|Tailgaters pack the Legion Field parking lots on game day.
Public records indicate the president of Historically Black Alabama A&M University is a MAGA Republican, and his political leanings contributed to A&M's decision to cave to White-owned, conservative-leaning business interests during negotiations for a new agreement on the hugely popular Magic-City Classic football game that is played each fall at Legion Field in Birmingham. That is from an article by longtime attorney and sports enthusiast Donald Watkins, who reports that A&M has a history of being governed by Black, Republican-leaning presidents. That history now will cost A&M its fair share of the millions of dollars the Magic City Classic generates each year.
Under the headline "Is Alabama A&M University President Daniel K. Wims a Closet MAGA Republican?" Watkins writes:
Is Alabama A&M University President Daniel K. Wims a closet MAGA Republican? Campaign financing documents and Dr. Wims' actions as president suggest that he is.
Dr. Wims was appointed as the university's 12th president on October 2, 2021, on a 7-4 vote. Wims succeeded Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. as president, effective January 1, 2022. His base salary as president in 2023 is $403,800, or $33,650 per month.
Dr. Wims started his employment with Alabama A&M in April 2010 as Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs.
Dr. Wims, who is registered to vote in Georgia, has voted by absentee ballot in Georgia elections since 2018. According to campaign-financing records, Wims donates cash to Republican candidates, exclusively. There is no record of any campaign contribution Dr. Wims has made to a Democratic Party or Independent candidate.
On Sept. 1, 2010, Dr. Wims made a $1,000 personal campaign contribution to disgraced Alabama Republican governor Robert Bentley.
Does Wims' support for Robert Bentley present a bad look for Alabama A&M? The answer clearly is yes. To this day, Bentley is known as "Luv Guv" because of a seedy sex scandal involving senior aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, which eventually led to his resignation from office. Bentley resigned from office after reaching a plea deal on criminal charges brought against him.
This is the kind of public official Mims finds worthy of his support? Mims and A&M should be embarrassed. Bentley might be the sleaziest governor in Alabama history, and there is a lot of competition for that "honor." (Note: Copies of political donations referenced in this post can be viewed at this link.) Writes Watkins:
Bentley commandeered the Alabama State University board of trustees under false pretenses in 2012 in order to impede the university's growth. Bentley resigned from office in disgrace in April 2017 after I published an exclusive series of investigative articles in 2015 that exposed the governor's secret love affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his married paramour and senior policy advisor. Bentley was also convicted on state ethics charges arising from his sex scandal.
Sen. Senator Givhan serves as Chairman of the Madison County Local Legislation Committee and Vice Chair of the Judiciary Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Rules, Finance & Taxation General Fund, and Confirmations Committees.
Dr. Wims used different variations of his name and different Georgia addresses for his donations to Republican candidates, commencing in September 2010.
On October 17, 2022, Dr. Wims made a $1,000 personal donation to the campaign of Republican state Senator Sam Givhan, whose district includes Madison County, Alabama; Alabama A&M is located in Huntsville, Madison County's largest city.
Was Wims trying to hide his donations to Republican politicos? The answer appears to be yes. As bad as Mims makes A&M look, he simply was following recent university history, writes Watkins:
In making his campaign contributions, Dr. Wims followed an unofficial political protocol set by his predecessor at Alabama A&M, Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. Dr. Hugine was the former president of South Carolina State University before coming to Alabama A&M as president. Hugine groomed and handpicked Wims as his successor. Like Wims, Hugine also supported Republican candidates with personal cash campaign donations. Unlike Wims, Hugine contributed money to Democratic Party candidates, as well.
In 2006, Hugine contributed $1,000 to Republican Mark Sanford, Jr.’s campaign for governor of South Carolina. In 2008, Hugine contributed $250 to Republican Hugh Kenneth Leatherman, Sr.’s senate campaign.
Hugine was appointed as president of Alabama A&M on June 26, 2009.
In essence, Watkins writes, Mims is beholden to MAGA Republicans -- largely ignoring input from the university's board of trustees, students, alumni, patrons, and other interested parties who might not toe the GOP line. Wims might keep the board of trustees at arm's length, but the board clearly exercised its due authority to hire him -- and that almost certainly means they have the authority to fire him:
Since he assumed the Alabama A&M presidency on January 1, 2022, Dr. Wims has been tightly controlled by a small but powerful group of MAGA Republicans in the state. Gov. Kay Ivey, who is ex oficio president of the university’s board of trustees and a diehard Donald Trump supporter, is one of them.
Beyond his devotion to Gov. Ivey, Dr. Wims has little regard for the university's other trustees. In his private discussions with MAGA Republicans, Wims reportedly expresses a personal view that his school's trustees are weak, uninformed, and useless. As such, Wims maintains a cordial but measured distance from them.
