC.
See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.