Family, friends reflect on Elliott’s legacy
by Jennifer Cohron
Dec 29, 2013 | 1094 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bevill State Community College acquired Carl Elliott’s longtime residence on Birmingham Avenue in Jasper following his death in 1999. It is now the site of the Carl Elliott House Museum. The house was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2008. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
Bevill State Community College acquired Carl Elliott’s longtime residence on Birmingham Avenue in Jasper following his death in 1999. It is now the site of the Carl Elliott House Museum. The house was placed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 2008. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
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It has been 50 years since Carl Elliott was a member of Congress and nearly 15 years since his death. Yet traces of his legacy can be found throughout the old 7th District.

In Haleyville, a public housing project that he supported still bears his name.

In Tuscaloosa, a group of students at the University of Alabama are developing a website that will introduce their peers to Elliott’s story and encourage them to engage in the important issues of the day.

In his hometown of Jasper, the regional library system named in his honor purchased its first e-books several years ago with a grant made possible by an updated version of the Library Services Act authored by Elliott in 1956.

Bevill State Community College presents the Carl A. Elliott, Sr. Student Award annually to a student who excels academically and shows a concern for the welfare of others.

The college also runs the Carl Elliott House Museum, located in his longtime residence on Birmingham Avenue.

Students, senior citizens and all ages in between have visited since the house museum opened in 2001.

While there is a traditional exhibition space, most of the house seems frozen in time. Each room reflects a period of Elliott’s life and looks much as it did at his passing in 1999.

“You are standing in someone’s room exactly as they last saw it, which can have a phenomenal impact on understanding a person. What better way to know how someone thought than to be in the same environment they were in?” said BSCC librarian and museum coordinator Rebecca Whitten.

Elliott’s presence is also felt locally in more subtle ways.

His nephew, Hoyt Elliott, is now a circuit judge in Walker County.

Judge Elliott was a child when his uncle was in Congress. When he ran for public office himself several years ago, he learned that many residents were happy to be voting for an Elliott again.

Elliott is frequently approached by people who want to tell him about how the elder Elliott influenced them and their family.

Elliott remembers the former Congressman as an ideal public servant, a man of wisdom and intellect who served his constituents unselfishly.

“As an indication of how he wasn’t concerned with the trappings of his office, all of his memorabilia was stuck up in the attic in boxes. You didn’t see any of that when you went to his house because that wasn’t what was important to him,” he said.

Haleyville attorney Jerry Jackson said Elliott’s life was a testament to a line from a famous Rudyard Kipling poem: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...you’ll be a man, my son.”

“Whether you had two nickels to rub together or had a million dollars and whether he had two nickels or a million dollars, Carl Elliott was the same person to you. That, to me, says about as much as you can say about someone,” Jackson said.

A century after his birth, Elliott lives on through his legislation and in the memories of an every-shrinking group of individuals who knew him.

However, there is also a growing fear that the contributions of the man affectionately known as “the hill country Congressman” will be forgotten by future generations.

“I don’t think people who have moved in here and younger people have any knowledge of what he was. He was a giant and accomplished so much for the people. It’s monumental what he did just to have been a little farm boy,” said friend Jean Williams.