F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, the mayor of Smiths Station and pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City, killed himself early Friday evening.
Copeland, a married father of three, “took his own life” around 5 p.m. Friday, said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
Sheriff’s deputies received a request for a welfare check for Copeland around 4:14 p.m. Friday, the office said later.
Copeland was found in Beulah when a slow pursuit was initiated with the mayor’s vehicle.
Copeland turned off Lee County Road 279 and on to Lee County Road 275 just north of Yarboughs Crossroads and pulled over.
“He exited the vehicle, produced a handgun and took his own life,” the sheriff’s office said.
A former member of the Lee County Board of Education, Copeland became mayor of Smiths Station in 2016.
The church could not immediately be reached for comment.
Copeland’s death came two days after 1819 News published photos of him wearing women’s clothing and makeup.
1819 News is a website that was once owned by the Alabama Policy Institute.
“We have become aware of the alleged unbiblical behavior related to the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phenix City,” the Alabama Baptist State Convention and Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions said in a statement to the Alabama Baptist, a news outlet for the state’s Baptist churches.
“We are praying for the leaders of the church family as they seek to determine the truth concerning these accusations. As the people of God, we pray for the pastor and his family as well.”
On Wednesday, Copeland took to the pulpit at First Baptist Church to denounce the post about him, claiming he was a “victim of an internet attack.”
“The article is not who or what I am….I apologize for any embarrassment caused by my private and personal life that has become public. This will not cause my life to change. This will not waiver my devotion to my family, serving my city, serving my church,” Copeland said in his statement to the church.
He then read from the 23rd Psalm as he delivered a short sermon.
“God will always protect you, take care of you,” Copeland said. “He will see you through anything, absolutely anything.”
Copeland was thrust into the national spotlight in 2019 after a devastating tornado killed 23 people in Lee County and he met with then President Donald Trump as he toured the damaged communities.
“Never in a million years did I think my first term as Mayor would include dealing with a deadly tornado, global pandemic and several student suicides,” he posted on Facebook a year later.
“There is no instruction manual for this job. However, I do have my own personal manual and that is my Bible. God will sustain you through anything as long as you commit your life to Him.”
He was re-elected in 2020.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, reach out to the 24–hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741; or chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours.