Former fire chief Aubrey Randall looks back

Published 9:55 pm Friday, April 17, 2009

For some, Demopolis serves as only a retirement community. But for others, such as Aubrey Randall, Demopolis is home.

Randall is one out of a small group who, for the majority of their lives, have lived in Demopolis and watched as the city grew into what it is today.

Randall was born in October 1928, when Demopolis’s hospital was a renovated home that sat where Alabama Power Appliance Center is today

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During his junior year of high school, Randall went into the U.S. Army as a paratrooper. His stint served with the Army never took him off of homeland soil, but he was transferred from base to base as an instructor.

“There was just something about a paratrooper that made me want to be one,” Randall said. “They all have this certain touch of class; they’re sharper-dressed than most everybody else.”

After his time with the Army, Randall returned to Demopolis, and after receiving his high school diploma from Linden High School, he began work as an electrician, thanks to the G.I. Bill.

In September 1951, Randall married his wife, Ruth.

“Jobs were scarce back then, so you just took whatever you could get,” he said. “I worked as an electrician, then some for [what was then] Cook-Spiegner Funeral Home.”

Randall’s career path took a dramatic turn in 1955, one that would lead him to his eventual retirement.

“Daddy was a policeman, and he’d heard that the fire department was looking for some new guys,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about the fire department at all, so I put in an application then went down and interviewed with chief R.W. Brasington. He hired me and trained me and that was what started it all.

“From Day One, he always told me, ‘Son, learn everything you can because one day, you may be chief.’”

And in 1958, that one day that Brasington was speaking of came to be. Randall was named chief by mayor Ed Bailey.

“We all had an outstanding rescue squad when I was chief; everybody was a trained paramedic [EMT-basic],” Randall said.

Today, some of the men Randall hired are still with the department.

After his retirement in 1990, Randall tried staying at home, but soon came to find out that it wasn’t for him.

“I tried sitting around the house for a couple of weeks and just couldn’t handle it,” he said, “so I went to work at Wal-Mart as a greeter.”

Randall worked in three different Wal-Mart stores without ever leaving the city.

“I worked at the old one on [Highway] 80 East, the new one next to Sonic, and then the Supercenter on 80 West,” he said.

Now that he’s no longer working at Wal-Mart, Randall spends his time around his home on Hackberry Lane, gardening and whatever else may come his way.

“He does stuff around here and, you know, he’s one of the only men I know who still keeps the nursery at church,” said Ruth. “The kids just love him.”

“I’ve just always like Demopolis—it’s home,” he said. “I’ve never thought of living anyplace else.”