The 2019 legislative session is now in the books. As each session is observed, it is apparent primary, powerful state senators control the flow and outcome of any and all legislative sessions.

Current Alabama Sens. Del Marsh, Jabo Waggoner, Greg Reed and Arthur Orr wield immense influence.

The annals of political history reveal powerful state senators. Some of the most prominent include: Roland Cooper, the “Wily Fox from Wilcox,” Joe Goodwyn of Montgomery, Walter Givhan of Dallas County and Ryan DeGraffenreid Sr. of Tuscaloosa and later his son Ryan Jr., also of Tuscaloosa. Legendary Sen. Bob Wilson Sr. of Jasper was powerful in his day, as were Sen. and Speaker of the House Jimmy Clark of Barbour, legendary Sen. And House Speaker Rankin Fite of Marion County, House Speaker Joe McCorquodale of Clarke County, Pete Turnham and Bo Torbert of Lee County, Rick Manley of Marengo, Lowell Barron of Fyffe, Roger Bedford of Russellville, Hank Sanders of Selma and former Speaker of the House Seth Hammett of Covington County.

However, as powerful as all of the aforementioned were, perhaps the title of most powerful legislator should go to Sen. James Titus of Madison. Almost all of you are scratching your head and wondering who he is. Let me share with you the James Titus story and his place in Alabama history.

When the Alabama territory was created by Congress in 1817, the act provided that the new legislature would be made up of members of the Mississippi Territorial Legislature who resided in what was to become Alabama. There were 10 men serving in the Mississippi House of Representatives and three in the Senate. Before the new legislature convened at St. Stephens in January 1818, one of these senators had resigned and a second was unable to attend the session.  Only Titus was present for that first legislative session.

Some men might have been reluctant to conduct business under the circumstances but not Titus.  He had not made the long journey from Huntsville to St. Stephens for nothing and took his responsibilities seriously. He called the Senate to order, called the roll, organized the Senate, nominated and elected himself as presiding officer, voted on all bills and at the end of the day made the motion to adjourn.

Folks, there have been powerful legislators in our colorful and illustrious political history but none will ever have the power Sen. Titus had.

Speaking of powerful senators, our senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby has reached a pinnacle unsurpassed in Alabama political history. In March, Shelby passed legendary Sen. John Sparkman for length of service in the Senate from Alabama. Shelby has served 32 years and five months; Sparkman’s record was 32 years and three months.

In my 2015 book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories,” I said Lister Hill, Sparkman and Shelby have been the greatest U.S. Senators of all time from Alabama. However, if I were writing the chapter today, Shelby would be in a league of his own as Alabama’s most powerful senator ever.

Hill and Sparkman were powerful and left a legacy — Hill’s in medical research and rural hospitals throughout the nation and Alabama; Sparkman was the father of the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville and delivered hallmark legislation that afforded housing for Americans as chairman of the Senate Banking and Housing Committee.

Shelby has chaired the Banking Committee, Intelligence Committee and Rules Committee. However, his current perch as chairman of the Appropriations Committee is unparalleled.  Alabama has never had a chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and more than likely never will again.

Meanwhile, the race for the 2020 U.S. Senate is developing very slowly. The Republican field is smaller than expected at this point. If someone is going to run they better go ahead and get going. The primaries are just around the corner in early March. 

The only serious announced candidates thus far are First District Congressman Bradley Byrne and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. Within the next few weeks, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore are expected to enter the GOP Field and their entry will change the dynamics of the race to replace Democrat Doug Jones.