The Alabama Democratic Conference (the Black Political Caucus of Alabama) was founded in 1960 by a small group of black citizens who banded together that year in an effort to influence black voters to support the Democratic presidential ticket of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Among the founders were: Arthur Shores, a highly respected civil rights lawyer in Birmingham; Rufus Lewis, a successful Montgomery businessman and former coach at Alabama State University; Dr. C. G. Gomillion, a college professor and activist at Tuskegee Institute; Q. D. Adams a gifted salesman and civic promoter from Gadsden; Isom Clemon, a powerful labor leader among Mobile County longshoresmen; and Beulah Johnson, a feisty Tuskegee educator.
From its beginnings ADC has grown to become the state’s largest and most effective grassroots political organization. Today ADC’s influence extends into most of the counties in the state, through affiliated and associated county units or precincts.
Since 1960 ADC’s basis mission has been to organize and unify the black vote and to have it respected by candidates and elected officials alike. Initially the organization moved its mission through a network of committed volunteers who traveled across the state establishing local chapters, holding district meetings, and educating voters. It took at least one decade for ADC to consolidate the black vote, build credibility, and create political clout in the state.
A turning point in the political development of ADC came in 1970 when the organization began to formally screen and endorse candidates for public office. ADC adopted a rule that year requiring Democratic candidates to come before an ADC screening committee in person before they could be endorsed. Since then thousands of candidates have been screened and endorsed by ADC and slated on the well-known ADC yellow ballot.
Throughout its history ADC has focused on doing a few things as well, such as conducting regular voter registration drives; maintaining knowledgeable political units in counties and congressional districts; getting more blacks and white candidates of goodwill elected to public office; monitoring the voting, employment, and appointments records of elected officials; and securing legislation or litigation that has created more opportunities for blacks to participate and achieve fair and equitable representation at all levels of government. As a result of ADC’s effective political presence, Alabama now has more black elected officials percentagewise than any other state in the nation.