George Thomas Wilson, a retired magazine-marketing and P.R. professional now living in New York City, has never forgotten his first criminal-law class, at the University of Alabama School of Law, in 1974.
.. “Finally, at the end of the hour, McGee said to him, ‘Mr. Moore, I have been teaching in this school for thirty years, and in all of that time you’re the most mixed-up person I’ve ever taught. I’m going to call you Fruit Salad.”
.. Moore’s opponent in the race is Doug Jones, a Democrat and former U.S. Attorney best known for prosecuting two of the Ku Klux Klan members behind the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four African-American girls.)
.. He called him “your average law student passing through.” Others offered harsher assessments.
.. “Roy always sat in front of us, and he would turn around and flirt. He’s the one thing that brought humor to us, because he was, well, kind of a doofus,” she said. “He’d yak at us. We were both single, rolling our eyes.” She added, “And then Roy would ask all of these questions to put himself in the middle of debating with an intelligent professor, and he was always cut to shreds.”
.. “He’d go to class, but he was argumentative, very stubborn, and not very thoughtful in his analysis of the cases. He was not a very attentive student. For the most part, students didn’t respect him much.” She added, “Of all my classmates, he was the least likely I’d think would become a U.S. senator.”
.. Moore had recently returned from Vietnam, where he’d been a military-police officer. Some who served under Moore there had referred to him, with sarcasm, as “Captain America,” chafing at his egoist style of command. One such officer, Barrey Hall, told the Associated Press, in 2003, that Moore’s “policies damn near got him killed in Vietnam. He was a strutter.”
.. Veterans told him that Moore demanded that he be saluted on the ground in Vietnam, Martin said, which everyone knew was a foolish thing to do. “When you go to Vietnam as an officer, you don’t ask anybody to salute you, because the Viet Cong would shoot officers,” he explained. “You’ve heard this a million times in training.” If Moore indeed violated this rule, Martin went on, “There’s nothing more telling about a person’s capability and character and base intelligence. It’s crazy.”
.. Martin, a self-described moderate, wrote an editorial in a local paper warning voters about his former student. In it, he describes Moore as a pupil so immune to logic and reason that he forced his exasperated teacher to “abandon the Socratic method of class participation in favor of the lecture mode.”
.. “He was very, very opinionated. To the point of just being ridiculous,” Melton said. “He had ultraconservative values and opinions. I’m not saying he wasn’t liked, he was just different.” Wilson said, “He was Looney Tunes from the beginning. But I never really thought he was malicious. Some of the verbiage that’s come out of him more recently, it’s a much harsher, meaner man than I remember.”
.. Most of Moore’s classmates didn’t recall Christianity being a noticeable part of his public persona. “I had no sense that Roy was a really religious person
.. “I can’t get into his mind, or his heart, but I think it’s all political. He’s demagoguing on those issues.”
.. I don’t think this Doug Jones has a snowball’s chance in Hell,” he added. “He’s a Democrat and they gonna . . . ” Melton trailed off. “Hell, Moore will get sixty-five per cent of the vote.
.. Southern Baptists control the damn state. And they’ll vote for Roy. It’ll be a landslide.”
At the time, country music was still reckoning with its bro tendencies. For most of the 2010s, 20-something men in weathered baseball caps injected the genre with an almost comical masculinity — brawny, hip-hop-inflected sounds, lyrics that treated women as objects of lurid attention. Stars like Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line were making intriguing musical hybrids with often woeful gender politics.
.. Mr. Rhett sings gently, with the faintest hint of soul-music syrup in his barely-accented voice. “Die a Happy Man” was so straightforward it landed with a shock. It became Mr. Rhett’s breakthrough hit, topping the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart for 17 weeks.
As often happens, it also became a template: the country gentleman. And so Nashville’s bro tide is now receding, supplanted by a kindlier new generation of male country singers. They focus on uncomplicated, deeply dedicated love or, alternately, being hopeless on the receiving end of heartbreak.
.. They sing with voices light on drawl. They ooze respect, charm and, occasionally, dullness. At times they recall George Strait, the restrained cowboy superstar; at others, Earl Thomas Conley, the emotional ballad specialist of the 1980s.
.. More often than not, they have sturdy, approachable, single-syllable last names: Thomas Rhett, Brett Young, Chris Lane, Michael Ray.
.. They are the men next door, promising undying affection and emotional stability — a cliché, perhaps, but one more appealing than the last.
.. This surge also doubles as a response to the gender crisis that has been gripping country music the last few years, as captured in two parallel phenomena: the rise of the bro, and the disappearance of the female star.
.. For most of this decade, the genre’s male stars have been strutters: egocentric, bumblingly flirtatious, a little dunce-y.
At the same time, female singers have been getting squeezed ever more tightly
.. younger artists like Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini found success by positioning themselves in opposition to prevailing masculine narratives.
.. It dilutes the toxic levels of masculinity in the genre without offering women songs of their own to sing, instead plying them with ones that place them on a pedestal.
.. This is the emo side of the gentleman, looking inward for shortcomings, not outward.
In the bro era, women were objects to be chased. In these songs, they’re porcelain, gleaming and precious.