Former Birmingham mayor Larry Langford died Tuesday at the age of 72. Langford's death came less than two weeks after his release from prison, where he'd been serving time for public corruption. The cause of death was not announced, but Langford had been suffering from a variety of health problems, including COPD and heart failure.
Langford first gained public attention in the 1970s, as a reporter for WBRC-TV. That led to a long and colorful political career. Langford was elected to the Birmingham city council in 1977. He ran a failed bid for mayor in 1979. Langford moved to Fairfield, and in 1988 won election as that city's mayor. Langford led efforts by several cities to build the Visionland amusement park. It opened with great fanfare, but the venture later ended in bankruptcy, and the park was sold. It's currently doing business as Alabama Splash Adventure.
Langford won election to the Jefferson County Commission in 2002, where he supported refinancing the county's sewer debt through a complex series of bond swaps. The deals later backfired, and the county declared bankruptcy.
In 2007, Langford was elected mayor of Birmingham on a campaign slogan of "Let's Do Something." His tenure was marked by a flurry of headline-generating, but ultimately unsuccessful initiatives, including a proposal for a $500-million dollar domed stadium, and an effort to lure the Olympics to Birmingham.
Langford's time as mayor was cut short in 2009, when he was convicted of bribery and other charges linked to the sewer bond deals. Langford was found guilty of taking more than $230,000 in bribes for steering bond business to an investment banker. Langford was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He had served a little more than half the sentence, when a federal judge last month granted Langford an early release, due to his failing health. Langford is survived by his wife, Melva.