By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Former Birmingham mayor Larry Paul Langford was remembered on Monday, January 14 as a vibrant and vocal visionary who loved his family, people and community.
Friends and family spent more than two hours inside a packed St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fairfield honoring Langford, the former Fairfield mayor and Jefferson County Commissioner, who passed on January 8 at the age of 72.
As he did in life, Langford drew both public officials and private citizens during a Homegoing service officiated by his longtime pastor and friend, Father Vernon Huguley, of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Adamsville and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Wylam, while Langford’s best friend Rev. O.C. Oden, Jr., of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Fairfield, delivered the eulogy.
“Larry could see things that others could not see, but not only was he a visionary man, he was vocal,” said Oden during the eulogy. “He didn’t care whether you liked it or not, if it was true he was gonna say it. Not only was he vocal, but he was vibrant. He was always energetic, I don’t know how he went like he did. His mind was always going because he was energetic.”
Those in attendance included U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell; State Rep. Juandalynn Givan; Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway; Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr; Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; former Birmingham mayors William Bell and Bernard Kincaid; and Miles College President, Dr. George T. French.
Sewell said Langford had big ideas, “ideas that many of us now enjoy and ideas that some take credit for, but it was his ideas that really mattered,” she said. “He did everything in grand style. He truly believed his campaign motto, ‘Let’s do something’ . . . we could never say that he was a man of inaction, for he believed in action, in doing something.”
Langford was instrumental in the creation of an amusement park, Visionland, now Alabama Splash Adventure in Bessemer, Railroad Park, Regions Field, Red Mountain Park, the Birmingham CrossPlex and a downtown stadium which is currently in the works.
“We enjoy these things based on his vision that he casted,” said Woodfin. “It was his vision that allowed us in 2018 and 2019 to enjoy these things, we can’t take that for granted.”
Love for People
Sewell pointed out that Langford promoted economic development and made significant investments in schools. “He will be remembered as a person who was larger than life,” Sewell said. “He lived big. He dreamed big. He was an extraordinary man, and he made the communities that he represented better because of his service.”
Sewell said she will never forget the kindness Langford and his wife, Melva, showed her when she first moved to Birmingham.
“As a black elected official we all know from whence we come and I think that the biggest way that we can extend the legacy that is Mayor Langford is that those who walk in his footsteps must know that we must pay it forward. We must learn from his mistakes, but make no bones about it, we must pay it forward.”
Woodfin said Langford’s love for people “trumped his love for politics.”
“You listen and sit at the foot of Mrs. Langford and she’ll tell you, the mayor rode around in his car with blankets and if he saw a homeless person, he stopped and provided that blanket to that homeless person,” said Woodfin. “That’s character. He loved people. He loved my generation. He poured into us. He gave of his time often, he loved people.”
Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt spoke of Langford’s heart.
“We didn’t always agree, but I can tell you this, wasn’t nothing wrong with his heart,” said Hoyt. “We would’ve had a heated debate and my daughter came with me to City Hall one day and I said ‘Mayor, she made the honor roll’ and he went in his pocket and gave her $100. I’ll tell you that’s the heart. You’ve got to look at the heart.”
Though Langford had many elected titles, his most proud title was that of husband, father, grandfather and uncle, said those who knew him.
Langford’s grandsons, Ronald Strothers, III and Jared Strothers recalled their favorite memories with Langford.
“One of my favorite memories would be on Saturdays when I was younger and he would come pick me up in the red Corvette and there’s no telling where we would go,” Ronald said. “I used to like going to the Farmers Market or go fish with him the most, but one thing he’s a better granddad than a fisher, because he never caught any fish. On our trips, we would talk about anything from God to girls and he taught me both how to have a relationship with God and a woman.”
Ronald said he saw something few others did. “He had this aura around him. He could light up any room, he walked into and would take charge of it. Any room he walked in, people would pay attention just to see, ‘who is this man?’ The swagger he had, couldn’t be ignored, it was simply captivating and that’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Jared said he didn’t remember much about his grandfather, but he recalled of his fervent love for God.
“From a young age, I was instilled with the blessing of knowing that God is with me everywhere I go and my grandfather was a man that could not be deterred by anything because through God he could do anything,” said Jared. “I remember going to his house and he’d have some music on and I asked him what is this and he said ‘something son you should learn about’ and I asked him what I should learn about? And he said ‘these are God’s angels, singing the praises of the Lord.’”
Jared said it will be hard without his grandfather but “through God, I can get through it.”
His goddaughter, Tiffany Johnson Cole, recalled his love.
“There are not many people who come in your life who love you unconditionally, they love you regardless of what you do, what you say, how you may fall, you know that you can pick up the phone and you can call them and they’re there,” said Cole.
Langford’s niece, LeNa Powe McDonald, said even though he was her uncle, she considered him as her ‘daddy.’
“For me, he was my dad, he was the president of the PTA of my elementary school, he was on the board of directors at John Carroll High School where I went to high school, and he attended dance recitals and everything else you could think of. He was my best friend,” said McDonald. “My mom and my aunt, it takes strong women to raise a good woman, but it takes an incomparable man to raise a woman who knows her worth and that’s what he did, every day, every minute and every hour.”
Langford is survived by his wife, Melva; son, Ronald Strothers; niece, LeNa Powe McDonald; brother, Oliver Nance; sister-in-law, Casi Ferguson; grandchildren, Ronald Strothers III and Jared Daniel Strothers; and a host of other nieces, and nephews, friends and many supporters.
–This article was updated on January 15, 2019 at 9:55 a.m. to correct that Father Huguley is the pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Adamsville and St. Stanislaus Catholic Church in Wylam and is NOT the pastor of St. Mary’s.