Shown above : Albert Turner, Albert Turner leading march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965; Turner is second row with Bob Mance behind Rev. Hosea Williams and John Lewis.. Albert Turner leading march across Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday in 1965; Turner is second row with Bob Mance behind Rev. Hosea Williams and John Lewis. Jeff Sessions, Albert Turner displays redistricting map of Perry County to his wife Evelyn and assosicaite Spencer Hogue, Jr. The Three were indicted, tried and found not guilty of 72 charges of voter fraud.,Alabama State Troopers give two minute warning to marchers on Bloody Sunday; Albert Turner is standing in second row with white cap.
December 10, 2016
The Board of Directors of the ANSC and the Steering Committee of SOS are issuing this joint statement in opposition to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to be the next Attorney General of the United States. We urge the United States Senate not to confirm the nomination of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General.
We are compelled to issue this statement, because as citizens and residents of Alabama, we are intimately knowlegable and keenly aware of the harm that Senator Sessions has brought to our people and our state. We are issuing this statement as a warning to people in other states of the United States that Jeff Sessions is singularly unfit, manifestly unqualified and totally insensitive to serve as the chief law enforcement agent for our great nation.
We are especially concerned that as Attorney General, he will be charged with enforcing civil rights, voting rights, and human rights laws, as well as being the primary caretaker of our criminal justice system. A criminal justice system and the policing mechanisms that support it are in urgent need of reform. By education, temperament and actions over the past 40 years, Jeff Sessions has shown himself to be unfit, unqualified and insensitive to serve in this critical position.
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (Jeff) III was born in Selma on December 24, 1946. He grew up and attended schools in Wilcox County, Alabama, before school integration. He attended Huntington College and University of Alabama law school, graduating in 1973. He was raised in one of the poorest counties in America, with an 80% Black majority population, during the time of “Jim Crow” and before the changes brought by the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing he has said or done in the 40 years of his professional life indicates any effort on his part to re-examine, reconsider or modify his cultural world view of “white supremacy” into which he was born, bred and operates, up to and including his current service in the United States Senate.
We are especially concerned with his selective prosecution in 1985 of the “Perry County Three” – Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner and Spencer Hoage, for alleged voter fraud in connect with absentee ballots. Jeff Sessions was the U. S. Attorney in the Southern District of Alabama (Mobile). He indicted the three on 72 charges of voter fraud and mail fraud, since most of the absentee ballots were mailed in to the Circuit Clerk’s office.
Albert Turner was an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King as State Director of the SCLC in Alabama. Turner also worked as the Manager of the Southwest Alabama Farmers Cooperative (SWAFCA). Turner can be seen in photos of Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral, leading the mule train carrying the casket. Turner can also be prominently seen in the photographs of the Bloody Sunday 1965 Voting Rights March. He is in the second line of the march directly behind John Lewis. Turner helped to plan the March as a reaction to the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion (Perry Co.) Alabama a few weeks prior. Turner worked in Perry County and throughout the Alabama Black Belt registering people to vote, doing voter education and GOTV work, including encouraging the homebound to vote absentee.
Sessions prosecution of the trio was an act of voter suppression directed at reducing the turnout and involvement of Black voters in elections throughout the Black Belt. The selection of Turner, his wife, and Spencer Hoage, outspoken advocates for civil rights, voting rights and economic justice for poor and Black people, was not an accidental but a calculated act by Sessions to intimate voters in the Black Belt and the state of Alabama. Federal prosecutors in other Alabama jurisdictions following Sessions lead initiated other similar selective prosecutions of civil rights and community leaders in Greene, Hale, Pickens and surrounding counties.
Ultimately, because of dedicated lawyers and community support, the Perry County Three were acquitted of all 72 charges that Sessions tried to bring against them.
Later in 1986, President Reagan nominated Sessions for a seat on the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Alabama. At Sessions’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, four Department of Justice lawyers who had worked with Sessions testified that he made racially offensive remarks. One of those lawyers, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had referred to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” (Sessions said he was referring to their support of the Sandinistas) and that these organizations did more harm than good by trying to force civil rights “down the throats of people.”
Hebert, a civil rights lawyer, said that he did not consider Sessions a racist, and that Sessions “has a tendency sometimes to just say something, and I believe these comments were along that vein. Hebert also said that Sessions had called a white civil rights attorney “maybe” a “disgrace to his race.” Sessions said he did not recall making that remark and he did not believe it.
