The son of an Alabama mayor who shot himself dead after coming out as a transvestite has paid tribute to his father, describing him as kind, thoughtful and ‘larger than life’.
Fred “Bubba” Copeland, 49, died after police approached him for a welfare check on Nov. 3, shooting himself in the head as they approached him.
Days earlier, images of him dressed in women’s clothing, wigs and make-up were shared online, amid claims he was also posting ‘explicit trans porn’ and using the identities of local women to create erotic fiction.
On Thursday, friends and family of Copeland gathered at First Baptist Church in Phoenix City, where Copeland was the lead pastor in addition to being mayor of neighboring Smiths Station and running a grocery store.
Alabama Mayor and Pastor Fred “Bubba” Copeland was buried Thursday at the church where he pastored in Phoenix City
Copeland died by suicide amid ridicule about his ‘hobby’ dressing up in women’s clothing as alter ego ‘Brittini Blaire Summerlin’
The pastor had secret social media accounts where he reportedly shared erotic trans fiction he had written and memes about transitioning, featuring real people from his community. The mayor said his wife was aware of his online persona
Copeland is seen with his wife Angela, their daughters AbbyKate and Ally, and his son Carter
The father of three – a son, Carter, from his first marriage and daughters AbbyKate and Ally from his second marriage to Angela – was remembered as warm and generous. AL.com reports this.
Carter Copeland told the congregation Thursday that the biggest lesson he learned from his father was “something he struggled with so much. He encouraged me to ‘make myself happy.’
Carter continued, “He told me this was his way of ‘making happiness’ by uplifting as many people as he could during his day.”
He then talked about how he experienced this firsthand, when he and his father went to McDonald’s and encountered an irate employee.
“My dad looked at her and told her – the craziest woman I’ve ever seen in my life – that her hair looked good,” Carter recalled.
‘I was shocked, but she was smiling from ear to ear.
“And even though that may not have been true, it was my father’s way of touching at least one person all day long.”
Carter said his father told him, “When you are faced with obstacles or downright horrible, horrible people, just trust the Lord and fight with kindness and a pure heart.”
Carter added, “This is the greatest lesson my father ever taught me.”
Carter said he was grateful for his upbringing.
“I know my father made me strong, he taught me well,” he said.
“So I promise I will get through this and fight to bring love to this terribly dark world.
“I will choose happiness when others choose bitterness.
“Daddy, I want you to know that my world has always started with you and will always start and end with you. Regardless of the hate, I will respond with love.”
Carter Copeland and his father are seen in Washington DC
Tributes to Bubba Copeland are pictured in front of his church, First Baptist, in Phoenix City
Another speaker, the Rev. Jim Wooten, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Jackson, said the moment he met Copeland was “mythical” and etched in his memory.
“I remembered this larger-than-life figure emerging from a cloud of barbecue smoke with sweat pouring from his brow,” Wooten said.
He said Copeland was “a delightful storyteller and a breath of fresh air.”
He added, “If there was one thing Bubba loved as much as his family, it was his city.”
He tearfully recounted Copeland’s struggles with his mental health, saying his friend had “that old black dog that followed us, that black dog of depression.”
He told mourners: “Whatever struggles you face, you are not alone.
‘If you don’t have anyone close enough to reach, call 988 and put it in your phone. 9-8-8. It’s the suicide and crisis hotline. There is a caring person who listens to you. You are precious, you have meaning, you are important.’
Copeland was remembered for his response to the suicide of a local teenager in 2019.
He posted signs around the city that read: “You are worthy of love,” “Don’t give up,” and “You matter.”
David White, a friend of Copeland’s for 30 years, said he was “possibly the hardest-working person I’ve ever met.”
He added: “This week’s tragedy will be even greater if we, his friends, do nothing.
“The next time a friend becomes the focus of hatred, may we all speak a little sooner and a little louder and at least say, ‘This is my friend.’ If we can do that, we can say we have learned from it.
“If these changes in us make our little part of this world a little kinder, a little more understanding, a little more loving towards each other, then soon enough we too will be able to say what Bubba said: ‘Isn’t that right? God good?’
His online life became public on November 1 when local news website 1819 posted the first of several items describing his posts, using an alias on Instagram and Reddit as a “transgender curvy girl” – with photos of him wearing women’s clothing and makeup wore.
After the revelation, the State Baptist organization said it was aware of allegations of “unbiblical behavior” involving the pastor.
A national radio program also said Copeland should be ashamed because the Bible teaches that it is an “abomination” for a man to dress in women’s clothing.
The father-of-three said he had experienced “dark times” in messages to friends just days before his suicide
The 49-year-old had previously apologized to his congregation at First Baptist Church in Phoenix City for any “embarrassment” caused by his private life
Copeland was also accused of using the names and photos of local residents, including a minor, without permission in messages, including the real name of a local businesswoman in a fictional story about a man who develops a deadly obsession with her identity to take.
Another claim was that Copeland’s secret social media accounts also shared images of a local brother and sister that were used to make it appear as if the boy had transitioned.
Copeland told the news site that he wore women’s clothing as a way to release stress, but that he was not transgender.
He stood before his congregation on November 1 to apologize, saying the photos taken in the privacy of his own home were an attempt at humor.
But just days later, the beloved pastor was dead.
“I want to ask you people who found it humorous to publicly ridicule him. Are you happy now? What crime has he committed?’ wrote Larry DiChiara, a former school superintendent who knew Copeland from when he served on a district school board.
Chiara revealed on Facebook that Copeland was struggling in the days leading up to his death.
DiChiara said he contacted Copeland by text last Thursday and the mayor responded that “it’s been a very dark few days.”
Copeland’s private online life became public in early November when the outlet published the first of several items detailing posts he made using an alias on Instagram and Reddit
The married mayor and grocery store owner shot himself in the head after making fun of his character on social media
“When this story came out, it was already painful and hurtful to see it and know that this will cause a lot of sadness for Bubba and his family.
“But as I read what was out there, it got worse and worse, and I really saw ugliness in the people and their comments,” DiChiara said.
Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and author of “Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man,” said an outing can be an act of violence and that in this case it “triggers a violent response.”
Drescher said people may have reasons to keep sexual or gender identities and behaviors, such as cross-dressing, secret because they don’t feel accepted.
“It was probably a great source of shame and embarrassment to come out this way,” Drescher said.