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Senator Howell Heflin

Howell Heflin was an American politician who served 3-terms as U.S. Senator representing the state of Alabama (1979-97), and also served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (1971-77).


Biographical fast facts

Full or original name at birth: Howell Thomas Heflin

Date and place of birth: June 19, 1921, Poulan, Georgia, U.S.A.

Date, time, place and cause of death: March 29, 2005, at approximately 4:00 p.m., at Helen Keller Memorial Hospital, Sheffield, Alabama, U.S.A. (Heart attack)

Marriage
Wife: Elizabeth Ann Carmichael (m. February 23, 1952 - March 29, 2005) (his death)

Child
Son: Howell Thomas Heflin, Jr. (known as Tom Heflin)

Parents
Father: Marvin Rutledge Heflin (a Methodist minister) (b. May 10, 1877, Randolph County, Alabama - d. March 8, 1976, Montgomery, Alabama)
Mother: Louise Douglas Strudwick (b. February 27, 1888, Demopolis, Alabama - d. 1968, Leeds, Alabama )

Burial site: Oakwood Cemetery, Tuscumbia, Alabama, U.S.A.


Career

Howell Heflin attained the rank of major while serving with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942 to 1946. While fighting in the Pacific during World War II, he was wounded twice and was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. Following his military service, Heflin earned his law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1948, and began his law practice in Tuscumbia. He was a highly successful "country lawyer" for several decades (1948-71). Heflin was sometimes referred to as the "Perry Mason" of North Alabama, the result of his down-home stories, folksy, cajoling speaking style and clever courtroom maneuvers. Additionally, he taught political science at the University of Alabama from 1946-48 and at the University of North Alabama from 1948-52 (at that time known as Florence State University). Howell Heflin served as president of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association (1963-65), and was thought to be one of the most effective presidents the Alabama State Bar Association ever had (1965-66).

During his years on the Alabama Supreme Court, he spearheaded judicial reforms and restored confidence in Alabama's highest court.

Elected to the United States Senate in 1978, Senator Heflin's distinguished senate career was notable for his early appointment to the Senate Ethics Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee. He was a familiar face on television screens as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, a position he held for 12 years. Sometimes described as the "conscience of the Senate," the conservative Southern Senator was a strong supporter of national defense, law enforcement, and federal subsidies for rural farmers. While he was certainly a member of the Democratic Party, Senator Heflin was frequently more in tune with Republicans and once called environmentalists "extremists." Still, he could usually be counted on to support more traditional Democratic legislation.

His life and career spanned a period of great change in the United States, the South and particularly Southern politics. Senator Heflin perhaps best summed up his part in those changes in his senate farewell speech: "It has been publicly stated by black leaders that I was the first senator from my state who believed in and supported the civil rights movement. I worked to secure the extension of the Voting Rights Act; to appoint African-Americans and women to the federal bench and other federal offices; to support historically black colleges; to ensure passage of the civil rights restoration bill; to help pass the fair housing bill; and to establish a national holiday honoring the late Martin Luther King, Jr."


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