The Citizen of East Alabama made a decision not to run the column submitted this week from Steve Flowers concerning Phenix City’s past. The reason for the omission – too many inaccurate statements about our community’s history.
Many of you have probably read Steve Flowers’ column online in one of the other newspapers that chose to run the error-filled work. We wish they had not done so, but they did. Maybe they believe the story that Flowers was spinning.
Our past is our past. We cannot escape that fact. But, if you are going to tell a tale about Phenix City’s past at least do it accurately.
In Flowers’ column, he states “The Governor and President declared martial law.” On June 18, 1954, Governor Gordon Persons declared limited martial law in Phenix City. The President was not involved. The only other time martial law has been declared in the state was in 1961 by Governor John Patterson. He did so in response to the Freedom Riders entering the state.
Flowers also states, “They put all of the public officials in the city jail.” Again, this did not happen. In fact, very few public officials were charged with crimes, though some were. Flowers said of those officials “A very few escaped to Texas, and others were found floating in the Chattahoochee River.” The only public official we know of who escaped to Texas was Alabama Attorney General Si Garrett, who was implicated in Patterson’s murder.
We would love to see the proof Flowers has that backs his statement that “Federal officials dredged the river and found over 200 skeletons of victims who had tried to cross the Phenix City Mafia.”
And, finally, Flowers says “The sheriff and a deputy sheriff named Albert Fuller were convicted of the murder of Albert Patterson.” Albert Fuller was charged and convicted of Patterson’s murder. However, Sheriff Ralph Mathews may have been implicated early on, but was not charged with the crime of murdering Patterson. Mathews was convicted of 10 counts of failure to do his duty, nothing more.
Unlike many across the state, Phenix City has come to terms with its past and is choosing to embrace its history. Soon a statue of Albert Patterson sitting on a park bench will be placed across the street from where he died. Phenix City is a growing community. Instead of digging up the past and embarrassing this city, why not take the time to visit to see how far it has progressed from those days. That would be a better story in which to mention Phenix City.
By Mark Clark