Reform revitalized
Dothan Eagle, April 18, 2004

The following is an editorial that appeared in the Dothan Eagle.

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Bailey Thomson

If Bailey Thomson had a dream, it was almost certainly to see the people of Alabama governed by a fair, efficient and thoughtfully conceived constitution.

Perhaps more than any other Alabamian, he knew the shortcomings of our 103-year-old constitution, its checkered history and dubious origins. He understood what changes were necessary to streamline our government, and was convinced we could do better for ourselves.

While writing editorials for the Mobile Register a decade ago, Dr. Thomson traveled the state investigating the legacy wrought by the rusty shackles of a constitution drafted to perpetuate racial oppression and put economic power in the hands of politicians in Montgomery. His research led to a special section entitled "Sins of the Fathers," which became a finalist for that year's Pulitzer prize.

In the years since, his tireless reporting on the vestiges of that cumbersome document resulted in two more editorial series, "Dixie's Broken Heart" and "A Century of Shame," winning national writing awards and another runner-up spot for the Pulitzer.

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Bailey Thomson Tribute

Accolades are wonderful, but more important was the movement Dr. Thomson's efforts spawned. Later a professor of journalism at the University of Alabama, Dr. Thomson was a founder of Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform, which succeeded in bringing attention to the root of our state's ills.

The issue created buzz on Goat Hill, and soon the question posed by lawmakers was not whether a new constitution was needed, but what method would be best used to create it.

Dr. Thomson died unexpectedly late last year, and after a while, sadly, it appeared the constitutional reform movement died with him. ACCR closed its Montgomery office, interest waned and the Legislature went back to its usual bickering over trivial matters.

Last week, organizers in Madison County picked up Dr. Thomson's torch and revitalized the movement. Hartwell Lutz, chairman of that county's ACCR chapter, said his chapter is starting a petition drive calling for a constitutional convention.

It's a welcomed effort, this resurgence of leadership in the most important movement in Alabama since Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery bus 49 years ago.

Dr. Thomson would be pleased that his dream lives. When the movement succeeds, his legacy will be a better government for all Alabamians.

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