1961 Birmingham municipal election

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1961 City Commission (L-R: Connor, Waggoner, Hanes)

The 1961 Birmingham municipal election was held in 1961 to elect members of the Birmingham City Commission. The official election date was October 9, but with no other parties fielding candidates, the Democratic Party primary election, held on May 2 with a runoff on May 30 was the de facto election. 42,125 voters appeared at the polls for the primary and 38,497 for the runoff.

Former Birmingham Board of Education president Art Hanes won the Commission President seat which had been left vacant by the decision of Jimmy Morgan not to run for re-election. Hanes defeated former U.S. Attorney and Congressional staffer Tom King in the runoff. King had run as a moderate and was vocally critical of Hanes, whom he labeled a "machine" candidate. King had also portrayed Birmingham's business sector as weak and played up the economic benefits of trying to defuse the tensions between white segregationists and Blacks civil rights activists. King claimed to have been ambushed by a Black man who was paid to shake hands with him while a hidden photographer waited to snap a picture, which was then used to tar him as running with the NAACP's endorsement. Newspaper advertisements in support of Hanes placed by the "Friends of Segregation" urged voters to "Keep White Control and Strong Government in Birmingham".

Former Commissioner of Public Improvements Wade Bradley had announced an intention to run against Connor in the October general election as an independent, but withdrew from the ballot. 6,000 ballots were returned in the general election. The only write-in candidacy of any note was that of William Longshore for Commissioner of Public Safety.

The incoming slate of Commissioners were sworn in on November 6 during an open-house at Birmingham City Hall. Local high school bands performed during the ceremony at which Judge Edgar Bowron presided.

Results

Primary election

General election

  • Commission President
  • Commissioner of Public Safety

References

  • Grainger, Charlie (April 7, 1961) "Pape sees parking big downtown need." The Birmingham News, p. 12
  • Badger, Eddie (May 3, 1961) "Hanes, King to settle campaign with runoff." The Birmingham News, p. 1
  • Badger, Eddie (May 15, 1961) "Ad stirs tempest—Charges, counter-charges fly in mayor race." The Birmingham News, p. 3
  • "Waggoner's 'hard-headed' campaign brought victory." (May 31, 1961) The Birmingham News, p. 41
  • "Vote count tallied in record time." (May 31, 1961) The Birmingham News, p. 41
  • "City nominees virtually sure of clear road." (September 7, 1961) The Birmingham News, p. 6
  • Gordon, Bud (October 10, 1961) "Officials elected, merger is talked." The Birmingham News, p. 1