Peers recall Heflin fondly
Jonathan Willis FCT Staff Writer
Alabama lost another of its legendary political figures Tuesday afternoon when three-term U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin, of Tuscumbia, died from a ruptured aorta aneurysm at Helen Keller Hospital.
Heflin, 83, passed away just one day after his former colleague and friend, U.S. Rep. Tom Bevill, of Jasper, died.
Heflin served 18 years in the United States Senate before retiring in 1997. He was Alabama's Supreme Court chief justice from 1971-1977.
Heflin was well-known on Capitol Hill for his firm decisions and sometimes lengthy deliberations before taking a stance on a particular issue.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a press release Tuesday evening that he had always had a cordial relationship with Heflin although the two often disagreed on issues. Heflin opposed Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship in 1996.
Sessions won Heflin's seat in the Senate after the long-time politician chose not to seek re-election in 1996.
State Sen. Roger Bedford, of Russellville, was the democratic nominee to fill Heflin's seat in the Senate upon his retirement.
Bedford said that while Heflin was on the campaign trail with him in 1996, he got a first-hand view of how the people of Alabama felt about him.
Heflin served on the Senate Ethics Committee and the Judiciary Committee that approves or rejects U.S. judges. He, himself, was often referred to as "The Judge" because of the manner in which he deliberated on a topic before deciding which way to vote.
The sudden loss of Heflin and Bevill within a 24-hour period robs the state of two political giants whose impact will be felt long beyond their years in office.