Alexander City Mayor Jim Nabors died early Monday morning after emergency surgery to remove an intestinal blockage.

Nabors, 76, the longtime chief financial officer of the Russell Corp., had been admitted to UAB Hospital after falling at home April 17 but was discharged three days later and was reportedly improving.

Council president Tommy Spraggins, 67, automatically ascends to the mayor’s office and will serve out the remainder of Nabors’ term, which expires in October 2020, according to city attorney Larkin Radney.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Spraggins said. “He had a big vision for the city and he and I agreed on that vision. We’re going to go down the path he set.”

The American flag at fire station No. 1 downtown was quickly lowered to half-staff and white ribbons adorned doors on city government buildings throughout Alexander City and even on the bridge leading to the new municipal complex which Nabors worked so fervently to acquire.

Jim Nabors

Alexander City Mayor Jim Nabors

“I’m still in shock,” Radney said Monday morning. “We have lost a true leader who had a great vision for our city. He could handle the details, the minutiae, of accounting and continue to see the larger issues involved. He was great to work with. He was a great friend.”

Radney let out a deep sigh and said, “He will be missed.” 

Radney said Nabors had been admitted to Brookwood Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham where an intestinal blockage was discovered.

“He went into emergency surgery around midnight and died shortly after surgery,” Radney said. “He died peacefully in his room and his family was with him.”

Nabors was elected mayor in 2016 with 73 percent of the vote in a runoff against incumbent Charles Shaw.

Radney said the city council has the option of picking a councilmember to replace Spraggins or calling for a special election in Spraggins’ district.

The city announced visitation for Nabors is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at the First Baptist Church in downtown Alexander City. The funeral will begin at 1 p.m., followed by a 60-mile procession to Maplesville where Nabors will be buried alongside his wife Marie at Mulberry Baptist Church.

Alexander City police chief Jay Turner said Nabors was a man of his word devoted to doing his duty without taking a salary and the city will reap the benefits of Nabors’ leadership for years to come.

“You meet different people throughout your career,” Turner said. “Some talk a good game but they never fulfill what they talk about. Those are politicians. Then you have supervisors who continually tell you what to do and they don’t do the things consistent with what they say. Then you have leaders. They aren’t made; it just comes naturally. He was a leader, not a politician, and his leadership traits trickled down to everybody in the city. The city probably runs better now than it ever has and that all comes from his leadership and his ability to put people in the right places. He had a lifetime of experience and he wasn’t afraid to share that with anybody. He will be missed. A lot of times he came to work against doctors’ orders because he had commitments.”

In his final public appearance at the State of the City program March 28, Nabors said those commitments were bringing positive change to the community.

“My decision to seek this office was made in response to encouragement from community leaders who believed my background of community service was key to moving the city forward with a progressive vision and a true desire to restore dignity, respect and trust in our local government,” Nabors said at the time. “As we are all aware, Alexander City was in a position that required a new way of thinking and I firmly believe the changes made on my watch are starting to bring positive results. We have stood firm in the face of criticism from the vocal few and embraced bold decisions that will benefit the city for years to come.”

Nabors didn’t live to see all city operations consolidated in the new municipal complex at the site of the former Russell Sales Office but city officials said discussions are already underway to name it in his honor.

At his last council meeting April 15, Nabors presided over approval of $9.11 million in financing for the municipal complex and surrounding property.

Nabors said he also saw the project as a way to convince those outside Alexander City the community is serious about its recovery after the collapse of Russell Corp.’s money, jobs and prestige.

“There is a lot of truth in the old saying that you should dress for the job you want, not the one you have, and this is also true of the way the city presents itself to the public through its municipal buildings,” Nabors said in his State of the City address. “When the former Russell Sales Office has been transformed into Alexander City’s new municipal complex, it will be the nicest in the Southeast. This building will be crucial in showing the world who we not only want to be but who we expect to be. If we do not show that we believe we are worth investing in as a city, no one else will believe it either.”