Rotary honors Hammett with Spirit of Andalusia

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Andalusia Rotary Club honored Seth Hammett with its Spirit of Andalusia award and distributed more than $16,000 to charities during its annual social at the Andalusia Country Club Tuesday night.

Rotary Foundation Board president Jimmy Lee presented the award, which is given annually to someone outside the club for his or her work in the community.

Hammett, who has represented Covington County in the legislature since 1978, has served in leadership positions in the House of Representatives for 20 of those years, and was elected Speaker of the House in 1999. He plans to leave public office this year.

“No one has had as much positive effect on our county as Seth,” Lee said in presenting the award.

Hammett recognized his wife, Nancy, and his children, Merrill and Catherine, who were with him.

He said he first became interested in politics when serving as president of the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce in the 1970s. At the time, Frank Jackson represented Covington County in House of Representatives.

He recalled receiving a phone call from John Alwyn Burgess, then editor of The Opp News.

“He told me that Frank Jackson had announced to him that he would not seek re-election and that he was working on a story about who might run. He said my name had been mentioned and asked if I were running.

“I said, ‘Yes, I am,’ ” Hammett recalled. “Then I decided I’d better tell Nancy.”

“They grew up with me in this business,” Hammett said of his children. “Merrill was a little boy and doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t in politics.

He added that Catherine was born just after he took office and had the good grace to be born on a Sunday.

“They were always at some fish fry at a volunteer fire department on Saturday,” he said.

Hammett said his political career has been a “great run.” While he’s enjoyed serving in leadership positions in the House, he said he’s always remembered one thing.

“You can’t be Speaker if you aren’t first elected representative,” he said. “My first allegiance has always been to the district I represent.”

Hammett was the founder and first president of the First National Bank of Andalusia (now Wachovia); is a former president of LBW Community College; and currently serves as vice president of business development for PowerSouth.

The Rotary Club made a contribution in his name to the Rotary International Foundation, naming him a Paul Harris Fellow, and also honored former club president Benny Gay as a Paul Harris Fellow.

Rotary Foundation board treasurer Richard Jones said the club has distributed more than $800,000 to charity since it started the World Championship Domino Tournament in 1976.

Charities receiving contributions included Community Christmas; Rotary International Foundation Polio Plus Challenge and Paul Harris Fellows; Southeast Alabama Child Advocacy Center; AAU Basketball; Covington County United Fund; Camp ASCCA; Andalusia Elementary School; Andalusia Ballet; Andalusia High School; Andalusia Middle School; Andalusia City Schools; Crossover Ministries; and Covington Honor Flight.