Alabama governor takes oath

Asking the packed Dexter Avenue crowd for patience and prayers, Ashland businessman Bob Riley took his place as Alabama’s 57th governor.

During his inauguration address, Riley sought the remedy to the state’s educational and budget woes in the &uot;spirit of Alabama,&uot; – urging lawmakers and voters to put aside party politics and work together.

&uot;I believe with all my heart that there is no challenge too great for us to overcome, but only if the people of Alabama put aside politics, race, religion or any barrier that stands between us and our goals,&uot; Riley said. &uot;Let us make a clear and decisive break from the past, once and for all, putting aside our differences and coming together as Alabamians united for a common cause.&uot;

During his address, the 58-year-old former congressman chose to focus on what he considered to be the more positive aspects and accomplishments of the state, keeping away from the negativity that consumed Riley’s race against incumbent Don Siegelman.

&uot;Our education system is not the world-class system our children deserve,&uot; he said. &uot;Our economy is showing signs of weakness and a lot of people are disillusioned and are wondering if they could lose their job. We are facing a financial crisis in state government the magnitude of which we have not witnessed since the Great Depression and our tax system continues to unfairly prey on the poorest among us.&uot;

But, Riley said, he sees great things for Alabama’s future.

&uot;No challenge is too

great to overcome,&uot; he said.

Riley said change would not come easy for the state, which had deteriorated from years of insufficient leadership.

&uot;I need your patience for we have a long and tough road ahead,&uot; Riley said. &uot;Our problems did not grow overnight, but have grown through seasons of neglect. They will not be solved by temporary fixes or patchwork solutions, but through fundamental change and reform.&uot;

Sworn in by Chief Justice Roy Moore, the event drew a large crowd that flooded the Dexter Avenue location.

Joining him were his wife, Patsy Riley; their three children; and three grandchildren. The new first lady carried a pink rose in honor of their third daughter, Janice, who died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 33.

Also sworn in during the ceremony were Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, Attorney Gen. Bill Pryor, State Auditor Beth Chapman, State Treasurer Kay Ivey, Secretary of State Nancy Worley, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industry Ron Sparks, Public Service Commissioners George C. Wallace Jr. and Jan Cook and members of the state Board of Education.

Riley spoke to large crowd gathered in front of the Capitol, touting his plan for a &uot;new day in Alabama.&uot;

&uot;We must summon the courage and character necessary to confront the tough issues we face once and for all. We have passed on long-standing problems to the next generation for the last time,&uot; he said.

Speaking of the Spirit of Alabama during the ceremony were Johnnie Carr, Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and members of the vocal group Alabama.

Carr, a colleague of Rosa Parks, serves as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, having taken over the presidency some time ago from Martin Luther King Jr.

She gave a tribute to King on the celebratory day of his birth.

&uot;I charge each of us to rededicate our lives to the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to recognize that … every man and woman regardless of race, creed or color should be given the same opportunities under the Constitution &045; to live as citizens and have of these rights and privileges,&uot; she said.

Three-star Gen. Moore of Auburn spoke, representing Alabama’s current military as well as its veterans.

Gen. Moore served as a member of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, which fought in one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War.

The vocal group Alabama, represented by Randy Owen, Jeff Cook and Mark Herndon, wished Riley well and stirred the crowd with the chorus of &uot;My Home’s in Alabama.&uot;

Also participating in the ceremony were the Vigor High School Choir, the Army Band and the Brunson Brothers.

Mike Spann of Winfield led the Pledge of Allegiance. Spann is the father of Johnny Mike Spann, the CIA agent was the first American to be killed overseas in the fight against terrorism.

Beth Anderson of the Alexander City Outlook contributed to this report