Many Alabamians head for historic inauguration

Published 8:03 am Monday, January 19, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Many Alabamians are bound for the historic inauguration of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.

Some making the trip from Montgomery already are no strangers to historic events, such as 70-year-old Mary Bolling Brumby, who participated in the 1950’s Montgomery bus boycott.

She said during the boycott she walked and during the Obama campaign, she urged people to vote for him, calling him “God sent.”

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Maj. Wanda Jackson Robinson said she’s going because it’s “a great moment in time, something that I never thought I would see.”

Alabama Senate staffer Victoria Simmons, 43, said she’s going because “it could be almost like the magnitude of Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, or even greater.”

Civil rights lawyer Fred Gray of Tuskegee said he didn’t know if he would ever see a black person elected president, but he knew that person would be a lawyer.

Gray, 78, who once represented the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and bus boycott heroine Rosa Parks in Montgomery courts, said the Obama inauguration is a sign of just how far the nation has come in matters of race.

“Obama has clearly shown he has the ability,” said Gray, with a ticket to attend the inauguration. “But his election proves that while the lines in the Constitution — ‘We the people’ — didn’t initially refer to someone who looks like him or myself, we live in a country where it does now.”

Teddy Bell, a landscaper, took his wife, Nicole, and his two boys, Nicholas, 6, and Jordane, 5. They left Anniston on Friday in an RV.

Bell said when he was a boy his father told him stories about seeing civil rights icons speak.

“Even if I’m in the millions, if I take that one picture,” Nicole Bell said, “I can say I was there, in the millions.”

Alabama Democrats will also blend into the millions.

“It’s been an especially long eight years so it’s time for a full celebration here,” said Jim Spearman, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party.

On Monday, Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, holds an open house at his congressional office.

The Alabama Democratic Party encouraged people to honor the Tuskegee Airmen Monday night at a champagne reception at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art.

“We just want to celebrate these guys,” said Omar Neal, mayor of Tuskegee. “We would like to say, as Alabamians, thank you.”

Alabama chose Republican nominee John McCain over Obama, 61 percent to 39 percent, but state Democrats are eager to prove their enthusiasm, with or without tickets to the hottest events.

“I don’t like crowds, and I’m coming,” said state Rep. Ken Guin, D-Carbon Hill.

On Tuesday night, Alabama will be one of 11 states represented at the Southern Ball at the DC Armory, in the southeastern part of the city near RFK Stadium. Attendance requires an invitation and $150 ticket, but it is likely the place to find the largest crowd of Alabamians together that night.