Madison County Commission and Coroner-elect

Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison beclowned himself this morning at the Madison County Commission meeting, saying that “there are funeral homes that won’t handle African American bodies”.  I couldn’t believe that statement to be true, so I called all ten funeral homes in Madison County to be sure (it’s not true).  The representative at Nelms Memorial Funeral Home summed it up best: “I know that all of the funeral homes in the county handle everyone”.   It won’t surprise anyone to know that Bob Harrison misspoke while insulting funeral home operators in Madison County.


I attended the Madison County Commission meeting this morning since Coroner-elect Craig Whisenant was on the agenda.  After County Attorney Julian Butler reviewed the applicable laws for Coroner (legislative action is necessary for more than a vehicle and the existing salary / expenses),  Whisenant said he is “absolutely, positively ready to take office, there will be no disruption in service”.  Whisenant also said that he is “trying to make the Coroner’s office a legitimate office”.

Whisenant has a copy of his Report to the Madison County Commission presented December 6, 2010 available on PDF:

While it is evident that the Madison County Coroner’s Office is severely underfunded based on the operating expenses of neighboring counties, I cannot accurately determine budgetary needs until I receive the outgoing coroner’s books and have the results of an audit.  The outgoing coroner is on record stating that he does not know how much it costs to operate the Maadison County Coroner’s Office. 

Whisenant said that he will attend the continuing education course (as required by law); he plans to develop a mutual aid agreement with neighboring counties in case of a mass casualty disaster; and he will implement the State Department of Public Health information / automation system.

Whisenant asked for a vehicle to transport human remains and asked for “prior approval” of three Deputy Coroners.


Former Madison County Coroner and Spry Funeral Home owner Sam Spry rose to support Whisenant, as did John Purdy of Laughlin Service Funeral Home.  Spry began with remembrances of how ambulance services used to be run out of funeral homes and then noted to the Commission that he “never asked for anything except space to bury indigents”.

Spry said “when Berryhill says he takes money out of his pocket [to fund the Coroner's office], he is well compensated”.  Spry said “I know that there are families he [Berryhill] has solicited” and “don’t think for a minute that his presence doesn’t have an influence on people [making funeral decisions]“.

Spry said “Whisenant is trying to do this ethically… There is an advantage to this office for those who run funeral homes… For twenty years Berryhill hasn’t transported a body to Spry”.

County Attorney Butler asked Spry to stop discussing Berryhill, under the rationale that Berryhill wasn’t there to respond.


The Huntsville Times reported on the first couple of minutes of the Coroner’s office discussion in their article “Coroner must go to Legislature, not Madison County Commission for more money”.  I’m certain that they’ll report about Harrison’s race-baiting and Spry’s comments later…

Madison County Commission Meeting 17 July 2009

The Madison County Commission meets Friday at 10 a.m. in the Commission Board Room on the 7th floor of the Madison County Courthouse in downtown Huntsville (100 Northside Square).  If you’re interested in road projects, new subdivisions, buying computers for County Departments or milk for the Sheriff’s Office – this is the place to be…

The agendas from the Commission meetings so far this year are here.

Friday will be a busy political day – the ’Instant’ Tea Party starts at Noon across from the Post Office downtown on Clinton Avenue.