Election Traditions

Alabama Living Magazine
Illustration by Dennis Auth

Elections.

As regular as clockwork we have them.

And as regular as clockwork our great republic survives. 

The peaceful transition of power that occurs when one person or party loses and the victor takes its place is a wonderful thing to behold.

I grew up with small-county politics. My family was part of what was sometimes called the “Courthouse Gang.” Finding myself on the inside of this political culture, I was privy to many things that greased wheels to victory on election night.

Like “walking around money.”

This was money paid to key individuals in the rural communities scattered around our county. They might be owners of cross-road stores, who provided commodities and credit to would-be voters, and to whom those voters owed a favor. They might be preachers or teachers from rural churches and schools, churches and schools that were always short of funds. They were respected folks who would “walk around” and spread the word that certain candidates were more acceptable than others. 

“Walking around money.”

Now you don’t hear much about it anymore.

At least not in the county where I grew up. 

At least not since 2006.

That year the campaign was so bitter that candidates and their supporters began claiming that their opponents were using “walking around money” to actually buy votes.

Fearing the consequences, folks who once welcomed “walking around money” had second thoughts about the practice. 

The election that year coincided with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of my Daddy’s Poutin House, his outback retreat where he and his friends met to cuss and discuss whatever was on their minds. All his old political allies were there that evening — except for one. The festivities were already under way when the last showed up. 

Someone asked him, “Where you been?”

Knowing he was among friends, the late arrival replied, “Trying to pass out ‘walking around money’.”

“How’d it go?”

“No one would take it.”

As an incredulous silence settled over the group he added, “When folks won’t take ‘walking around money,’ what’s America coming to?”

Shaking heads and silence.  

Like so many things that have been part of Alabama politics, “walking around money” was no more. Probably for the best.

Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at hhjackson43@gmail.com

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Award-winning Alabama Living is the official statewide publication of the electric cooperatives in Alabama and the largest magazine of its type in the state, reaching some 400,000 electric cooperative consumers.

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