Longtime Tuscaloosa mayor, Al DuPont, dies at 94
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Tuscaloosa’s longtime mayor, Alvin “Al” DuPont, has died at a nursing home in Texas. He was 94.
The Tuscaloosa News reports DuPont, who died Wednesday, was first elected mayor in 1981 and served six terms before he retired on his 80th birthday in 2005.
DuPont lived in Tuscaloosa until his health worsened a few months ago. He moved to a nursing home in Canton, Texas, to be near family after suffering a stroke in April.
A funeral Mass will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi University Parish Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa. Burial will follow at Evergreen Cemetery, where his wife of 64 years, Susie Margaret, was buried in 2010.
Mayor Walt Maddox, in a statement, described DuPont as an American hero “who served our country and our city with distinction.”
“In my mind, he was always a great American hero, pure and simple,” said former Tuscaloosa city councilman Jerry Plott. “What he went through in the war, and everything he did. He lived a great life.”
The popular DuPont was known for getting out in the community rather than governing from behind his desk at City Hall. But he was more than a figurehead, leading the city through decades of growth and change.
“His legacy will be how much he got out and got with the people,” former Police Chief Ken Swindle said. “He went to every neighborhood, any meeting; anytime someone invited him somewhere, he would show up. If you didn’t want Mayor DuPont to come, you better not invite him because he would go.”
“I haven’t met as many people in my life who loved life and loved people as much as he did,” Jill Swindle said. “He loved people, and he loved serving the community. We’re just going to miss him so much.”
DuPont’s first memory of politics was when he sneaked into a barn on his family’s property near Bunkie, Louisiana, for a Huey Long political rally in the early 1930s. He was just 6 or 7 years old, and in awe when Long drove up in a touring car, the kind with the big doors that open in the middle.
“I wasn’t allowed in the barn, but I went down there and peeped at what was going on,” he said.
The adults were eating, drinking and discussing politics. It was his first glimpse of politics and power, and he was drawn to it.
In high school, he played baseball, basketball, tennis and ran track. Growing up on a farm, he spent plenty of time pushing a plow, and walking as he worked. He later said all the walking, prepared him physically for what he would face during World War II. But nothing would prepare him mentally.
On June 3, 1943, the then-18-year-old DuPont became a medic with the 29th Infantry Division and was among the first wave of troops who stormed Normandy on D-Day. When DuPont reached the shore of Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, all he could see was blood and dead bodies. He would later say that the sight and the smell of blood was seared into his memory.
“I was always amazed I even made it to shore,” he told The Tuscaloosa News in 2007. “And once I made it to shore, I don’t know how I kept going.”
DuPont received two Purple Hearts for the injuries he suffered during the war. After returning to the U.S., he was sent to Northington Hospital in Tuscaloosa to recuperate. That’s where he met and fell in love with Susie Margaret McLeod, a 23-year-old Tuscaloosa native. They married in 1946, and raised their children, Rosalind and Paul, while DuPont worked for the city’s engineering department. He served as the city’s assistant city engineer, public works director, city planner, planning and development director and as a grantsman before retiring and making his first run for mayor at 55.
On his 80th birthday in 2005, DuPont announced that he would not seek a seventh term.
“The partnership you the citizens of Tuscaloosa and I have shared will always be the high point of my professional and political life,” he said at the retirement event. “The friends and acquaintances I have made in Tuscaloosa have enriched our lives. To all of you who have made my stewardship an experience to remember, thank you.”
This story has been corrected to correct election date.
Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com