During the mid-20th century, Phenix City was a notorious haven for prostitution, gambling and organized crime. The beginning of the end came when then-Phenix City resident Albert Patterson was elected to likely become attorney general by running on cleaning up his hometown.

Patterson was shot and killed after winning the Democratic Party primary in 1954. That instigated then-Gov. Gordon Persons' declaration of martial law, which ceded law enforcement responsibilities to the Alabama National Guard and ended Phenix City's run as a sanctuary for criminal activities.

Nearly 70 years later, Phenix City's voice in the Alabama House of Representatives State Rep. Chris Blackshear (R) has taken a lead role in legalizing gambling in Alabama.

On Monday, Blackshear appeared on Birmingham radio Talk 99.5's "News & Views" in an interview with host Dale Jackson.

Jackson asked Blackshear how he would feel about the return of gambling to his hometown.

Partial transcript as follows:

BLACKSHEAR: Let me circle back around to your Phenix City question, Dale. I don't want you to think that I've skipped over that.
JACKSON: Let me change the question before you answer it. Let me ask this.
JACKSON: If somebody in the state changed the bill and added Phenix City to the equation, would you support it?
BLACKSHEAR: I'll allow the citizens to vote.
JACKSON: Ah, come on. That's a cop-out. How do you feel?
BLACKSHEAR: It's not a cop-out.
JACKSON: I'm not saying you can't let the citizens vote. If that's the decision you want to make, that's fine. It's still a cop-out. How do you feel?
BLACKSHEAR: How do I personally feel? Look, I'll say it now. There may be one time when I worked in my former life, I may have went to the casino that you went to in Tampa. Not too long ago, I've been in there myself. Very intriguing here. I would allow the people to vote if it was something here that my city and my county support it. Let's look at it.
JACKSON: Do you want a casino in Phenix City, yes or no?
BLACKSHEAR: I didn't say I would want one. I'm --
JACKSON: I'm trying to narrow the question so I can get an answer here. Do you want a casino in Phenix City?
BLACKSHEAR: Do I want one in Phenix City?
BLACKSHEAR: What part of Phenix City?
JACKSON: Any part. Any part. Yes or no.
BLACKSHEAR: No, because look — I've had to fight people off the last three years --
JACKSON: Is there a place within Phenix City city limits that you would like a casino?
BLACKSHEAR: I would say no because of where we were back in the '50s. To have been where we were before that made national news. The Phenix City story is a totally different story.
JACKSON: (laughter) I mean, it's funny to me. Look, I understand where you're coming from. But it's funny to me to hear this, where it's like, "Hey, hey, hey -- you know what we should do? Gambling in the state of Alabama." "How about in your neighborhood?" "Hell no, look at all the crime we've had from this in the past."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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