Constitutional reformers honor Thomson
Mobile Press-Register
Friday, August 31, 2007
Capital Bureau

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BIRMINGHAM -- Advocates for reforming Alabama's 1901 constitution gathered Thursday to honor a pioneer of the movement and to urge more progress in changing what they believe is a dysfunctional and antiquated document.

About 400 people gathered at the Harbert Center for the first Bailey Thomson Awards Luncheon.

Thomson, a journalist who worked as a writer and editor at the Press-Register and later as a journalism professor at the University of Alabama, helped found the Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform Foundation in April 2000.

He first became involved in the reform movement while working at the Press-Register in the early 1990s. He and his colleagues wrote an editorial series on the constitution titled "Sin of the Fathers," which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

Pulitzer Prize winner Cynthia Tucker, a Monroeville native who was the keynote speaker at Thursday's event, said she read every word of the series and shared with the crowd an excerpt.

"I wish I had written that," Tucker said.

Former Gov. Albert Brewer presented the Bailey Thomson Award to Thomas Corts, who served as president of Samford University from 1983 to 2006 and recently completed a brief stint as interim chancellor of the state's two-year college system. He was the first board chairman of the foundation.

Brewer and others spoke of a moving speech Corts gave to Birmingham business leaders several years ago that spurred conversation about the inadequacy of the constitution.

"Today we honor one of the stalwarts (of the movement) with an award named for the other," Brewer said of Corts and Thomson.

Thomson was a good man, manager and writer and a "fine human being," Corts said.

Thomson died of a heart attack in November 2003. Attendees at the luncheon included his widow, Kristi Thomson; his daughter, Sarah; a sister and an uncle.

The Greater Birmingham Ministries was presented with the Constitutional Reform Partner of the Year award for the organization's work to educate people of faith and those in low-income communities about constitutional reform.

Lewis Lehe, who created a documentary about the constitution titled "It's a Thick Book," was honored with the Constitutional Reform Citizen Educator of the Year award.

Tucker encouraged people to continue the grassroots effort to reform the constitution, which she said is inadequate. She said she will be watching and writing about the efforts.

People in Georgia would not tolerate the lack of home rule in Alabama, where local government must go to the Legislature to approve many local issues, Tucker said.

The notion that the government closest to the people is best for those citizens does not exist in Alabama, Tucker said.

The Alabama Constitution has been amended about 800 times.

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