Wims’ core support as president of Alabama A&M appears to be anchored in his relationship with Gov. Ivey, state Sen. Sam Givhan, and first-term state Representative Kenneth Paschal, the only black Republican in the Alabama Legislature. Paschal serves on the House Education Policy Committee.
For all practical purposes, these MAGA politicos control the education-policy agenda at Alabama A&M University, as well as the university's destiny. To peacefully co-exist with Alabama A&M's trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Democrats in the state legislature, Dr. Wims interacts with them on a limited and superficial basis.Meanwhile, the University of Alabama at Hunstville (UAH), a school that was founded for White students under the state's dual system of higher education, is thriving with the unabashed and growing support of Gov. Ivey, Sen. Givhan, Rep. Paschal, and other MAGA Republicans in the state legislature and Alabama's Congressional delegation.
Should Alabama A&M supporters be concerned that their school's destiny is controlled by public figures who are faithful to Donald Trump. Given that Trump has engaged in racist acts and statements for decades, and the recent uptick in his use of violent rhetoric is becoming an increasingly public-safety concern, should Alabama A&M supporters be concerned that their school's long-term fate is in the hands of individuals devoted to Donald Trump -- who is under four criminal indictments? The answer is yes, absolutely, and the blame should rest at the feet of President Mims. He already has caused a sell out on the significant cash flow from the Magic City Classic, writes Watkins:
The MAGA Republican connection to Alabama A&M caused Dr. Wims to cave-in to Gene Hallman, the Bruno Event Team (now known as Eventive Sports), and the Alabama Sports Council last week. With Wims' approval, Alabama A&M abandoned its superior bargaining position and signed a controversial new Magic City Classic deal with the Council that enriches Hallman and Eventive Sports over a four-year period at the expense of Alabama A&M and Alabama State University.
Gene Hallman and the Bruno Event Team have been big financial donors to the MAGA Republicans for years. For example, they contributed campaign donations to U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville ($3,300 on April 24, 2023), Gov. Kay Ivey ($5,000 on August 31, 2017), and state Senator Jabo Waggoner ($3,500 in 2013, $1,000 in 2018, and $5,000 in 2022).
In the past five years, the Bruno Event Team contributed $19,000 to Republican candidates in Alabama and $6,500 to Democratic candidates. As an individual, Gene Hallman has contributed $17,300 to Republican candidates and $2,000 to Democratic candidates.
The Bruno Event Team made contributions of $2,500 in 2017 and $1,000 in 2018 to former state Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery), who awarded Gene Hallman/Bruno Event Team a series of Magic City Classic contracts with ASU from 2000 to 2014.
Additionally, Gene Hallman made personal contributions of $1,500 in 2017, $2,800 in 2019, and $2,800 in 2020 to former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama). Jones was an influential director and member of the Alabama Sports Council from 2017 to 2020.
Did Mims come under right-wing pressure in the Magic City Classic negotiations? Yes, reports Watkins:
After Dr. Wims initially balked at signing the new Magic City Classic deal, Hallman reportedly used his MAGA Republican "juice card" to pressure Wims into approving the deal. Despite a wealth of information available to Dr. Wims that documented how badly Alabama A&M was being commercially exploited under the new agreement, Dr. Wims surrendered to this pressure.
Cosmetic changes were made to the Magic City Classic agreement to provide Dr. Wims with a "fig leaf" to cover his naked collapse under pressure. These changes, however, did nothing to diminish the enhanced and enriched economic benefits in the deal for Gene Hallman and Eventive Sports.
On a related note, MAGA Republicans in Alabama have advised Dr. Wims to forgo any genuine effort to collect the $527,280,064 in state funds that are owed to Alabama A&M, as described in a formal September 18, 2023, letter of notification to Gov. Ivey from the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture. Dr. Wims has reportedly committed to following this advice in order to protect his job.
Today, Alabama A&M University is under the firm, complete, and total control of MAGA Republicans in Alabama. These are the same MAGA officials who are currently engaged in a campaign of massive resistance to the creation of a second black Congressional district in the state's redistricting map.
If someone is pressuring Dr. Mims to forgo the $527 million-plus the state of Alabama owes A&M -- at the risk of losing his job -- that points to possible extortion, which could turn this into a criminal matter. Published reports indicate the A&M board of trustees has the authority to hire or fire President Wims. If the board concludes that Wims is being pressured to take actions that run contrary to A&M's best financial interests, the board likely would have grounds to fire him.
Stay tuned! Much more information is coming your way.