For three decades, the name Tom Bevill was rarely uttered in Alabama without being preceded by the title Congressman. Bevill served fifteen terms in Alabama’s 4th and 7th Congressional districts from 1967 to 1997. The general public knows of his tireless efforts to secure government funds to improve his home state, that a community college and an industrial park both bear his name, and that he was instrumental in the building of Corridor X. They are often unfamiliar with the man himself.
Tom Bevill was born March 27, 1921 in Townley, Alabama, where his father Herman owned a store that sold “everything from Model T Fords to caskets.” He attended Walker County High School, graduated from the University of Alabama, and joined the Army during World War II, serving as a Lieutenant Colonel and participating in the D-Day Invasion. “He said the military made him disciplined,” says his son Don Bevill, a local attorney. “He was in the reserves for several years.” In 1948 Bevill received his law degree from the University of Alabama. He was first elected to the Alabama Legislature in 1958 and then to Congress in 1966, where he served until 1997.
“He was always there for us,” says Don, who still maintains a law practice in Jasper that he once shared with his father. “He never pushed us in any direction, but he always supported his family. He was with you all the time.” Regardless of his busy schedule, Congressman Bevill never allowed his political career to interfere with his devotion to family. “If he was in Washington and one of us called him, he always took the call and talked to us. He was never too busy for his family,” Don says.
That included his time at home away from politics. “Dad liked to have fun,” Don says. “On Sundays he would take us to Townley and we’d go target shooting. On Decoration Day we’d visit the cemetery where his relatives were buried. Sometimes we’d get up at 5:30 and go skiing at Smith Lake and have a big time. I remember him jumping off a cliff into sixty-five feet of water. He’d take us hiking at Cheaha Park, or we’d sit near the fireplace in the cabin and play cards,” Don recalls fondly. At home he watched the news or a Western on TV. We’d eat popcorn and peanuts and watch a John Wayne movie.”
Tom Bevill was well-liked and respected by Democrats and Republicans alike, and has often been referred to as a “Southern gentleman”. “He never forgot his roots,” Don says. “He was a hands-on congressman who was there for the people, and he was very approachable. You could see him on the street and talk to him. He’d pull out his notebook and get your phone number, and he’d call you back. He had a phone installed in the sofa at home and he kept a stack of notes. You could make an appointment or he’d get back to you.”
In addition to his career and family, he was also active in civic organizations, including the Lions Club. “He was a joiner. He joined everything,” Don says.
“I’m so busy, I use two combs to comb my hair,” Mr. Bevill once quipped.
After retiring from politics in 1997, he shared a law practice with son Don. He passed away March 28, 2005, one day after his 84th birthday. He is still remembered fondly by family and friends. 78