Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief
Alabama State Representative and JSU alumnus Jim Patterson, R-Meridianville, died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday, October 2. Patterson has represented Alabama District 21 since 2010. He was 67 when he died.
Before being elected as a state representative, Patterson served on the Madison County School Board from 1988 to 2000. He brought this passion for helping children with him to the House where he passed a bill in May 2017 that required insurance companies to pay for therapy for autistic children 18 or younger. Prior to this bill, Alabama was one of the few states that didn’t require insurance companies to cover autism therapy.
“When so many of us had doubts and worries, he never once wavered,” Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, told the Montgomery Advertiser of Patterson’s determination to pass the bill. “He brought a sunny optimism to passing that bill. When he faced a lot of tough opponents, he didn’t back down. He is the reason that bill passed into law.”
Members of the Alabama government mourned Patterson’s loss and reminisced on the impact he had on the state.
“Representative Patterson had a huge heart and exemplified the role of a citizen-legislator,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement on Monday. “Jim was a voice for the children and the needy in our society, and that voice will be sorely missed.”
Patterson graduated from JSU in 1972 with a degree in business. He was actively involved in the SGA, Delta Chi fraternity and the ROTC program during his years at JSU, and he went on to serve in the U.S. military, first in the Army from 1972 until 1976 and then in the Army Reserves as a company commander of D-926th Engineer Battalion from 1976 until 1982.
“In the public, he was an ambassador for JSU,” said Rep. Koven Brown, R-Jacksonville. Recalling Patterson’s love for his alma mater, Brown added, “He was constantly recruiting athletes for JSU. I saw him approach an athlete that was visiting AUM [Auburn University at Montgomery] at a hotel. Jim tried to recruit him to JSU.”
“All of us in the Alabama State House will miss ‘Big Jim’ and his equally big personality,” Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon said in a statement.