A state leader is gone
The Huntsville Times
Saturday, February 07, 2009

Dr. Tom Corts was a major figure in constitutional reform

Alabama lost a leader this week. Dr. Tom Corts of Birmingham, age 67, died of a heart attack.

If you hadn't heard of Tom Corts, here's a refresher.

Corts served as president of Birmingham's Samford University for 23 years, from 1983 to 2006. During his tenure, the school's endowment increased from $8 million to about $250 million and its enrollment rose to 4,500.

But Corts' influence was broader than Samford. He was a founder of the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, an organization for which he was chairman emeritus at the time of his death.

To ACCR, Corts brought vision, determination and a sense that the people of Alabama deserved a better fundamental law than the massive and antiquated Constitution of 1901.

Corts didn't stop there. Upon his retirement from Samford, he took over as chancellor for the state's embattled two-year college system. He launched investigations and instituted reforms.

Corts was not a man afraid to state his opinions. In early 2007, he said he believed the state's two-year colleges needed a governing board separate from the Alabama State Board of Education. Some board members didn't like Corts' comments, and he resigned rather than get caught up in internal squabbling.

Most recently, Corts supervised President George W. Bush's International Educational Initiative, a five-year campaign aimed at providing a basic education to 4 million children in Africa and Central America.

Corts and his wife, Maria, to whom he had been married 44 years, returned home to Birmingham from Washington in January. In addition to his widow, Corts is survived by two daughters, a son and six grandchildren.

Upon his death, officials at ACCR urged the Legislature to honor Corts by allowing state voters to decide whether they wished to call a constitutional convention. (For more information on the issue, visit www.constitutionalreform.org.) - John Ehinger.

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