Fuller Kimbrell was born, one of 10 boys in 1909 to a poor farm family in Berry, Alabama. He graduated from Berry High School, where he was quarterback and captain of the football team. His aspirations started at an early age.
He farmed and drove a truck for the county in his early days, but the jobs disappeared in 1930, so he took all the money he had and bought a ticket to Chicago. He boarded the train at the Berry Depot and arrived in Chicago “scared to death”. It didn’t take long for him to learn Chicago was not the place for him, and decide to return home.
He told the depot agent his plight, that he didn’t have enough money to get back home and took the agent’s advice when he said go to LaPorte, Indiana, “the finest city in the middle west”.
Fuller took his advice and went to LaPorte, Indiana where he soon found a job. The president of LaPorte Business College heard of the smart young man from Alabama and asked him to enter.
He soon began attending the college, and finished the 12 month course in just seven and a half months, but could not receive his diploma until the rest of his tuition was paid. He worked out an easy payment play and paid it off.
He returned to Berry and the family farm. During the depression in 1936, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s term as President, he migrated to Fayette, the county seat and the largest city in Fayette County.
It was Roosevelt and his programs, helping people, that got Fuller interested in politics. It was during this time that FDR’s Social Security plan passed Congress without a single Republican vote.
From 1936 to 1958, he worked for John Deere Plow Company in Fayette. With his help the dealership grew from one of the smallest to one of the largest in the South. It was said he took the man from behind the plow.
Eventually Fuller decided to run for the state Senate after several prominent business men went to him and insisted he run for office. The 12th district at that time was comprised of Fayette, Lamar and Walker counties. He had one opponent, but was elected in 1946. He then traveled to Montgomery for one of the first times in his life and entered politics.
In 1947, Governor Folsom appointed him to the State Board of Agriculture and Industry. They built the cow coliseum in Montgomery, one of the most outstanding buildings in Alabama for the promotion of livestock shows, auctions and state fairs.
Governor Folsom was elected to run for a second term in 1954, and asked Fuller to be his north Alabama campaign manager. Judge George Wallace had been asked to be the south Alabama manager.
Folsom won over six strong candidates in the first primary, and appointed Fuller Director of Finance.
Fuller urged Folsom to create the Alabama Department of Industrial Development in his platform plans. Fuller drew up the bill, and was passed as written.
His first year as Finance Director he recommended to the legislature a bill setting up a bond issue to build a state office building in Montgomery.
It was approved and built, and became known as The State Administration Building. It was later renamed the Governor Folsom Building.
While he was Director of Finance, he gave the state employees a 12 1/2 percent raise in salary. That was the largest, one time raise the state employees had ever received. He also got a bill passed increasing the Old Age Pension by 25 percent.
During the time he served as Senator and State Finance Director he improved the roads and bridges in Fayette, Lamar and Walker counties.
The following highways; 13, 69,107, 129, and159 were paved and made state highways. An Act by the Senate of the Legislature of Alabama honored him by naming State Highway 171 the Fuller Kimbrell Highway.
He was elected as a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee in 1951 and served 35 years, leaving to move from Fayette to Tuscaloosa.
Governor “Little Jim” Folsom also appointed him to serve on the Agriculture Board when became governor, and served two years during his administration.
During Governor Wallace’s first term, Fuller, along with other prominent legislators was instrumental in setting up the Alabama System of Junior Colleges and Trade Schools.
From 1958 until his retirement in 1984, he was owner and president of Fayco, Inc., in Fayette. The company began with less than 20 employees, but increased to more than 185 employees, becoming one of Fayette’s largest companies.
They manufactured and sold metal culverts and concrete pipe used in road construction. Ready mix concrete, concrete blocks and asphalt paving materials were also sold by the company.
Fuller was an active member in many organizations – Alabama Farm Equipment Association, Alabama Road Builders Association, Fayette Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club and the Exchange Club in both Fayette and Tuscaloosa to name a few.
Mr. Kimbrell served the people of West Alabama for over fifty years. He gave freely of his time, to so many projects, both big and small, to so many groups and for so many purposes, often at personal expense.
It can truthfully be said he has played a significant role in a half-century of progress, and growth, not only in West Alabama, but throughout the State of Alabama.