The cooperative family was saddened to learn that Tom Drake, who served as the attorney for Cullman EC for more than 30 years and had an illustrious career in both sports and law, died recently. He was 86.
When Drake began practicing law in 1963, his first client was Cullman EC. In 1999, Drake was quoted in Cullman EC’s edition of Alabama Living as saying: “We’ve made some compromises, but Cullman Electric Cooperative never actually lost a case in my 36 years.” The co-op produced a special insert section to honor Drake’s retirement that year.
“Tom made a real difference in everything he participated in,” says Cullman EC president and CEO Grady Smith. “Our electric cooperative, our county, our state, and our country owe Tom Drake a large debt of gratitude.”
Drake also served in the Alabama House of Representatives for 32 years, and sat in virtually every position of power, including two terms as Speaker. During his time as Speaker, the House passed territorial legislation that set limits on the service areas of electric utilities. Prior to the bill’s passage, Alabama had no plan for dealing with territorial disputes.
The state’s electric cooperatives joined forces with Alabama Power Co. to encourage lawmakers to find a solution. Drake was pleased to see the state Supreme Court upheld the bill after it was challenged.
Drake was a champion for the rural electric co-ops, and AREA honored him with the Bill Nichols Award for Rural Electrification in 1999.
Drake also has a place in sports history. After he discovered his talent for wrestling while in college, he worked his way toward the top of the amateur ranks and became known as the “Cullman Comet.” He wrestled professionally for some 20 years, touring all over the U.S.
But Drake was also called into law practice, as were many in his family. His friend George Wallace – whom Drake met when he was wrestling in Grand Bay in the late 1950s – encouraged Drake to attend law school at Alabama. Wallace wrote a letter to his friend, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who had just become the Tide’s head football coach, encouraging him to add Drake to his coaching staff. Drake became Bryant’s first wrestling coach at the University of Alabama, and was also placed in charge of the football team’s freshmen line.
“Tom was one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever met,” Smith says. “Throughout his life he was involved in so many different things. He had a positive impact on everything he touched. And he enjoyed sharing stories of his experiences.”
In Drake’s obituary, Cullman Today referred to him as “one of Cullman County’s most colorful, influential and legendary public figures.”
Smith would agree with that. “I’m confident that when Tom arrived at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter looked at Tom’s pages in the big book where all of the things Tom had accomplished during his life were recorded. St. Peter probably paused, looked up at Tom and asked, ‘You did all of this to improve the lives of others?’ Then St. Peter went on to say, ‘Welcome home, my good and faithful servant.’”