Former State Rep. William Thigpen (D-Fayette), also a long-time assistant administrator of Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, died Saturday at age 83.

Thigpen had represented Fayette County and parts of Tuscaloosa and Lamar Counties for three terms from 1998 to 2010.

He failed in a re-election bid for a fourth term when the 2010 Republican sweep took that party from minority status to a super-majority in a single Election Day.

Thigpen, a graduate of Troy State University, served 27 years in the Alabama Air National Guard and Reserves, retiring as a major. He was the commander of the Fayette unit.

As a businessman, he had worked as plant superintendent of a 750-employee manufacturer of work gloves in his hometown of Greenville. He moved to Fayette in 1969, heading a manufacturer of children’s apparel. He later opened his own manufacturer, Fayette Sportswear. He had worked as an insurance agent and opened and ran Thigpen Ford/Mercury dealership. He was president of the Fayette Chamber of Commerce and Fayette Man of the Year.

When Thigpen first won a seat in the State House of Representatives in 1998, the election made national news. The election ended in a tie vote. There were three provisional ballots that had not been counted in the totals. Election officials determined that the provisionals were valid and must be added in. When Thigpen checked, he said, “We’re gonna lose. One of the provisionals is from my county and two are from the opponent’s county.”

When the first provisional ballot, from his county, was opened, it went to Thigpen, as he expected. When the second was opened, from the opponents’ county, it went for the opponent, as expected. The total was tied again.

When the last ballot, from the opponent’s county, was opened, it surprisingly went to Thigpen. He won by one vote.

Ever since, William Thigpen has been a living example of why every vote counts. Every single vote. He also picked up a nickname in Montgomery – “Landslide.”

Months after that election, Thigpen talked to that one voter from the opponent’s county whose one vote had given him the victory. He asked him why he had voted for him when the other guy was from his own county. He said, “I bought a car last year from your dealership. You were so nice to me, and I knew we could trust you."

Ever since, Thigpen has been a living example that it pays to be nice to everybody.

In the legislature, he concentrated on education, senior citizen issues and energy. He helped open the first senior center in Fayette.

Energy availability and reliability were vital to Thigpen. He served on the Joint Legislative Committee on Energy, the Southeastern States Energy Board, the National Energy Council and the State Water Board.

“When a person in Alabama flips on the light switch, they expect to see light. When it’s cold, they expect the heater to work. When it’s hot, they expect the A/C to work. Anything else is not acceptable,” Thigpen said.

Thigpen's wife Betty was elected chair of the Legislative Club for spouses of legislators.

Thigpen served nine years on the Fayette County Hospital board. He led the hospital’s affiliation with Tuscaloosa-based DCH Health System, bringing expanded healthcare services to Fayette County.

Services are on Saturday at First Baptist Church of Greenville, their native home. Visitation is at 10 a.m. Funeral is at 11 a.m.

When Thigpen gave this reporter a tour of the ABC warehouses at Montgomery's Gunter Park, his opening line was, "You are now looking at $33 million worth of booze." He took the state's regulation of alcohol sales quite seriously.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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