Weed took big risks, had fun

Published 8:59 am Thursday, April 17, 2014

Former chairman died Wednesday

Johnny Mac Weed, the former County Commission Chairman who was known for both his political successes and his love of fun, died suddenly Wednesday morning.

Weed clowns with Buddy Brannon at a Christmas party he hosted at the Arena in 2008.

Weed clowns with Buddy Brannon at a Christmas party he hosted at the Arena in 2008.

Family members said Weed went to breakfast Wednesday with John Walker and was reportedly laughing and having a good time. Walker dropped him off at the office, and by the time his secretary arrived, he was dead.

Weed served as commission chairman from 1985 to 1995, a period of time in which major changes were made in the county, said Gwen Kelley, a former commissioner who served with him.

“We built the jail, and he was pretty much responsible for getting the county water system started,” Kelley recalled. “I know we did a lot of expansions then.”

While the county water system is now managed by a separate authority, at the time, the county managed it, she said.

“We also started roadside garbage pickup in the county, and I believe we started CATS while he was there,” she said.


Willing to take a chance

Many things he accomplished, both politically and personally, because he was willing to gamble, Don Bullard recalled.

Bullard said Weed worked for Bone Construction out of Greenville when he moved his family to Andalusia. Later, he went into business for himself.

“The job that really put him on the top was a sewer job that was let in Dothan, Ala., through the middle of the wettest part of the country you could be in,” Bullard said. “ Everybody bid it thinking they were going to have to mat the whole thing.

“Johnny Mac got the job and guess what happened? There was a drought.

“He basically moved a concrete plant down there and poured the pipe for the job on the job,” Bullard said. “It totally cut out the trucking and transportation costs and he finished in half of the time.

“If you ever wondered why that pipe’s in front of his house, that’s it,” he said. “That’s one of the pieces of pipe from that job, and that’s what really took him from being a small-time contactor to being at the top of the utility contractors in the Southeast.”

As a leader, Bullard said, Weed was one of the best things that ever happened to the county.

“He was able to bring it from being broke, and having nothing to work with, to where we were he left.”

Bullard said the county was working with worn out equipment when Weed became chairman. He convinced the commission to have an equipment sale at the county yard and get rid of all of the old, worn-out equipment. Then he worked with Don Kent, at the time a Caterpillar salesman, to buy new equipment.

They put together programs in which the county would use it, and then sell it for what they bought it for, giving us a surplus of money,” he said.


Always, up for a good time

Weed also was known for his love of fun, and for having fun in a big way.

Earl Johnson, who worked was county attorney during Weed’s tenure as chairman, recalled an Iron Bowl that wasn’t much fun for Weed, who was a huge Alabama fan.

“Back in the day, he went to all the games in a big motor home,” he said. “Johnny Mac didn’t do anything half measure. He was always full blast. Attached to t hat motor hom was the biggest BBQ grill you’ve ever seen in your life. It was hooked to it like a trailer.

He had some guys help him, and they’d cook everything you can imagine – butts, shoulders, sausages, hamburgers. It was a big deal.”

On the particular Saturday in question, in the early 1980s, Alabama was playing Auburn at Legion Field, and things weren’t going well for Weed’s team.

“Before the end of the game, it was obvious Auburn was going to win,” Johnson said. “His guys had the grill red hot and the meat cooking, ready for the guests to come after the game.

“But Johnny Mac had had a bate of everything, so he got his crowd up and said ‘by God, we’re leaving.’ ”

By this time the charcoal on the grill was red hot, and the cooks protested, but Weed would have none of it.

“He starts down I-65 with oxygen blowing into the grill on the trailer. It was just like a blow torch and there were red hot flames out the back,” Johnson said. “Somebody finally saw what was going on and got his attention.”

Weed simply unhitched the grill and left it sitting on side of road.

“When Sylvia and I and our crowd started home on Sunday, we passed by that grill sitting there on wheels. It had burned down to nothing.”

Bullard recalled being in Las Vegas with his father, Mack Bullard, and Weed, who were best friends.

“Me and Daddy had gone to the room about 11 or 12 o’clock,” Bullard recalled. “He stayed at the tables all night long. When we got up to go to breakfast, he was still at the table, and he was about $85,000 or $90,000 up.

“He looked at Daddy and said, ‘Mack, you ready to eat eggs,’ because that was their thing. Every morning, they would eat eggs, regardless of where we were at.

“Johnny Mac pushed a whole bunch of chips out there on one roll of the dices and lost everything he’d stayed and won all night,” Bullard said. “It made my daddy so sick, he couldn’t even eat. Johnny Mac just said, ‘Hell, Mack. Easy come, easy go.’ And that was just him.”

Brenda Petty recalled a time when the tables got turned on the fun-loving chairman.

“In his heyday, Johnny Mac drove a black Lincoln Town Car,” she said. “It was top of the line, with all the bells and whistles you could get. He always parked it in front of the courthouse, and made sure one wheel was up on the curb. There was no mistaking it was his car.

“He always left the keys in the ignition, and everyone in and around the courthouse knew it. I constantly urged him to remove the keys and lock it, lest it might get stolen

“Of course, he scoffed at my warnings,” she said. “One day when he was very busy in the office, I went out and drove the Town Car to Regions Bank parking lot.”

When Weed left the office and couldn’t find his car, he immediately went back in the courthouse to question the staff.

“He said he had already walked all around the courthouse and square looking for it, assuming we had moved it,” she said. “I played totally innocent and told him somebody had probably stolen it, since he refused to remove the keys and lock it. He believed my story and called the police.

“Before he ended the call, I ‘fessed up and he was furious at first,” she said. “But then he laughed about it. The moral of the story? I bet his keys were in the ignition of his truck when he went to bed Tuesday night.”

Funeral services are set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Foreman Funeral Home. The family will receive friends beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Foreman’s.