|United Methodist wins Alabama election|
The Rev. James Fields (center) is congratulated by State
Sen. Zeb Little and supporter Jana Shelton after winning the Jan. 29
special election to the Alabama House of Representatives. A UMNS photo
by Amanda Shavers-Davis/The Cullman Times.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 11, 2008
A United Methodist has become the first African American to win
election from his district to the Alabama House of Representatives.
The Rev. James C. Fields Jr., 54, a part-time local pastor, won a Jan.
29 special election for the District 12 seat. He was sworn into the
legislature as it began a 30-day session on Feb. 5.
Fields, a Democrat, won 59.3 percent of the vote to defeat Republican
Wayne Willingham, who had 40.3 percent. He will complete the term of
Democrat Neal Morrison, who resigned to become interim president of
Bevill State Community College, and he will be eligible for re-election
District 12, with about 80,000 people, is the largest of three
legislative districts in Cullman County, according to Fields. Its
residents are overwhelmingly white – at least 96 percent of the
population – and “probably 75 percent Republican,” in his estimation.
“I think people were able to see past race.”
–The Rev. James C. Fields Jr.
“History is being made tonight,” said State Sen. Hinton Mitchem, a Fields supporter, in a Jan. 29 story in The Cullman Times newspaper.
In an interview with United Methodist News Service, Fields attributed
his victory in the election to “being just a hometown boy. I think
people were able to see past race.”
He lives in Colony, a town about 35 miles north of Birmingham, and is
the local pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Irondale, about
50 miles from his home. “Colony is the only black community in Cullman
County,” he said.
Prayed about election
Fields said he didn’t want to run for election at first, but prayed
about it and received encouragement from many quarters, including
“letters from people who never voted for a Democrat.”
His retirement from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations
became effective Nov. 1, coinciding with his nomination as the
Democratic candidate for the House, winning 63 percent of the vote in a
Fields said he spent the first two “hectic” days of the new
legislative session learning “how the House actually operates.” Some 15
bills passed on Feb. 7 had been approved the previous year but then
bogged down in the Senate, he added.
“In my area, we’re big in agriculture,” he noted. “I’m really having to pay close attention to those bills.”
Fields has been a director of the United Methodist Commission on
Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns since 2000 and is a member
of the World Methodist Council Executive Committee.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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