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Albert Patterson


Courtesy of John Patterson
Strength of Character
Albert Patterson left from home at the age of 16 to work in the Texas oil fields. He joined the Texas National Guard in 1917 and fought on the Mexican border. During WWI he was shot in the leg and suffered a permanent disability. For the rest of his life he walked with a cane.

Disciplinarian
Patterson returned home to Alabama and went to college. He taught school in several counties throughout Alabama and studied law. He moved to Alexander City and set up a law practice, where he also worked as a superintendent of schools. Patterson had a reputation as a strict disciplinarian among his students.

Phenix City
In 1933 he moved the family and his law practice to Phenix City because of economic stress in Alexander City. The Phenix City area, with nearby Ft. Benning had a steady flow of income and offered a better means of supporting his family.

Political Ambition
In 1945 Patterson was elected to the Alabama state senate with backing from the racketeers, or the Phenix City Machine as they were called. Patterson was one of many attorneys hired by gambling kingpin Hoyt Shepherd in 1946 for the defense of a murder charge. In 1949 Patterson defended gambler Head Revel. After losing the Revel case he resolved to never again defend anyone not involved in legitimate business.

Acting on His Conscience
Patterson's change of heart was not so evident to the masses when he ran for attorney general with the backing of the Russell Betterment Association (RBA). Even though Patterson's campaign platform was "a man against crime," his opponent, Lee Porter encouraged the rumor that Patterson was the "machine" candidate by running on the platform, "Beat the Phenix City Machine." Ironically, Porter accepted $25,000 in campaign contributions from known gamblers and was backed by Russell County solicitor Arch Ferrell and Attorney General Si Garrett, who had been vocal in defending corrupt Phenix City officials.

The Price
On June 18, 1954, Patterson was assassinated in an alley near his downtown Phenix City law office. His murder was the catalyst that set in motion the only Phenix City clean-up ever to have lasting effects. The Alabama National Guard marched in and martial rule was declared. Patterson's son John ran in his place and served as attorney general.

National Attention

The case drew national attention and has been the subject of several books and films. The local newspaper, the Columbus Ledger, won a Pulitzer for its coverage of the murder and clean-up.

Legacy
Many have commented that had Patterson not been murdered, Phenix City probably would not have seen reform to the extent that it did. Considering the impact his father's murder had on his family, John Patterson adds, "To us the price was too high."


MaBeachie
Albert Fuller
Albert Patterson
Hugh Bentley

John Patterson
Arch Ferrell
Si Garrett
Hoyt Shepherd


 

 

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Copyright December 3, 2002.
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