Earl Hilliard

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Congressional portrait of Hilliard from his 3rd term

Earl Frederick Hilliard (born April 9, 1942) was, after his 1992 election, the first African American to represent Alabama in the United States Congress since Reconstruction.

Hilliard was born in Birmingham and graduated from Western Olin High School in 1960. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate from Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1967. He also earned an M.B.A. from Atlanta University in 1970.

Hilliard was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives as a Democrat representing District 45 in 1974. He served for six years in the Alabama house from 1975 to 1981 and the Alabama Senate from 1981 to 1992. During his time in Montgomery he Chaired the Senate Commerce, Transportation and Utility Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 1986 and 1990 he was Chair of the Jefferson County Senate Delegation.

From 1985 to 1987 Hilliard owned Birmingham radio station WJLD-AM.

U.S. Congress

In 1992, Hilliard was elected to represent Alabama's newly-redrawn 7th Congressional District in the 103rd United States Congress.

In 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000 he was re-elected, continuing to serve into the 107th Congress. He was a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the Committee on International Relations. Hilliard was also a Vice Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

In 1997, Hilliard traveled to Libya on a fact-finding trup despite U. S. sanctions against the country. The trip was used by his first serious challenger, Artur Davis, in the 2000 primary election, in which Hilliard narrowly prevailed.

2002 election

He faced Davis again in 2002 in a district that had been changed significantly by redistricting, adding many white voters in Birmingham and losing its mostly black portion of Montgomery. The campaign in 2002 was focused on race and the Middle East. Hilliard's surrogates claimed that all Davis did for African Americans as a federal prosecutor was "put them in jail". In 2001 Hilliard voted against a resolution supporting Israel's fight against terrorism, and consequently Davis received donations from pro-Israeli groups. Hilliard won the first primary, but he didn't win a majority, so he faced Davis in a run-off election. Davis won the run-off with 56% of the vote.

Hilliard is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. He is married to Mary Franklin Hilliard, a teacher and public school administrator, and has two children, Alesia L. Hilliard Smith and Earl Hilliard Jr.

Preceded by:
Alabama State House of Representatives District 45
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
U. W. Clemon
Alabama State Senate District 15
Succeeded by:
John Amari
Preceded by:
Alabama State Senate District 20
Succeeded by:
Sundra Escott-Russell
Preceded by:
Claude Harris Jr
U.S. House of Representatives, 7th District
Succeeded by:
Artur Davis