Alabama politics reporter Phillip Rawls retiring from Associated Press after 40-year career
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Alabama politics reporter Phillip Rawls retiring from Associated Press after 40-year career

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Associated Press reporter Phillip Rawls, the longest-serving member of Alabama's Capitol press corps and a recognized expert on state politics, is retiring after more than 35 years with the news cooperative.

Associated Press reporter Phillip Rawls poses for a photo outside of the Alabama State Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Rawls, 63, developed a reputation for fairness and accuracy during a 40-year career in journalism, nearly all of it spent with the AP covering politics and government in Montgomery.

Rawls' tenure spanned seven Alabama governors, from George Wallace to Robert Bentley, and 35 regular sessions of the Legislature. His retirement takes effect later this month.

A native of Covington County in south Alabama, Rawls received bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. He worked for the Atmore Advance and Montgomery Advertiser before joining the AP in 1979.

Rawls covered virtually everything that had anything to do with state government through the years, from elections to policy debates, corruption to bribery trials.

Rawls also played a vital role in coverage of general news, including the hostage standoff involving a young boy grabbed off a school bus in 2013 and the prosecution of a former state trooper charged in a civil rights killing that occurred more than 40 years earlier.

"Phil is a legend in Alabama journalism. He has covered the biggest stories, scored countless scoops, and represented the true spirit of the news cooperative during his career," said AP Deep South Editor Jim Van Anglen. "But it's not what he has covered that is most important. Rather, it's how he has done his job — with a sense of dignity, class and grace that has been an inspiration to me and countless other Alabama journalists."

Behind the scenes, Rawls served as a mentor to dozens of younger journalists covering politics through the years. As the trusted dean of the Statehouse press corps, Rawls often was sought out by writers, photographers and others seeking their way around the Statehouse.

Known for a virtually unflappable demeanor and his encyclopedic knowledge of Alabama politics, Rawls was honored in 2013 with the Distinguished Mass Media Achievement Award presented by Auburn University.