Father Vernon Huguley acknowledged that many people couldn’t stand Larry Langford.
“But that’s alright too,” Langford’s former pastor said during his funeral mass Monday, “because if you can’t say ‘Amen,’ you need to say, ‘Ouch!’”
A few hundred people filled the sanctuary of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fairfield and spilled into the neighboring parish hall as Birmingham, Fairfield and Jefferson County said a final farewell to a man who lived life large.
“He was a good man with a good heart with the love of God in him,” Huguley said. “He wanted that love to be expressed and realized in the people who God placed in his circle.”
Langford spent much of his adult life in the public spotlight. He served as Fairfield’s mayor for 15 years before being elected to the Jefferson County Commission and then as Birmingham’s mayor, a term he could not complete because of his conviction in 2009 on charges of corruption and bribery for actions that occurred during his time as county commission president. He gained compassionate release just more than two weeks ago because of his health problems and died last Tuesday at the age of 72.
The Rev. O.C. Oden Jr. said during his eulogy that Langford was a gentleman who loved the word of the Lord. And he wasn’t shy about it.
“I had Bible study going on and invited him to come,” Oden recalled. “He came and took it over. Everywhere he would go, he’d tell folks about his Bible study. They’d come to me and say, ‘I thought this was your Bible study?’ I said, ‘Let him have it.’”
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell said Langford was always larger than life. He lived big, she said, and he dreamed big.
“You could never say he suffered from paralysis of analysis,” she said. “He had big ideas that many of us enjoy and some take credit for.”
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin echoed a sentiment expressed by Fairfield Mayor Ed May at Sunday’s visitation at Bill Harris Arena. Like May, an 11-year-old Woodfin was in the audience when Langford spoke to him and his classmates at Birmingham’s Putnam Middle School.
“Walking out of that gymnasium, I thought I could be mayor as well,” Woodfin said.
The current mayor of Birmingham said Langford’s love of people trumped his love for politics.
“The mayor drove around in his car with blankets,” Woodfin said. “If he saw a homeless person, he stopped and gave it to him. That’s character.”
Birmingham City Councilman Stephen Hoyt focused on a repeated theme when he spoke, citing Langford’s visionary nature.
“Vision is a function of the heart,” he said. “Mayor Langford had vision, not because he looked but because he could see.”
LeNa’ Ferguson Powe McDonald was Langford’s niece, but she said she considered him her “dad.” She was annoyed by someone’s description that her uncle’s legacy was “complicated.”
“It was not complicated,” McDonald said. “He told you what he was going to do and he did it.”
Oden used alliteration in his eulogy, saying Langford was a visionary who was also vocal, victorious and vibrant.
“He was always energetic,” Oden said. “I don’t know how he went like he did. I said to him, ‘That’s all the sugar you got in you’ because he loved sweets.”
He also called Langford a victim.
“He was a victim of inhumane treatment,” the minister said. “He was a victim of injustice. He was a victim when he should have been at home. But thanks be to God, he’s been released.”
Citing 2 Corinthians 5:20, Oden said Langford’s “present house” had become dilapidated.
“That present house sprung some leaks,” the eulogist said. “That present house of Larry … things happened to it that were beyond repair. Larry’s house got to where he had to move. He got an eviction notice on January 8th.
“Oh but thank God, if you’ve got to move, you ought to have somewhere to move to,” Oden said. “Larry had somewhere to go.”