Written by Jonathan Makeley
The Prohibition Party has been experiencing significant growing membership and activism in recent years. Recently I interviewed my party colleague Dr. R.T. Cooper, the state chairman of the Alabama Prohibition Party, about how things have been going with the Prohibition Party in Alabama.
The Prohibition Party and the broader prohibitionist movement has a well rooted history in the state of Alabama.
As Dr. Cooper described, “Prohibition has a great and rich history including recent history. Alabama is one the driest states in the union. 25 of the 65 counties in Alabama are dry. Alcohol intake is pretty low in Alabama. This state has the lowest alcohol poisoning cases in the country. In the early 1900s Alabama was a state heavily for prohibition. Bob Jones Sr. founder of the famous Christian college Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina is an Alabama native that fought for prohibition here along with the very popular evangelist Billy Sunday who was a major advocate for prohibition.”
He continues, “Alabama is still one of the few states in the USA that doesn’t have a lottery. This shows many of the residents of this state still value social morals.”
Alabama has produced some significant Prohibition Party figures. For instance, Don Webb, who was national chairman from 2003-2005, spent much of his life living in Alabama. In addition, Alabama has been host to Prohibition Party national conventions. With Birmingham being the sight of the 1980 convention, June 20-21st, 1979, and Cullman being the sight of the 2012 convention, on June 20-22, 2011.
Nationally, the Prohibition Party has seen growth in recent years. Our 2016 Presidential candidate, Jim Hedges, received our largest vote results since 1988. There has been influx of new members, especially among younger generations. Work has been undertaken to reestablish state level party organizations in varous states. Prohibition Party members are running as candidates for various positions, with hopes of potentially electing some to office, and the prospect of getting some candidates on ballot for congress in 2018.
This general upswing for the Prohibition Party is well present in the state of Alabama. The state party organization in Alabama was reestablished in 2017.
Dr. Cooper describes the reestablishment as follows; “The current Alabama state party was just recently formed back in the fall. I was the main perpetrator of this party. A few other people along with myself saw the need for the Prohibition party to be active in Alabama.”
Following its reconstitution, the Alabama Prohibition Party has been rather successful in attracting the attention and support of people. Dr. Cooper states “Our current state membership would be right around 100 members”. And he is optimistic about the ability of the Alabama Prohibition Party to continue to grow. “Im sure many other people in this state would join this party if they found out it was active seeing that our platform lines up with many Alabamians.”
The Alabama Prohibition Party has been actively working to expand it’s presence through messaging and outreach. The party has held multiple events to engage with the public and help attract members. For instance, having a booth at last years local fair in the city of Warrior, and holding meet and greet events at some restaurants. Cooper has stated these events have gone well and have been a key reason for the increase in membership. The party has also benefited from outreach to local religious groups. Dr. Cooper states that “I have had success working with doctrinally dry denominations in Alabama such as Fundamental Baptists, Church of God, Conservative Methodist, and church of the Nazarene.” The party has also made use of prohibition party merchandise to spread awareness. “I also found some vote dry/Prohibition party t shirts on champsky.net a website that sells political t shirts. A few of us got some of those shirts and are wearing them.” Cooper stated. The Alabama Prohibition Party has also worked to develop its media. It has a state party website, is on social media, and has started publishing bi-monthly newsletter.
In addition to messaging and recruiting new members, the Alabama Prohibition Party has been working to run candidates and effect policy. This is especially the case in the city of Warrior, where the Alabama Prohibition Party is currently headquartered. The Alabama Prohibition Party is working to convince more communities to establish local dry laws, and is hoping to make Warrior its first success. In regards to this effort, Cooper says, “Here in the city of Warrior we are attempting to make this city dry. The current mayor and city council are sketchy about the laws to make this city itself dry. Im working with Jefferson county to get to the root of all the particular steps.” Once they get the process figured out, the Alabama Prohibition Party plans to undertake whatever petitioning and electoral efforts necessary to make the city dry. The Alabama Prohibition Party has began running candidates for local offices, with their first candidate running for Warrior city council.
Dr. R.T. Cooper is running as the Prohibition Party candidate for Warrior City Council. Dr. Cooper was originally from Campobello South Carolina, before making his home in Alabama. He studied Theology and World Religions at the Washington Bible College. He was a teacher at and current chancellor of the Covenant Bible Institute college. He has a wife and young daughter. He is a vocal fan of many sports, especially hockey and soccer. When it came to matters of politics, Mr. Cooper found the major parties unattractive, and spent years searching through third-party groups to find one that he thought well reflected his values. This would eventually result in him joining the Prohibition Party, and though his enthusiasm and drive to contribute, he ended up rising to become the state chairman in Alabama and running for office.
Dr. Cooper is running a campaign for city council centered on promoting the advancement of public morality and the economic development of the city of Warrior. In describing the campaign, he stated, “We are certainly addressing the moral issues with our campaign and also economic prosperity. Warrior is in a prime position for economic prosperity… Warrior should be a thriving place for logistics being so close to major cities in the southeast and all the available land here. And there’s no reason why retail and entertainment couldn’t thrive in Warrior being a close suburb of Birmingham.”
Dr. Cooper is building up a strong campaign, that will give him a strong chance at getting elected to city council. He states, “I have around 50 good people that are working for my city council campaign and are making efforts to spread the word about the party. With our efforts so far I would say I have a great chance to win city council. I will need about 100 votes to be on the ballot.” If Cooper does manage to get elected to the Warrior City Council, he would become the second Prohibition Party office holder in the 21st century. The first Prohibition Party candidate elected to office this century was Jim Hedges. Hedges was elected tax assessor of Thomson Township Pennsylvania in 2001, was reelected in 2005, and served until the position was eliminated by Pennsylvania legislature in 2007.
Overall, the Prohibition Party in Alabama is growing in size and political presence, and has good prospects going forward.