RUSSELLVILLE – After spending nearly half of his life in politics, former state senator Roger Bedford said he is retiring.
“It’s been my highest honor to serve the people of northwest Alabama for 30 years, and I will continue to support people who are working for what is right for the people of Alabama,” Bedford said. “But I’m retiring from campaigning.”
Bedford, who turns 61 in July, was first elected to the state Senate in 1982. Being sworn in at age 25, he was the youngest person ever elected to a state legislative seat.
“I’m very grateful to my family and friends who have helped and supported me over the years,” Bedford said.
Bedford served as District 6 senator from 1982 to 1990, when he was forced into hiatus by cancer. After overcoming cancer, he was re-elected and served from 1994 to 2014.
He lost his bid for re-election in 2014 to Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, by 60 votes.
Bedford said he has had a lot of people encourage him to run again in 2018.
“But I’m at peace with this decision,” he said. “I’ve been away from it for four years, and I have really enjoyed working, spending time with my wife, Maudie, my son, Roge, and getting more involved in work at my church as a deacon.”
“Roger Bedford is kind of a holdover. He’s a bit of a New Deal Democrat, one of the last like (Howell Heflin) was,” said Jess Brown, a retired Athens State University political science professor.
Tuscumbia attorney Billy Underwood, president of the Colbert County Democratic Party, said Bedford has been a constant in the Democratic Party for many years.
“Bedford was the right sort of guy for this area,” Underwood said.
During his time in the Legislature, Bedford gained a reputation of being able to bring funding back to his district and the entire north Alabama area.
“That’s what he was elected to do,” Underwood said. “Roger Bedford was instrumental in bringing money back to this area for a lot of municipalities and agencies in this region. People really don’t appreciate how much money he brought to this area.”
Brown said Bedford was a vigorous supporter of the Tennessee Valley.
“As a state senator, he delivered for his constituents,” Brown said.
Bedford said he always took great “delight” in outworking south Alabama senators to get money for special north Alabama projects.
“When there’s 35 (senators) down there, whoever works the hardest gets the money,” he said with a laugh.
Looking back over his political career, Bedford said he is pleased with his efforts to improve the region and the state.
He worked with the Northwest Resource, Conservation and Development Council and the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments in the establishment of the Senior RX program to bring free prescription medication to senior citizens in the state.
“We have created jobs, retained jobs, and I’m proud of the improvements that have been made in the infrastructure of the region and the state,” Bedford said. “We have an automobile industry, aerospace industry in the state from Huntsville to Mobile. There are big businesses, small businesses that have started, and we have helped farmers, teachers and public servants.
“I had the pleasure of working with a lot of good legislators, and I tried to support projects no matter how large or small – whatever was good for our communities. We learned that the Tennessee River connected us, not separated us.”
Bedford, who continues to practice law, is the city attorney for Red Bay, the attorney for the Franklin County Commission, and the municipal judge in Russellville and Hackleburg.
“Honestly, I have enjoyed the time away (from politics),” he said. “(Maudie and I) went to Greece last year, and are planning on going to New Zealand this year.
“I’m going to remain active in the community, just not as an elected official.”