This is Jackie

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 7, 2004

“This is Jackie. We need your help.” These words were spoken over the phone on Tuesday morning by Jackie Thomas, Administrator for the Lowndes County Commission. She explained that Kelvin Bogan had served in Iraq and is still serving in the U.S. Armed Services. His mother, Annie Ruth Bogan, died recently, and the funeral was set for Friday at 1:00 p.m. Kelvin was home for the funeral but his special wish was that his brother, Edward Bogan, be at the funeral. And that was a problem.

Jackie explained further. “Edward Bogan is in prison in Georgia. They say that the only way to have even a shot at him attending the funeral is to get help from your governor or senator. I am calling you because you are our senator.” My first response was, “Jackie, I am sure they mean the U. S. Senator, not the state senator. However, let me see what I can do.” I went to work.

This matter began with one person taking initiative. That person is Kelvin Mitchell, deputy sheriff of Lowndes County. Deputy Mitchell knew Kelvin Bogan’s father had died about a year ago and Edward Bogan could not attend the funeral. This was hard on the family. This time Mitchell tried to help. When he called the Georgia Corrections Department, officials told him that he needed help from his governor and/or senator. He contacted Jackie because she knew me well.

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I called Jim Main, the Governor’s Senior Advisor. Jim was about to leave town on a long awaited vacation so he handed the ball off to Ken Wallace, the Governor’s Legal Advisor. Jim gave me his cell phone so he could be reached if necessary. Ken took the ball and ran with it. At the time, he had no idea of the obstacles he would meet on this journey. It took a lot of work from Ken, his assistant legal advisor, Vernon Barker, his executive assistant, Becky Brennon, and others. They encountered obstacle after obstacle, but they kept trying.

The first obstacle sprung from the situation in Georgia. The warden who knew what needed to be done and how to do it had recently retired. The new warden just did not know. The parole officer was also new and did not know.

Ken and his staff kept trying.

Ken immediately involved the Alabama Department of Corrections through their attorney, Billy Addison. Once Ken and Billy determined what needed to be done, they realized how truly great the obstacles were. The three-day time frame was so short and so much had to be done. It seemed that there was no way to overcome these obstacles, but they kept on trying.

Once the Georgia warden and parole officer brought themselves up to speed on the process, they found that the request had to go to the Emergency Clemency Department in Corrections. If approved, the matter then would go before the Clemency Board (Parole Board), which had to be called together, meet and act in just one day. Ken and Billy did not know if there was any way this could be done, but they kept on trying.

Even if they could work out everything on the Georgia side of the border, something more had to be done on the Alabama side: Edward Bogan had to be transported from Georgia to Alabama. Lowndes County Sheriff Willie Vaughner was contacted. He agreed to provide a deputy to transport Edward Bogan. That deputy was Kelvin Mitchell.

Having Edward Bogan at the funeral may seem like a small matter, but it was big for Kelvin Bogan and his family. I understand funerals are for the living, and each of our loved ones die but once. Funerals help us to heal. For most families the funeral is the central step in the healing process. If even one close family member is missing, it cracks the healing chain.

Kelvin Bogan had been to Iraq serving under the most difficult of circumstances. He still serves in the Armed Forces. Now he wanted his country (and state) to help him and his family heal through the presence of all seven sisters and brothers at their mother’s funeral.

There is lots of bureaucracy in government. There was a lot of bureaucracy to overcome in this effort to help this family heal. Bureaucracy, however, is not the story this time. The real story is the extraordinary effort by a deputy sheriff, a county commission administrator, a sheriff, a state senator, a governor’s office and a corrections department in one state and the corrections department and governor’s office in another state. Through this collective effort, a family was helped to heal its hurt.

I am glad that on Thursday afternoon I received a message from Ken Wallace saying that the mission had been accomplished. I am also glad that Kelvin Bogan and Kelvin Mitchell expressed strong appreciations on behalf of the family for all the effort, seen and unseen, that was put forth.

Now on to the Daily Diary.

Saturday – I handled many matters before attending the very beautiful wedding of Holly Brown, the daughter of Horace and Barbara Brown. I worked into the night on Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) effort.

Sunday – I did Radio Sunday School and Radio Education and Sunday Review. I attended Men and Women’s Day at Ebenezer Baptist Church where Attorney Vernetta Perkins, a former 21st Century youth leader, spoke well. I worked well into the night.

Monday – I handled various matters before traveling to Shelby County and other places on various matters. I returned to meet with Dr. James Mitchell of Wallace Community College of Selma on education concerns. I met with Mayor James Perkins, Jr. on various political matters. I also met with a person from Congressman Artur Davis’ office and worked on GOTV efforts.

Tuesday – I worked on various matters including the Bogan Family matter. I talked with Jackie Thomas and persons in the Governor’s office. I had a working lunch with Rita Lett and Khadijah Ishaq. I worked on ANSC efforts for GOTV. I worked into the night.

Wednesday – I worked on GOTV issues, including the writing and recording of a “please vote ad.” I traveled to Mobile for the funeral of Representative Joseph Mitchell’s father. I returned to Selma to work into the night.

Thursday – The news of the indictment of Former Governor Don Siegelman, Former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick, and others dominated this day. I talked to Siegelman and Hamrick. I talked to four or five reporters. I traveled to Montgomery for the recording of the TV show “Newsmakers” about “our novel,” “Death of a Fat Man.” I began writing Sketches, and I met into the night. I talked with various state leaders.

Friday – I had meetings at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. I continued on Sketches. I traveled to Birmingham for a radio program and on to Tuscaloosa for a book signing and back to Selma. I talked with leaders from Tuscaloosa and around the state.

EPILOGUE – Sometimes we see something and say, “It’s nice that this happened.” We think it just took a phone call because it appears to be a small matter. We have no idea what it took to make it happen. Such was the case of Edward Bogan joining the rest of the family at the funeral of Annie Ruth Bogan, deceased.