1978 United States Senate election in Alabama

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
United States Senate election in Alabama, 1978

← 1972 November 7, 1978 1984 →
  Heflin.jpg 3x4.svg
Nominee Howell Heflin Jerome B. Couch
Party Democratic Prohibition
Popular vote 547,054 34,951
Percentage 94.00% 6.01%

U.S. Senator before election

John Sparkman

Elected U.S. Senator

Howell Heflin

The 1978 United States Senate election in Alabama was held on November 7, 1978. Incumbent Democratic Senator John Sparkman retired from the United States Senate and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Howell Heflin was elected to succeed him.

Heflin won the Democratic primary against Rep. Walter Flowers and faced only nominal opposition from Prohibition Party nominee Jerome Couch in the general election.

Democratic primary[edit]


  • John Baker, Alabama State Senator from the 8th district
  • Walter Flowers, United States Representative from the 7th district of Alabama
  • Howell Heflin, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court
  • Mac Newton
  • Margaret Stewart, perennial candidate
  • Gordon Tucker
  • Glenn Hewitt


Prior to 1978, Alabama had never popularly elected any Senator from a party other than the Democratic Party, and Democratic candidates typically faced nominal opposition in the general election. Therefore, victory in the Democratic primary was considered tantamount to election.

Incumbent Democrat John Sparkman declined to seek a seventh consecutive term in office. Senator Sparkman retired as the longest-serving Senator in Alabama history.

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Howell Heflin and Congressman Walter Flowers of Tuscaloosa were the leading candidates. Heflin came from a noted Alabama political family which included former Senator James Thomas Heflin, a famous advocate of white supremacy. Flowers was a strong ally of Governor George Wallace, a critic of President Carter,[1] and had cast a crucial vote to impeach Richard Nixon, despite Nixon's strong support in the state.[2][3]

During the campaign, Heflin attempted to tie himself to the late Senator James Allen. He was rebuffed by Allen's widow, Maryon, who succeeded her husband as Senator and supported Flowers. Maryon noted that Heflin worked for her husband's primary opponent during the 1974 campaign.[4]


Heflin and Flowers both proceeded to a run-off election, where Heflin won by over 250,000 votes.

Primary election results[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Howell Heflin 369,270 48.37%
Democratic Walter Flowers 236,894 31.03%
Democratic John Baker 101,110 13.24%
Democratic Mac Newton 18,709 2.45%
Democratic Margaret E. Stewart 17,562 2.35%
Democratic Gordon Tucker 10,206 2.35%
Democratic Glenn Hewett 9,702 1.27%
Primary runoff election results[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Howell Heflin 556,685 64.93%
Democratic Walter Flowers 300,654 35.07%

Republican primary[edit]



After James Martin withdrew from the race to run in the concurrent special election to fill the late Senator Allen's seat, the Republican Party was left without a candidate for this election.

General election[edit]


United States Senate election in Alabama, 1978[7]
Democratic Howell Heflin 547,054 96.00% +31.72
Prohibition Jerome B. Couch 34,951 6.01%
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic hold Swing +31.72

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martin Tolchin (24 July 1977). "AN OLD POL TAKES ON THE NEW PRESIDENT". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 Nov 2018.
  2. ^ "The Fatal Vote to Impeach". Time.com. 5 August 1974. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
  3. ^ Martin Weil (13 April 1984). "Ex-Rep. Walter Flowers of Impeachment Panel Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  4. ^ Sally Quinn (30 July 1978). "Maryon Allen - The Southerngirl in the Senate". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ "AL US Senate – D Primary, 1978". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  6. ^ "AL US Senate – D Primary Runoff, 1978". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  7. ^ "AL US Senate, 1978". OurCampaigns.com. Retrieved 10 October 2018.