Anthony Daniels was supposed to be an athlete. And then a physical therapist. And then a teacher. But instead, he’s making Alabama history as the state’s first African American House minority leader — and also as the youngest House minority leader in Alabama history.
Daniels, a Democrat, credits “perfect timing” in part to his elevation in the state house, but the 34-year-old has a rich history of turning trials in his life to accomplishments.
At 6-foot-3 in the seventh grade, Daniels naturally became a high school basketball star, playing alongside a young Amar’e Stoudemire, who went on to play in the NBA. And when an ACL injury sent him to a physical therapist, Daniels decided after just one day that he could come up with a better regime to get him back on his feet — literally. Thus began his dream of becoming of a physical therapist.
But then, Daniels told TheBlaze, a relative sparked his interest in education. Attending Alabama A&M University, Daniels majored in elementary education and became involved with the Alabama Education Association and National Education Association where he would eventually chair its student program and oversee 1,100 colleges and 62,000 students nationwide during a stint in Washington, D.C.
“At that particular time, I decided that since I had student loan debt and there was some conversation around student loans, I would take on putting all of my resources into the college affordability campaign,” Daniels said during a phone interview. “I had more than $58,000 in student loan debt so I was the perfect person to carry that issue.”
Working with then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and other student coalition groups, Daniels worked toward the eventual passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act in 2007 that, among other things, increased Pell Grants and allowed for loan forgiveness for those working in public service for at least 10 years.
“That’s what sparked my interest into politics,” Daniels said.
But following the law’s passage, Daniels went on to teach third grade at a public magnet school in Huntsville, Alabama, fourth grade at a Title 1 school in Huntsville and a fourth- and fifth-grade class on an Indian reservation nestled between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
After that, Daniels returned to Alabama A&M to become the public university’s corporate and foundation relations officer in charge of fundraising.
Not elected to the state legislature until 2014 — the same year he married his wife — Daniels said he already has a reputation among his colleagues as not being a particularly partisan person.
Instead, Daniels said, “People view me as bringing people together, and that’s the perspective that both Democrats and Republicans have on me.”
His mission in the state House — and as its minority leader — is certainly indicative that reputation would be accurate. Instead of championing legislation on particularly divisive issues, Daniels said…