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Steve Flowers: Buck’s Pocket

By Steve Flowers

For decades, losing political candidates in Alabama have been exiled to “Buck’s Pocket.” It is uncertain when or how the colloquialism began, but political insiders have used this terminology for at least 60 years. Alabama author, the late Winston Groom, wrote a colorful allegorical novel about Alabama politics in the 1960s and referred to a defeated gubernatorial candidate having to go to Buck’s Pocket.  Most observers credit Big Jim Folsom with creating the term. He would refer to the pilgrimage and ultimate arrival of his opponents to the political purgatory reserved for losing gubernatorial candidates.

Which brings me to another contention surrounding Buck’s Pocket.  Many ague that Buck’s Pocket is reserved for losing candidates in the governor’s race. Others say Buck’s Pocket is the proverbial graveyard for all losing candidates in Alabama.

One thing that Winston Groom clarified is that once you are sent to Buck’s Pocket, you eat poke salad for every meal. It is not certain whether Big Jim or Groom began the poke salad myth.  Once you are sent to Buck’s Pocket, Groom suggested you were relegated to the rural resting place forever.  However, history has proven that a good many defeated Alabama politicians have risen from the grave and left Buck’s Pocket to live another day.

Most folks do not know that there really is a Buck’s Pocket. Big Jim was the first gubernatorial aspirant to hail from North Alabama in the twentieth century. He was the first one to campaign extensively in rural North Alabama, often one-on-one on county roads. One day while stumping in the remote Sand Mountain area of Dekalb County, he wound up in an area he referred to as Buck’s Pocket.  It was a beautiful and pristine area, but it was sure enough back in the woods.  Big Jim, who loved the country and loved country folks, was said to say, “I love the country, but I sure wouldn’t want to be sent to Buck’s Pocket to live.” 

Buck’s Pocket is no longer a mythical place. If you are traveling up the interstate past Gadsden, on the way to Chattanooga, you will see it. There is a Buck’s Pocket State Park in Dekalb County, thanks to Big Jim. So next time you hear an old timer refer to a defeated candidate as going to Buck’s Pocket, you will know what they are talking about.

After the primary runoffs, Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey was declared the winner of the State Senate District 27 race. He won the senate seat by one vote. Folks, the old saying that one vote makes a difference is not just an adage. It is nearly impossible to defeat an incumbent state senator, especially one who has served two terms and amassed an enormous war chest. Jay Hovey was outspent by the incumbent Tom Whatley $1.2 million to $96,000 – an unbelievable more than 12-1 advantage. The district includes Lee, Tallapoosa and Russell counties. However, most of the votes are in Lee County. Hovey ran like a scalded dog through Auburn and Lee County. Obviously, he and his wife, Anna, are well thought of in Auburn, Opelika and Lee County. Home folks know you best. He will make a good senator for that important part of the state.

Elmore County Circuit Judge Bill Lewis is a bright star on the judicial political horizon. Judge Lewis has been on the bench six years. His Circuit includes Elmore, Autauga and Chilton counties. Judge Bill Lewis could wind up on the State Supreme Court one day if he not plucked earlier for a federal district judge spot by a Republican president. He is 43 and sharp. 

The state Democratic Party has elected Randy Kelley, a Huntsville minister, as Chairman, and Tabitha Isner, a Montgomery political activist, as Vice-Chairman. They were the choices of the five decade king of Democratic politics, Joe Reed. 

The Alabama Republican Party right-wing hierarchy has passed a resolution asking the legislature to have a closed private primary. It is doubtful that the legislature will give credence to the group’s wishes. It would disenfranchise over half of the Republican leaning voters in the state and shoot the Republican Party in the foot. It would also discriminate against black voters in the state and, if passed, would never withstand Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act.

See you next week.


Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist.  His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers.  Steve served 16 years in the state legislature.  Steve may be reached at


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