Loxley Mayor Billy Middleton, who was first elected in 1988 and was serving his seventh term in office, passed away Friday after a year-long battle with cancer, according to Pastor Brian Wade of Loxley Church of God. He was 78.
“Bill has attended our church since he was just a little boy — over 70 years — and has been involved in a lot of different areas in the church and the community through the years,” Wade said. “He started the Loxley Optimist Club 39 years ago and was recently the first person inducted into the Club’s Legacy Society. He has done a lot with veterans’ affairs — hosting dinners as well as spearheading the Veterans’ Memorial at Municipal Park. He coached baseball and softball; he did anything to help people.”
A Loxley native, Middleton lived in the central Baldwin County community his entire life except for a period during his service in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1960-1963. After selling his family’s successful agricultural shipping company in the mid-’90s, he worked at Loxley Warehouses, LLC, coordinating logistics for cotton growers.
Middleton is survived by his wife Lilly, sons Jeffrey, Brian and Gavin and several grandchildren.
On Tuesday, Jeffrey Middleton recalled how his father ran against his own uncle in the 1988 mayoral race.
“My dad told him he’d like to run if he wasn’t going to seek another term, but somehow they both ended up on the ballot and dad won and was mayor ever since,” Middleton said. “He was born, lived and worked on the same street for more than 50 years. There were three things in life he loved as much as Loxley … Alabama football, Elvis Presley and the Marine Corps. And he loved his grandkids.”
Jeffrey Middleton said his father was relatively healthy until he was diagnosed with cancer last year. He had a tumor removed last July “but the cancer returned and it progressed quicker than any one of us expected.”
According to the town’s website, under Middleton’s leadership, “and with the cooperation of the Loxley Town Council, Loxley has been able to secure three Safe Route to School sidewalk projects; install two water supply wells and a water treatment plant; construct a new wastewater treatment facility; build a new public works building; secure grants for sewer and drainage projects; start Loxley’s first Police Dispatch Department and build a police station.”
As recently as last week, the town secured $9.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture grants and loans for additional improvements to its wastewater treatment system.
“During [Middleton’s] tenure, land was acquired and through donations and efforts by the Town Council and the citizens. Loxley now has a beautiful Municipal Park which includes a civic center, kid’s playground, walking trail and three ball parks that serve not only the young people and seniors citizens of Loxley, but many other communities and schools in Baldwin County.”
Loxley Councilman Lee Wilson called Middleton “one of the greatest men I ever knew … he was a wonderful mentor and ambassador for not just the town but this entire area. He was a wonderful man.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Richard Teal, who served alongside Middleton on the council for 30 years, admitted his death was “very emotional for me.”
“I’ve been around Mayor Middleton since I’ve been in diapers — he coached me in little league, baseball, we’ve gone to church together all my life,” Teal said. “It’s a great loss to me and a great loss to our community. We consider ourselves as a family in Loxley and we’ve never looked at it like politics, we look at it like what’s best for our town. His leadership has been second to none. We will carry on as if Mayor Middleton is still here — we’ll all stick together and make sure town is what’s most important and that’s what he’d want us to do.”
A similar situation occurred in 2013 in the city of Daphne, where then-Mayor Bailey Yelding succumbed to cancer while holding the office. Following an opinion of the attorney general, three Daphne city councilmen were nominated to fill the role. Ultimately, Dane Haygood received a majority of votes on the council and he was subsequently elected to a full term by voters.
City attorney Shawn Alves said according to state statute, the council will have the ability to appoint anybody who is qualified elector in the municipality to serve remaining term. They can choose someone from within the council or outside.
The Loxley Town Council is scheduled to meet in a work session May 27 at 6 p.m. and a regular meeting June 10 at 6 p.m.
“He was one of the best,” Alves recalled. “One of the few guys I’ve ever dealt with that never asked me to do anything for him personally or politically — everything was done for the benefit of Loxley.”
Visitation will be at Loxley Church of God Thursday, May 23 from 6-8 p.m. The funeral service will be at Loxley Church of God Friday, May 24 at 10 a.m., followed by burial at Greenwood Cemetery. The public is welcome.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be sent to the Billy Middleton Scholarship Fund, care of The Rewards Foundation, P.O. Box 56, Loxley, Alabama, 36551.
“He loved his family dearly and was very faithful,” Wade said. “It’s been said that if you’re in Loxley, you’re either talking to a Middleton or about a Middleton. He was the most well known person I’ve ever had the privilege of pastoring and he was always very humble about it … he was very kind and gentle.”
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