Robert Terry Everett (1937- ) was a Republican representative to Congress from 1993 to 2009 from Alabama's Second District in the southeast corner of the state. He was a noted conservative who focused his legislative and political efforts on Alabama agriculture, local interests, and, as a veteran, the military and national security.
Everett was born in Dothan, Houston County, on February 15, 1937, to Dewey Robert, who worked as a sharecropper and railroad worker, and Thelma Mae (Fowler) Everett. He was the eldest of four children. Largely raised in Dale County, Everett received his early education from the public schools in Midland City, graduated from Dale County High School, and attended Enterprise State Junior College (present-day Enterprise State Community College). He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he learned to speak Russian, and served four years as an intelligence specialist in what was then West Germany from 1955 to 1959. Everett provided financial help for his younger brothers and sister after his mother passed away from brain cancer in 1955, and his father died of a heart attack in 1959.
Following his military service, Everett returned to Dothan, where he worked as a sports and police beat reporter for the Dothan Eagle from 1959 to 1961 and again from 1966 to 1968. He married Barbara Pitts on October 18, 1969. He purchased and operated Everett Newspapers Inc., a chain of newspapers in southeast Alabama, from 1976 to 1988, and remains as president and owner of the Union Springs Herald. He briefly served as chair of the board of the Alabama Press Association and the board of directors of the Dothan Federal Savings Bank. From 1968 to 1988, he prospered as president, owner, and operator of Hickory Ridge Farms, Premium Home Builders, and the Everett Land Development Company in Enterprise.
Following the retirement of Rep. Bill Dickinson in 1992, Everett ran for his congressional seat and defeated State senator Larry Dixon in the Republican primary. Congressional redistricting moved the majority of Montgomery's African American constituents from the Second to the Seventh District, in response to the 1982 amendment to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which provided increased representation for minorities in Congress. As a result, Everett defeated Democratic state treasurer George Wallace Jr. by a two-point margin in the November election to represent Alabama's Second District, which encompasses 16 counties in central Alabama. He was reelected with 73 percent of the vote in 1994, and was not seriously challenged in the subsequent six elections.
While in Congress, Everett served on the Agriculture Committee, Veterans' Affairs Committee, Armed Services Committee, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In 1995, as a member of the Agriculture Committee, he formed the Peanut Caucus and was a strong supporter of peanut producers in his district. In 2002, he chaired the Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture Programs subcommittee, where he again represented the interests of peanut farmers and authored portions of the 2002 Farm Bill in support of the peanut industry. He also secured $3.5 billion for a program that allowed the government to purchase peanuts after the existing 30-percent peanut subsidy lost congressional support. He secured $202,000 in 2003 for a multi-purpose arena at the National Peanut Festival Fairgrounds. In 2008 and 2009, he supported the tri-state joint peanut research operated by the Food and Drug Administration.
On the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Everett was devoted to the financial support of Alabama's military bases, including the Army Aviation and Technical Center at Fort Rucker near Ozark and a new medical facility at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery. He obtained $250 million for construction projects at Fort Rucker, including the Soldier Service Center, barracks, post headquarters, family housing renovations, and the Warrior Hall Flight Simulator Facility. While in the Veterans' Affairs Committee, he helped secure a $1.7 billion increase for veterans' health care spending and the opening of four new national cemeteries and supported increased benefits for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Everett gained national notoriety for being unable to tell a reporter the difference between a Sunni and Shiite, the different sects of Islam in conflict in Iraq.
Everett served as the first chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. Following the events of September 11, 2001, he strongly supported the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program and voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act and the continued occupation of Iraq in 2005 and 2006. In February 2007, he co-sponsored a House bill with Rep. Ron Paul of Texas to end U.S. membership in the United Nations that died in Congress. He backed numerous Department of Defense weapons programs.
Everett was lauded for his service to his constituents. He secured more than $40 million for the Dothan I-10 Connector Project, and in 2001 he obtained $2.5 million to modernize the Dothan Regional Airport runway, taxiway, and terminal. He supported "Free Trade Zone" designations to reduce import-export costs for the Dothan industrial areas, where a large Sony plant is located. He also persuaded Congress to invest $19.2 million to rebuild the Elba and Geneva levees along the Pea and Choctawhatchee Rivers. He was honored with numerous awards for his support for Alabama agriculture and Army aviation and for his business efforts.
While in Congress, Everett consistently supported socially conservative positions. He announced his retirement in 2008 for health reasons related to nerve damage in his right foot that resulted from shingles, and was succeeded by Democrat Bobby Bright. He returned to his 400-acre farm in Rehobeth, Houston County. Everett became a member of the Board of Advisors for the Close Up Foundation and an honorary member of the Board of Advisors for the National Student Leadership Conference. In 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appointed Everett to the State Department's International Security Advisory Board, which advises the agency on various aspects of national security.
Koszczuk, Jackie and Martha Angle. Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America 2008, the 110th Congress. Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2007.
Brett J. Derbes
Published September 25, 2012
Last updated October 25, 2012