Bye, Bye, Bubba!

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sgt. ‘‘Bubba’ Bailey greets fellow officer Roger Cender Tuesday morning.

Sgt. ‘‘Bubba’ Bailey greets fellow officer Roger Cender Tuesday morning.

Longtime APD sergeant retiring this week

He dances as he directs traffic, has been known to don a costume for special occasions, and has starred in an episode of the Australian reality show “Hamish and Andy,” that’s been viewed almost 30,000 times on YouTube.

He kisses fellow officers on the head in greeting, and generally, makes those who come in contact with him feel good.

And that’s why Paul Hudson, acting Andalusia police chief, isn’t quite sure what will happen when Sgt. Charles “Bubba” Bailey retires at the end of this week.

“You can’t replace somebody like Bubba,” Hudson said.

Bailey joined the force on Jan. 4, 1979, and has been a member of APD every since, minus a brief interruption in service for a trip to Alaska.

“They had very good pay, but also a lot of ice,” Bailey said. “A fellow officer talked me in to going with him. We drove 6,000-plus miles to go up there.”

They were, indeed, hiring law enforcement officers in Alaska, but here was one thing Bailey hadn’t counted on.

“They told me I was going to have to drive across a 40-foot lake,” he said.

When he balked at the idea, he was told, “Don’t worry, it’s frozen.

“I said, so would I be if I go through that ice,” Bailey recalled. So home he came.

Andalusia is actually Bailey’s adopted home. He was reared in the Tallahassee area by his grandparents, who farmed 4,000 acres.

“We took a half a day off for services on Sunday,” he said. “Other than that, you had your shoulder to the wheel.”

A neighbor who worked in law enforcement influenced Bailey to choose the profession, he said. But first, he took construction work that brought him to the local area.

“Back then I worked out a lot,” Bailey said. “This young lady took a liking to me.”

The young lady would be Brenda Gale Burkett Bailey, who would become his wife.

“She was family oriented, and wanted to stay close to her parents,” Bailey recalled, “When I said ‘I do, ‘I did. So that’s what we did.”

His wife encouraged him to get into law enforcement. Bailey said he is a multi-tasker, and worked at other things on the side to support his family. But he absolutely loves the APD. He was the training officer when both the current interim chief, Hudson, and the interim assistant chief, Paul Dean, were hired

“They are extremely good boys,” Bailey said. “I have nothing but total confidence in these two fellas.”

If he were five years younger and hurt a lot less, he said, he’d like to stick around and “be a part of what is about to fall in place.”

But hip and knee problems give him enough trouble to need pain relievers, and he doesn’t like to take medicine while he’s working. Even though he’s retiring, he plans to work parttime if he has to volunteer.

“The biggest thing is I love the APD,” Bailey said. “And you ain’t gotta like me for me to love you.”

Hudson said he’s only seen someone pull one over on Bailey once.

Bubba explained.

He’s in the habit of hugging officers and kissing them on the head. Once, a fellow officer stood up in response, said, “OK, Bubba,” and kissed him square on the mouth. It startled Bailey.

“I said, ‘Fella, I’m not that way,’ ” he recalled. “I have a mustache, but I’m not used to kissing one.”

Hudson said those who witnessed it couldn’t stop laughing, mainly because it was so rare for anyone to leave Bailey at a loss for words.

Bailey said making people laugh and smile is what he likes to do.

“Distraction sometimes helps,” he said.

For instance, a man sees all kinds of emotions when directing traffic.

“You’re seeing all emotions,” he said. “People will be in a bad mood, fussing at you as they go by, telling you you’re No. 1 in other kinds of ways, like raising a finger,” he said. “They come close with the side view mirror.

“There was negativity and sadness on all these faces,” he said. “They needed cheering up.”

He made faces while directing traffic to make people smile. But there was one woman who never, ever smiled. So one day, he motioned for her to stop, shrugged his shoulders at her as if to ask, “Why won’t you smile.”

And then, right in the middle of the street, he moonwalked as he directed her forward.

“I really don’t know how I did that,” he said. “I never moonwalked before. But she smiled at me and gave me the ‘OK’ sign.”

Some of his dancing, he said, is to get out of the way of vehicles that pull too close.

Some people thought his antics silly, he said.

“It’s easier to catch flies with sugar than with salt,” he said.

He said he learned a lot about dealing with the public by watching Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor.

He said “the public” nicknamed him “Bubba.”

He’s always carried on with children and teenagers, but because he couldn’t remember their names, he called them “Bubba” and “Bubbette.”

“It was because I didn’ thave one of those photogenic memories,” he explained.

“They could relate to that,” he said. “So they started called me “Bubba.’ ”

One reason he tries to keep fellow officers laughing, he said, is because “you never know what’s waiting around the corner.”

“These fellas are willing to put their lives on the line every day,” he said. “I want them to be safe and relaxed and go home to their families every night.”

Now, he’s planning to go home to his. The Baileys have three children, Kimberly Bailey Jennings of Huntsville; James Thomas Bailey, who lives in the county; and Lori Bailey Tubberville, who also lives in Huntsville. Bailey said his daughters’ houses are on adjacent lots, so all six of his grandchildren are easily accessible when he visits.

He also plays music, fishes, and does comedy in his spare time.

Bailey will be honored with a retirement party on March 7.