By John Brice
Mayor of Smiths Station F.L. “Bubba” Copeland committed suicide during the afternoon hours of Friday, November 3rd of 2023. According to a post on the official facebook page for Lee County Sheriff’s Office Investigations “On November 3rd 2023 at approximately 4:14 PM , the Lee County Sheriff’s Office received information that a welfare check was needed for Mayor Fred ‘Bubba’ Copeland from Smiths Station.
Deputies located Mayor Copeland in the Beulah community of Lee County and a slow pursuit was initiated. Mayor Copeland turned off of Lee road 279 on to Lee road 275 just north of Yarbroughs Crossroads and pulled over. He exited the vehicle, produced a handgun and took his own life. An ongoing investigation is being conducted by Investigators at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.” In addition to holding public office, Copeland was the pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City and owner of The Country Market grocery store and gas station in Salem.
Copeland’s death occurred in the aftermath of a November 1st article published on the website of conservative Alabama media outlet 1819 News which exposed his crossdressing online alter-ego “Brittini Blaire Summerlin”. Obscene pictures posted via Copeland’s secret instagram and reddit accounts that depicted him in full drag, often dressed and posed provocatively were cataloged extensively by 1819 news.
Later on in the evening that same day, Copeland addressed the article in a live streamed sermon he gave as pastor from his church during a worship service where he stated “This will not cause my life to change. This will not waver my devotion to my family, to serving my city, to serving my church. I’m thankful for the grace of God, the willingness to forgive. I have nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of the things that were said were taken out of context. And, in conclusion, I love my family. They’re number one. And again, I’m sorry for what my actions have caused.”
Reaction on social media to the 1819 News article was immediate and intense, with many residents of Smiths Station and beyond fiercely defending Copeland as their cherished mayor, pastor, friend or any combination of the three.
Mainstream media outlets had only just begun to pick up the story by Friday when the shocking news spread throughout the community that Copeland had committed suicide. News of his untimely death fanned the flames of bitter outrage, spawning an avalanche of angry social media comments laying blame for the tragedy at what they considered to be the blood soaked hands of 1819 News and the article’s writer, Craig Monger.
National media outlets covering the story include NBC News, Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Newsweek, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, Salon, the Drudge Report and Mediaite.
According to the obituary published for Copeland, his family “will receive friends on the evening of Wednesday, November 8, 2023 from 4:30 pm until 8:00 pm at Vance Brooks Funeral Home in Phenix City, AL. A funeral service will be held at 3:00 pm EST on Thursday, November 9, 2023 at First Baptist Church in Phenix City, AL with Dr. Ralph Wooten officiating. A private interment will follow.”