He ran on the slogan, “Send them a message, not a politician.” His message resonated, and Terry Everett became a people’s congressman from Alabama’s second congressional district.

Former Congressman Terry Everett died Tuesday at age 87 at his home in Rehobeth in Houston County.

He had not set out to be a politician. Maybe he never was one. Maybe he became a “citizen legislator.” A statesman, not a politician. That approach in his successful underdog campaign and serving in Congress for 16 years was a fit for Terry Everett.

Everett was literally a child of the Wiregrass. Born in Dothan, he was raised in rural Houston County and went to Midland City Schools. 

Everett had been a journalist and later a land developer.

His work began as a reporter for The Dothan Eagle. He then worked across South Alabama – Down Home Today in Dothan and Daleville. The Enterprise and the Enterprise Daily Ledger. The Air Force Flyer. Owner/publisher of Gulf Coast Media in Baldwin County, including five newspapers. The Union Spring Herald. He became state president of the Alabama Press Association.

He sold all the newspapers but one and started Everett Land Development. He became president of the Daleville Chamber of Commerce.

In 1992, Alabama’s longest-serving congressman, U.S. Rep. Bill Dickinson (R-Montgomery) announced his retirement. Political commentators considered the frontrunners to be Republican State Sen. Larry Dixon of Montgomery and then-Democrat George Wallace, Jr., State Treasurer. Everett pulled two upsets in one election cycle and defeated them both.

He served in Congress from 1993 to 2009. He followed U.S. Rep. Bill Dickinson, who had been elected on the coattails of Barry Goldwater’s landslide victory in Alabama’s presidential balloting in 1964. 

Everett was followed by U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, former Mayor of Montgomery; U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, former Montgomery City council member; and U.S. Rep. Barry Moore, former state rep. of Enterprise, who holds the seat until now.

Gov. Kay Ivey ordered state flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Everett. 

Her statement as follows:

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday offered the following statement upon receiving word of the passing of former Congressman Terry Everett:

“I am saddened to share word of the passing of longtime Alabama Congressman Terry Everett.

“Congressman Everett passed away peacefully in his sleep this morning at his home in Rehobeth.  Terry tirelessly served the people of southeast Alabama and his native Wiregrass with distinction for eight terms in Congress.  During his time on Capitol Hill, he was one of the strongest voices for Alabama’s military bases, active duty personnel, and veterans.  He was also a stalwart advocate for Alabama farmers and small businesses.

“Alabama greatly benefitted from his leadership and his devotion to public service.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to Terry’s family, friends and former staff.   Accordingly, I am directing the flags at the Alabama Capitol Complex and the flags in AL-02 immediately be lowered until the day of his interment.”

The governor’s flag directive is attached.

In Congress, Everett focused on veterans’ and farm issues. He was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

An announcement of service has not been made.

"We're all here today because it's absolutely essential that Terry get reelected to Congress next year. He's got a tremendous record and background. I've been impressed since I've known him. His work in the Congress itself, but this is a man who knows the meaning of hard work, the son of a sharecropper and a railroad worker. He came up the hard way, so to speak, but who has devoted his years since 1992, when he first was elected to Congress serving the people of Alabama and serving the United States of America.

I know him, in part, through his work on key committees -- a member of the Armed Services Committee, Agriculture Committee, and Veterans Affairs. The committee that's always interested me the most is his service on the House Select Committee on Intelligence." - Then Vice-President George W. Bush.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at ZeiglerElderCare@yahoo.com.

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