On Tuesday, Alabama voters chose Roy Moore, known as the “Ten Commandments” judge, to be the Republican nominee for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore garnered just over 50 percent of the Republican vote and avoided a run-off with one of two challengers, Charlie Graddick or current Chief Justice Chuck Malone.
Some may not know that Moore will have a Democratic opponent for the chief justice seat in the general election. Harry Lyon, a Pelham attorney, ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
If you follow Alabama politics at all, you likely know some things about Roy Moore. You might know that, in 2003, Roy Moore was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to follow a federal judge’s order to remove a massive stone monument to the Ten Commandments. You might know that Roy Moore sorta, kinda advocated using the “the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution” to prevent homosexual couples from having custody over children. And you might know that he rode a horse to his polling place on Tuesday.
But even if you follow politics in this state, you probably wouldn’t know much about Harry Lyon. So here’s a primer on Harry Lyon, thanks in part to a 2006 video interview with Lyon dug up by Taylor Nichols. The interview was on APT’s “For the Record,” with host Tim Lennox.
We would suggest you just watch the video, but it’s very long and, as far as I can tell, it’s on LaserDisc or something.
1) In 2006, Harry Lyon said he had run for office seven times. He’s run both as a Republican and a Democrat. Then, he was running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Alabama. In the Tim Lennox interview, Lyon said he switched to the Democratic party in part because he discovered that Republicans campaigned using subtle race cues.
UPDATE: According to a 1996 Birmingham News article by Stan Bailey, Harry Lyon had run, unsuccessfully, for public office nine times… in 1996. At that time, he was running for a seat on the state Court of Criminal Appeals. The article also notes that he had switched parties numerous times, and that his name would appear on the ballot at Harry “Maverick” Lyon.
Lyon was also suspended from practicing law for 45 days in 1994 “after a lawyer from Virginia – who represented his ex-wife in their divorce proceeding – hauled him before a disciplinary committee of the Alabama State Bar, which found he had made improper comments to the lawyer and to a Virginia judge.”
In 2004, Lyon ran for mayor of Pelham as Harry “Low Carb” Lyon. Lisa Osburn of the Birmingham News, June 30, 2004:
Lyon said all overweight city employees would receive a 10 percent salary reduction and must come within the American Medical Association’s weight guidelines within one year or face termination.
“The fat people of Pelham need to shape up or ship out. Let’s face it, the fact is that fat people are ugly and disgusting to look at as much as is traffic congestion and wasteful spending by our city government.” [Lyon] wrote [in his campaign literature].
2) Harry Lyon has been shot twice, and both disputes involved women. He told Tim Lennox that he was shot once when he was a teenager (he is now in his early 60s), and once in 2005. The 2005 incident occurred after Robert Lee Black, Lyon’s neighbor, found Lyon “pouring Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup on Black’s car.” In a comment on Weld’s satirical Alabama politics blog, Reran Tragedy, Lyon explains:
“It is true I was shot in the neck by a neighbor who I found out was selling illegal drugs to minors in the neighborhood and when I confronted him about it, he shot me in the neck and tried to justify it by pouring syrup on his freind’s [sic] car and was indicted by a Shelby County Grand Jury for attempted murder. After being aquitted [sic] due to an incompetent state prosecutor, he was found dead in his front yard from an apparent drug overdose.”
Lyon said in the interview that both people that shot him are dead.
3) Lyon advocated for mandatory random drug testing for all high school students, in public and private schools. I’ll just let him tell you about this program:
“The number one problem facing Alabama today is our youth getting addicted to drugs,” Lyon said “The most important plank in my program is to require all high school students in both public and private schools to be subjected to random drug testing at school. If they are found to be positive with drugs in their system, then a school counselor and the parents would be required to go before a juvenile court judge. The juvenile court judge would tailor-make a program for that individual based on the drugs their taking, what that problem is.”
4) Al Sharpton once urged Alabama Democrats to remove Lyon from the ballot. Sharpton also advocated that Larry Darby, a Holocaust denier, should be removed from the Democratic ballot, but Lyon was in there, too (see number 5). Joe Turnham, chair of the Alabama Democratic Party at the time, said he wasn’t going to bother removing Darby or Lyon because neither had a chance at winning. When asked about this, Lyon told Lennox, “I’d like to remove all the Republicans from the ballot.”
5) Lyon once advocated — perhaps jokingly — that we could encourage illegal immigrants to leave Alabama by executing five or ten of them. And this needed to happen due to national security reasons—to prevent illegal immigrants from blowing up the Galleria. I can’t do much explaining here—I’ll just give you my transcript of what Lyon told Lennox. But first, here is his disclaimer, posted in the comments at this Reran Tragedy post:
“The statements I made about the illegal immigration issue were facetious but Alabama’s newspaper writers aren’t the brightest lightbulbs in the factory, especially those who write for the Montgomery Advertiser,” Lyon wrote.
Now, here we go.
Tim Lennox: “‘It would only take five or 10 getting killed and broadcast on CNN for it to send a clear message not to fool, or not to step foot rather, in Alabama.’ Is that an accurate quote?”
Harry Lyon: “That’s an accurate quote. You have have to get tough on things like this. We’re losing 35 to 50 soldiers a day in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a tough proposal, but the legislature would have to approve it.”
Lyon: “If I were an illegal alien in Alabama and I read that in the newspaper, I wouldn’t wait around for laws to be passed, I would be going back to my homeland. They broke in here, they violated our laws. It’s no different than breaking into your house.”
Later in the interview, Lyon said his proposal to kill five or 10 illegal immigrants in Alabama has to do with “national security, state security.”
Lyon: “Now, I can assure you that proposal would fly right through the Alabama legislature is one of these illegal immigrants were to blow up the Galleria, OK?”
Lennox: “Well, but there’s no indication that any immigrants in Alabama, illegal or otherwise, have done anything along these lines—”
Lyon: “Well, there’s no indication about 9/11 until the buildings came down.”
Lennox: “I mean, are you suggesting that this is a real concern of yours?”
Lyon: “Absolutely. These people are not here legally, they are here illegally. What do they care about the laws of Alabama, or the United States? Slap in our face.”