Thomas Figures, a Black Assistant U.S. Attorney, testified that Sessions said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was “OK until I found out they smoked pot”. Sessions later said that the comment was not serious, but did apologize for it, saying that he considered the Klan to be “a force for hatred and bigotry.” Figures also testified that on one occasion, when the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, sent the office instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close, Figures and Sessions “had a very spirited discussion regarding how the case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, ‘I wish I could decline on all of them,'” by which Figures said Sessions meant civil rights cases generally.
Figures (who was the brother of the late State Senator Michael Figures, a founding member and officer of ANSC) also said that Sessions had called him “boy,” which Sessions denied. He also testified that “Mr. Sessions admonished me to ‘be careful what you say to white folks.” In 1992, Figures was charged with attempting to bribe a witness by offering a $50,000 to a convicted drug dealer who was to testify against his client. Figures claimed the charge was retaliation for his role in blocking the Sessions nomination. Sessions denied this, saying that he recused himself from the case. Figures was ultimately acquitted. We mention this to show that Sessions has a vindictive attitude to those who oppose his view of unbridled white supremacy.
Albert Turner also traveled to Washington to testify in opposition to Sessions nomination to a Federal judgeship in Alabama because of his selective and unjust prosecution of voting rights activists.
On June 5, 1986, the Committee voted 10–8 against recommending the nomination to the Senate floor, with Republican Senators Charles
Mathias of Maryland and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voting with the Democrats. It then split 9–9 on a vote to send Sessions’ nomination to the Senate floor with no recommendation, this time with Specter in support. A majority was required for the nomination to proceed. The pivotal votes against Sessions came from his home state’s Democratic Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama. Although Heflin had previously backed Sessions, he began to oppose Sessions after hearing testimony, concluding that there were “reasonable doubts” over Sessions’ ability to be “fair and impartial.” The nomination was withdrawn on July 31, 1986.
Sessions became only the second nominee to the federal judiciary in 48 years whose nomination was killed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. He was quoted then as saying that the Senate on occasion had been insensitive to the rights and reputation of nominees.
There are some who say in the thirty years since his work as a U. S. Attorney in Mobile that Jeff Sessions has mellowed and changed his views allowing him to be elected Attorney General of the State of Alabama and U. S. Senator. We do not think so and we list some of his recent actions during the past ten years in the U. S. Senate to show that he has not tempered and changed his deeply held white supremacist and white privileged views.
Sessions supported the major legislative efforts of the George W. Bush administration, including the 2001 and 2003 tax cut packages, the Iraq War, and a proposed national amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He opposed the establishment of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the 2009 stimulus bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act. As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he opposed all three of President Barack Obama’s nominees for the Supreme Court.
More specifically, during the second Obama term in office, Sessions:
• Led opposition to a bipartisan effort in 2016 to ease sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders;
• Co-sponsored the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act, which would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement, administer, or enforce HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule;
• Voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor and called Justice Sotomayor unsuitable for the bench due to her past affiliation with a civil rights organization;
• Voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell;
• Voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act;
• Voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act;
• Voted against reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act;
• Opposed President Obama’s 2012 Executive Action on immigration which granted deportation relief and work permits to thousands of undocumented immigrants (DACA); and
• Described the Voting Rights Act as a ‘piece of intrusive legislation.’ in supporting the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, which ruled Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, which “gutted” the core enforcement of the VRA.
We feel the nomination by President-elect Donald Trump of Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General of the United States is a dangerous step, which will undermine the role of the U.S. Justice Department as the leading force for enforcement of civil rights, voting rights, womens rights, immigrant rights and all laws promoting justice in our nation.
We, as fellow citizens of Alabama, call upon the Senate Judiciary Committee and the U. S. Senate to once again reject the nomination of Jeff Sessions as unfit, disqualified by his own deeply held beliefs and insensitive to the needs and aspirations of all Americans for non-discrimination and simple justice in their lives.
We urge everyone who feels that Jeff Sessions should not be confirmed to be Attorney General of the United States communicate your views and concerns to Congress, the press and your fellow citizens, as we have done.
For more information contact:
• Ms. Shelley Fearson, ANSC State Coordinator, Montgomery, Alabama
• John Zippert, ANSC State President, 205/657-0273
• Senator Hank Sanders, SOS Steering Committee, : 205/526-4531