State Rep. Alvin Holmes, the longest serving member of the Alabama House of Representatives, on Tuesday lost his bid for another term.
Holmes lost the Democratic primary runoff for his House seat in Montgomery to political newcomer Kirk Hatcher. Unofficial returns show that Hatcher captured 57 percent of the vote.
Holmes, one of the first African Americans elected to the Alabama Legislature, was for decades a fixture at the Statehouse. His political career included battles over issues ranging from removing Jim Crow language from the state Constitution to taking the Confederate flag off of the Alabama Capitol. With his trademark outspokenness, he had panache for humorous, and sometimes controversial, moments.
“I’ve been there a long time, Holmes said Wednesday. “The people were ready for a change,” Holmes said.
Holmes was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, just four years after African Americans, who hadn’t served since Reconstruction, returned to the Legislature.
“I came to the Statehouse out of the civil rights movement. I said I wanted to go up there and make a change,” Holmes said.
Holmes said the accomplishments he is most proud of include establishing Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday and pushing for the hiring of African Americans into professional positions at the Alabama Legislature. “When I was first came to the Capitol, the only blacks were janitors and maids,” Holmes said.
He was among lawmakers who fought to take the Confederate battle flag off the Alabama Capitol’s dome where it had flown as symbol of southern defiance to integration. He sponsored a constitutional amendment to remove an interracial marriage ban from the Alabama Constitution and unsuccessfully fought for years to get sexual orientation included in the state hate crime statute.
The short, mustached Holmes had a flair for humor and bluntness at the House microphone, a skill he said he knowingly deployed at times to draw attention to issues.
During a floor debate, Holmes pulled out a wad of cash and said he would give $700 to anyone who shows him Bible verses specifying that marriage is between only a man and a woman. The challenge prompted a flood of calls into the statehouse switchboard.
“What’s wrong with the beer we got? I mean the beer we got drinks pretty good don’t it.” he asked during a debate on a bill, pushed by beer enthusiasts, to allow the sale of higher alcohol content brews.
He’s also come under fire for some of his comments.
In a 2014 debate he said 99 percent of white lawmakers would want their daughters to have an abortion if pregnant by a black man. “You ain’t gonna have no little black baby.” Holmes later added that he meant older Alabamians that he believed had lingering opposition to interracial marriage.
“He is going to leave a void in the House. Losing him is like losing institution,” Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham said.