Former Governor Guy Hunt dies

MONTGOMERY, AL (wsfa) - WSFA 12 News is gathering reaction from many state officials at this hour after learning of the death of former Governor Guy Hunt.

Guy Hunt 's election as governor was unusual to say the least. The history books will remember the unusual beginning and unfortunate end of his political career. A stalwart Republican dating back to the early 60's, Hunt benefited from a rift in the Democratic party during the 1986 gubernatorial election.

Unhappy Democrats showed their displeasure by electing the little known GOP candidate from Cullman County. He was the first Republican governor since 1872.

Governor Hunt enjoyed some early successes with the legislature when the lawmakers passed a number of bills he submitted. He championed industrial recruitment and constantly promoted the Republican party in the state.

In 1987 U.S. News and World report named him one of the country's best governors.

Hunt ran for re-election in 1990, against Democrat Paul Hubbert, the politically savvy head of the powerful Alabama Education Association. Hunt won with 52 percent of the vote.

In his 1991 inaugural address Hunt spoke of the challenges facing the state and the need for education reform.

Shortly after that inauguration, things started to go badly for him, however. The State Ethics Commission began an investigation into his use of state airplanes to fly to religious events where he was given "love offerings." During that investigation, prosecutors revealed that Hunt had used $200,000 of inaugural funds for his personal use.

In April 1993, Hunt was tried, convicted and forced to leave office. He was the first governor in state history to be removed from office. The judge sentenced him to five years probation and a $211,000 fine, though he did not require jail time. Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. became governor serving the remaining 20 months of Hunt 's term.

In 1998, Hunt received a full pardon when sympathetic Alabamians donated more than $200,000 to repay his fine and court costs.

In the years following Hunt lived a quiet life in his home town of Holly Pond in Cullman County making limited public appearances.

Several years ago, hunt was diagnosed with the lung cancer that eventually lead to his death.

Hunt died in a Birmingham hospital around 3pm Friday at the age of 75.

Governor Bob Riley issues statement:

"Governor Hunt was a true statesman who will be remembered as a strong leader and a man of unwavering faith. He helped put Alabama on the map for industry and tourism. As Alabama mourns the loss of a former governor, may we all remember Governor Hunt's legacy of outstanding service to this state."

Governor Riley has ordered all flags on state buildings to be lowered to half-staff to honor the former governor.

Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. issues statement:

Marsha and I were saddened by the news of Governor Guy Hunt's Death. I've known Governor Hunt since I was a young man growing up in Cullman. I vividly remember when he was elected Cullman County's first republican probate judge in the Goldwater sweep of 1964.  I came to know and respect him even more while serving as Lieutenant Governor during his terms as Governor from 1987 through 1993. Governor Hunt always struck me as a straightforward and sincere country gentleman who tried to do what he felt was right for Alabama.  In all my dealings with him, I never saw him lose his temper or speak ill of anyone in the legislative process - even when doing so may have seemed quite justified to some.

Attorney General Troy King issues statement -

"...I had the privilege to be on hand when the Guy Hunt Rest Area near Cullman was dedicated.  What I said then sums up how I feel today.  I told the crowd that there are some who will see their names chiseled onto buildings or placed on roads and bridges.  Governor Hunt has earned the right to be one of them.  But then there are others whose decency and examples so inspire those who follow that their names are chiseled on the lives of those they touch and whose legacies are living legacies.  Such is Harold Guy Hunt.  I know.  I am one who was greatly influenced by him. Paige and I are praying for Mrs. Anne and the entire Hunt family during these sad days."

Steve Feaga ( Prosecuting attorney in Hunt's trial) -

"I'm sad for his family and I'm praying for him."

Emory Folmar ( Frmr. Montgomery mayor / Republican Party Finance Dir. & Chairman) -

"It's always a tragedy when something like this happens. God is in control and there is no way of determining who will be around today or tomorrow."