Judge • Statesman • Patriot
Howell Heflin retired from the U.S. Senate in 1997 after a career of remarkable personal achievement and public contribution. Born in Poulan, Ga., to Methodist minister Marvin Rutledge Heflin and Louise Strudwick Heflin, the future senator was, from birth, politically connected through a prominent uncle and great-uncle.
Heflin's family moved to Alabama, and he graduated from Colbert County High School in Leighton, Ala., before earning a bachelor's degree at Birmingham- Southern College in 1942.
Heflin distinguished himself as a Marine officer in the brutal fighting of the Pacific theatre of World War II, where he was wounded twice, awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star for valor, and retired from service at the rank of major.
Like many returning veterans, Heflin chose to continue his education, earning his L.L.B. degree from the University of Alabama Law School in 1948.
Heflin practiced law in Tuscumbia, Alabama, where he married Elizabeth Ann Carmichael and raised his family. In this period, he served as the founding president of the Alabama Law School Alumni Association, president of the Alabama Law School Foundation, president of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association, president of the Alabama Bar Association and chairman of the Alabama Ethics Commission. Held in high regard by his peers, Heflin was elected to the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy of Law and Science and the International Society of Barristers.
Heflin served as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court beginning in 1971 and successfully applied his talents to the reform of Alabama's antiquated court system. He improved efficiency and, more importantly, secured the passage of the Judicial Article of 1973, a major revision of the state's outmoded 1901 constitution. By the time of his retirement from the court in 1977, Alabama's court system was considered a national model. That would be the achievement of a lifetime for most public servants, but Heflin had a great deal more to contribute to his state and country.
First elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, Heflin rose to become a powerful committee chairman and member noted especially for his advocacy for southern agriculture, judicial reform and the economic development of his home state.
Heflin continued to serve his community after retirement from the U.S. Senate. He did so openly—as when he served as distinguished senator-in-residence at the University of Alabama— and anonymously—as when his gift of more than $1 million established the " Scholarship Foundation" to make college education available to deserving young people throughout the state.
Howell Heflin is remembered today as a model of public service to Alabama, a man who acquired great power and applied it for the common good.