Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
December 21, 2017 - Issue 723

Alabama’s Dynamic Duo
Laid the Foundation
Doug Jones Victory

"Without the decades-long advocacy and organizing
of Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed, it is unlikely that
Doug Jones would have been elected to the United
States Senate.  They have provided a template for
how to engage voters of color and all voters
for the Democratic cause."

Minority and majority Alabama citizens are still rejoicing over the unexpected victory of newly elected Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones. Black voters rightfully received a significant share of the credit due to their extraordinary turnout, with ninety-six percent of them casting a vote for Jones and ninety-eight percent of black women doing so. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Party also rushed to accept recognition although they have generally taken black voters, who have been their most reliable constituency, for granted. Overlooked during these state and national celebrations are the contributions of the late Paul Hubbert and the still present Joe Reed who served as Executive Secretary and Associate Secretary, respectively, of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) for more than four decades - 1969-2011.

In 1969, Reed merged the all-black Alabama State Teachers Association with the all-white Alabama Education Association (AEA), headed by Paul Hubbert, with a combined membership of 30,000 members, becoming the most powerful interracial organization in Alabama history. Today the organization is about 100,000 strong. This dynamic duo learned early on as articulated by Gary Oldman (who plays Winston Churchill in the forthcoming movie, Dark Tower) when one of his aides suggested that Churchill negotiate with Adolph Hitler during World War II that “… you cannot negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” In other words, they took the position that teachers had to fight sexism (teachers could not be pregnant and continue working), racism and bigotry, under- funding of public education, low teacher salaries, under-financed school facilities, voter suppression, and illegal political redistricting--transforming AEA into a strong and pioneering force in Alabama politics. They operated during the period when southern white Democrats were transferring their allegiance to the Republican Party.

At the beginning, Hubbert and Reed operated as equals, respecting each other’s strategic political and organizing judgments. They worked hand-in-hand to show white and black teachers that their interests could be best addressed by working together and collaborating politically with a cross-section of other organizations and groups throughout the state, leveraging the voting power of the AEA membership. Hubbert rose to become vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, and Reed became chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference, the most powerful African American political body in the state. Together, they were able to beat back Gov. George Wallace’s 1971 attempt to divert millions from the Education Trust Fund, preserving the Fund for teacher's benefits and salaries, by putting thousands of teachers in the streets around the State Capitol.

They were feared by all elected officials, especially Democrats, who were the supposed strongest supporters of public education. Hubbert and Reed aggressively defended teachers and public school students and fought public school privatization and bad public policy during their forty-year tenure. For example, Artur Davis, President Obama’s Harvard Law School classmate, who served as Alabama’s lone African American Congressman from 2003-2011, double-crossed Obama with a vote against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which was a significant benefit for his low-income African American constituency, in an attempt to use it to endear himself to Alabama’s white voters when he ran for the Alabama governorship in the Democratic primary in 2010, expecting to win since African Americans were the majority of Democratic voters. Joe Reed, as chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), denied Davis the organization’s endorsement, ensuring his defeat by a moderate white Democrat by twenty-four points, with his majority black Congressional district also overwhelmingly voting against him.

Congressman Davis, sensing that he could not win re-election, joined the Republican Party and moved to Virginia where he flirted with running for Congress as a Republican. He was given a prime time speaking slot at the 2012 GOP Convention after which he was quickly kicked to the political curb, having exhausted his usefulness as an African American opponent of President Obama. Realizing that his political future was at a standstill, he returned to Alabama and rejoined the Democratic Party where Joe Reed used his power to defeat him in his run for Mayor of Birmingham where Davis placed a distant second. His political career is effectively over because he opposed Reed.

Throughout their co-partnership heading the Alabama Education Association, Hubbert and Reed did the hard work of organizing black and white Democratic voters, ensuring the stability of the Association and the primacy of public education in Alabama. Not until 2010 did the AEA begin to encounter setbacks. However, by the time of their retirements in 2011, they had laid a solid foundation for the resurgence of the Democratic Party. Joe Reed continues to wield power today. His strategic political ad featuring an African American male with a scroll and voiceover of Judge Roy Moore’s alleged sexual assaults on underage girls posing the question: Could a black man get away with this, was central to Doug Jones’s win. The ad was condemned by some Democrats and Progressives alike, but it touched a chord among black voters, contributing to a black voter turnout larger than the 2008 and 2012 Obama elections. Reed has a deep understanding of Alabama’s African American electorate.

Without the decades-long advocacy and organizing of Paul Hubbert and Joe Reed, it is unlikely that Doug Jones would have been elected to the United States Senate. They have provided a template for how to engage voters of color and all voters for the Democratic cause. Virginia has employed a similar strategy as all Democratic gubernatorial and other state officers’ victories since 1985 (and Obama’s winning of Virginia in 20018 and 2012) have been largely a result of the political organizing of Doug Wilder, the first African American Lt. Governor (1985) and Governor (1989), who still retains political power. Democrats and unions undervalued Gov. Wilder’s political skills during that period, but eventually came around. Joe Reed has and is experiencing the same travails in Alabama, but he continues to triumph.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1
Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers