Late Alexander City Mayor Jim Nabors will be laid to rest today in the soil of Maplesville after being borne by a police honor guard and his family hears echoes of a 21-gun salute and the mournful notes of “Taps.”
The funeral for Nabors, 76, who died early Monday morning after emergency surgery to remove an intestinal blockage, will begin 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church in downtown Alexander City, which Nabors attended. Dr. Gerald Hallmark will deliver the eulogy. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. at the church.
After the public pays homage to Nabors and his body is carried 60 miles to Maplesville, the family will observe a private graveside service at Mulberry Baptist Church as the mayor is interred next to his wife Marie, who died in February 2015.
Alexander City fire chief Reese McAlister said his department will use ladder trucks to suspend a huge American flag next to fire station No. 1 for the funeral procession to pass under and the fire department’s honor guard will be posted at the entrance to the church.
Police chief Jay Turner said his officers will handle the funeral procession to Maplesville and will conduct an honors burial, including a 21-gun salute, the playing of “Taps” and the presentation of a U.S. flag to the family.
Nabors, the former chief financial officer of Russell Corp. who was elected to public office for the first time in 2016 with 73 percent of the vote, continued to elicit praise as a noble public servant Tuesday. One city official gave a poignant account of a meeting he had with Nabors just before he was sworn in, saying Nabors felt being elected mayor gave him a reason to live after the death of his wife.
Public works department director Gerard Brewer said before Nabors was elected mayor, employees feared the city was on the brink of financial calamity and the community was embarrassed by a fight between then-mayor Charles Shaw and councilmember Tony Goss during an April 2016 council meeting, after which Shaw was found guilty of third-degree assault.
“I didn’t know him before he became mayor but I read in the paper he acknowledged the city had financial difficulties and he wanted to help — and do it with no pay,” Brewer said. “The finances were bad. A lot of employees didn’t know where we stood, whether there was $18 million in the bank or negative $18 million. We had no idea what we had. We always did a yearly budget and it was always late. We felt like we were operating on thin ice. We were concerned we might get a call and they’d tell us to close the doors and turn out the lights. There was a lot of nervousness. Then he decided to run and he was seen as the great hope. I thought, ‘This guy might be the right man to get us out of this.’
“We were also a national joke. The brawl at city hall was a meme. I was there and saw the whole thing. It was surreal.”
Brewer said he was at his office when Nabors walked in unannounced and they had a long talk about the city’s problems.
“At one point he said he had been depressed for a long time since Marie had passed,” Brewer said. “He was emotional. He said he didn’t have hope in his life. But then he saw what he felt was a way he could help us. Becoming mayor changed his outlook on life. He said it gave him a reason to get up each day. It was a touching meeting. He had found a place where he could add something. It’s like being mayor extended his life. There were all these issues and hard decisions to make and he was willing to help.
“Would anybody in his golden years who should have been Cadillacking it be willing to commit all his energy to what was going on? He had the resources to travel the world and never stop and he chose to help the city.”
Brewer said Nabors’ financial expertise untangled the books and led to robust confidence in the city’s leadership team among employees.
“We’re not out of the woods yet but we can see the other side and it was 100 percent his in-depth involvement,” Brewer said. “He led the charge.”
Brewer found it appropriate Nabors’ last official act was to finalize $9.11 million in financing on the city’s new municipal complex at the site of the former Russell Sales Office.
“It may be one of the biggest things ever done in Alex City,” Brewer said. “It was fitting. He was like a horse who crossed the finish line and then hit the ground.”
Brewer said he had girded himself because of Nabors’ health problems but didn’t expect the mayor’s sudden death.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Brewer said. “When he got sick the last time, I just thought, ‘We’ve got to continue on.’ I figured I wouldn’t see him for a while. To me right now it still feels like any other day and he’s up there in that office and if I needed him, he’d be there.”
Councilmembers who sometimes opposed Nabors’ policies nevertheless expressed their fondness for him and support of new mayor Tommy Spraggins.
“I’m in a state of shock,” councilmember Bobby Tapley said. “I knew he had health problems but I didn’t realize the extent of it. My prayers and thoughts are with the family. We’re going to do our part to move the city forward and support Tommy in his new role as mayor.”
Tapley voted against the purchase of the sales office based on principle and not a personal animus.
“You can’t agree with everybody all the time,” he said. “If you’re not having disagreements sometimes you’re not doing your job. I may not always agree with Tommy either but it will be nothing personal with him just like it was not personal with (Nabors).”
Councilmember Buffy Colvin also voted against buying and financing the sales office but said Nabors always acted in what he felt was the best interest of the city.
“Our city has lost a great man and I am praying for his children and his grandchildren and I am praying for our city,” she said. “I want to continue the good work we started this term.
“I tell everybody that disagreeing is part of life. You’re not going to feel the same way about everything but it was nothing personal against Mayor Nabors or anybody on the council. They operate on their principles and I’m operating on mine and my life experiences. I love Mayor Nabors. Nobody knows the day or the hour and I am thankful Mayor Nabors had a relationship with God.”
Colvin said her most endearing memory of Nabors was when they won their runoffs in the 2016 municipal election.
“I didn’t plan a party and my friends wondered what we were going to do and so we crashed his party,” she said. “There was a picture of us in (The Outlook) where we were both laughing and happy. I’m glad I got the chance to know him and learn from him.”
Colvin said it is impossible to replace Nabors.
“He didn’t shy away any from doing the hard jobs in Alex City no matter where he was,” she said. “He’s one of a kind. But we can try to emulate him, his serving and giving. He said, ‘I’m running for mayor and I don’t want a salary.’ I want his children to know everything he did was for the greater good of Alex City.”