Bubba Copeland has been mayor of Smith Station, Alabama since 2016. Photo: SmithStationAl.gov.

Please note we are using he/him pronouns for Bubba Copeland as that is what he used publicly. 

On Nov. 3, F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, the Republican mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama, took his life in front of Lee County Sheriff’s deputies after they attempted to do a wellness check on Copeland. Copeland, 49, mayor of the small town since 2016, was also a husband, father of three children and a pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City. 

Earlier in the week, Nov. 1, the far-right news site 1819 News published a piece about Copeland called, “The secret life of Smiths Station Mayor and Baptist pastor F.L. ‘Bubba’ Copeland as a ‘transgender curvy girl’: ‘It’s a hobby I do to relieve stress.’ 1819 News is run by Editor-in-Chief Jeff Poor, a former staff member of Breitbart. 

The article effectively outed Copeland as transgender, uncovering Copeland’s private social media accounts where Copeland went by Brittani Blaire Summerlin. After being confronted by 1819 News with the images and transgender erotic fiction, Copeland admitted that the accounts were indeed his; Copeland explained to reporter Craig Monger that only his wife knew about his private life. “It’s a hobby I do to relieve stress,” said Copeland. “I have a lot of stress, and I’m not medically transitioning. It’s just a bit of a character I’m playing. … I don’t go out and seek solicitation or anything like that.” 

Copeland also asked Monger, “Does this have any effect on me being mayor, that I sometimes put on a dress or sometimes put on makeup? Does that have anything to do whatsoever with me being mayor or being a pastor?”

Following the publishing of the article, Copeland spoke to his congregation and shared he “had been the object of an internet attack” and apologized for any embarrassment it may have caused his family and the church. In what are now chilling remarks, knowing the outcome of the situation, Copeland said, “This will not cause my life to change, this will not waver my devotion to my family, to serving my city or serving my church.” 

A Facebook post by Copeland’s church, First Baptist Church of Phenix City, announced funeral arrangements for Copeland and described that pastor as such: “During his tenure as Mayor, he helped guide the City through a period of tremendous growth and development, and earn its place as one of the fastest growing Cities in the State of Alabama. But above all, beyond serving his church, city, and community, Bubba loved spending time with his family and serving his community.”

It also placed a cross on the church grounds where people could memorialize Copeland with flowers and mementos. 

A friend of Copeland, former Phenix City School Superintendent Dr. Larry DiChiara, shared on his Facebook page, “I am so angry right now and heartbroken,” DiChiara posted. “I witnessed a good man be publicly ridiculed and crucified over the last few days…to the point that he just took his own life today.” He continued, “For our brother, F.L. Bubba Copeland, May God bless your soul and forgive those who took pleasure in your suffering. They should all be ashamed!”

Former U.S. Senator Doug Jones posted on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, praising Copeland’s work as mayor and condemning the outing article by 1819 News. 

“It is sad and disgusting how he was treated by the @1819News for personal decisions however misguided they might have been. We live in a mean, bitter world where the self righteous tend to throw the largest stones and the @1819News is the perfect example.”

Konstantine Anthony, current mayor of Burbank, California issued a statement about Copeland’s death, stating, “The tragic death of Mayor Bubba Copeland is yet another example of good people being hurt by anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. The vile public comments directed at the pastor over the past two days, along with being forcibly outed by a local news organization, led directly to the fatal conclusion of this story.”

Copeland’s funeral service will be held at 3:00 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at First Baptist Church in Phenix City.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, contact 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Call or text 988 or chat.