After a long investigation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the enforcement arm of the exchange, censured him for exceeding trading limits and fine him $2,000. By then his wife had divorced him and moved to Florida with their three children, and Flowers Jr. ended up broke in Dallas. He got involved in various businesses—renovating restaurants, building tennis courts and installing satellite dishes—but nothing worked for him. Flowers Jr. had broken off his relationship with Dowdy when he left Tennessee to play for the Cowboys ("I was into my stardom," he says), and now here it was, nearly 20 years later, and the man was on his belly with no other place to crawl. So he crawled to her. At first Dowdy, who had been divorced for seven years and was childless, refused to see him. "I get burned every time you're around," she told him. He persisted, calling her every day, until she agreed to meet him one weekend. "It was like I had never been out of his life," she says.
They married on Nov. 14, 1987, and moved to Florida early the next year. His children—daughter Lindsay, now 22; Richmond III, age 19; and Bill, 16, joined them in a rented house in Coral Gables, with Flowers Jr. getting primary custody of them a year later. Flowers Jr. went right to work, first trading commodities and then selling a line of nutritional products, and he might never have brought his family home to Alabama had it not been for Hurricane Andrew. In August 1992, after Andrew nearly blew down their house, they fled north to Birmingham. They have been there ever since, with Flowers Jr. still making a living selling nutritional products.
Much had changed in Alabama from the time Flowers Jr. left for Knoxville in 1965 until his return. Hounded by his political enemies, Flowers Sr. and two others were convicted in '68 of extorting money from savings and loan operators and from applicants seeking licenses to sell securities. He served 18 months of an eight-year federal sentence before he was granted parole. The 78-year-old Flowers Sr. has always proclaimed his innocence, saying that he was framed by those who wanted him out of the way, but he claims to harbor not a trace of bitterness. "The act I was convicted under has since been declared unconstitutional," he says, "and I have a presidential pardon [from Jimmy Carter]. So I feel happy with my situation."
He and Mary, married for 51 years, live in easy retirement in Dothan. Long passed are those days of bristling animus, when Alabamians cursed him and spat in his face, and gone are the days when he was pursuing the murderers of civil rights workers; surrounded by bodyguards then, he traveled Alabama fearing for his life. "I seem to be accepted beautifully," he says now. "I'm tickled to death with the way I'm accepted at home in Dothan. It's pretty much the same all over the state. They realized I was right. A lot of people don't like to say that, but a lot of people will say it. 'Richmond, you were right.' "
Flowers Jr., looking trim and fit at 50, spends a good deal of his leisure time coaching and coaxing his sons in football and track. "For as long as I can remember," says Flowers III, "my father has taken me out and thrown the ball to me. 'Watch the ball into your hands,' he would say. 'Now tuck it away.' He came to my practices and my games. He was my inspiration." Even Lindsay ran the hurdles in high school. Bill, who will be a sophomore wide receiver at Pelham High, won the 110-meter hurdles race for freshmen at the state-championship meet this spring. "He's faster than I was at the same age," Flowers Jr. says. "That boy believes he's going to the Olympics."
Flowers Jr., staring out a window overlooking Birmingham, breathed a wistful sigh at the thought of one of his sons on the stand that he never stood on. It would be enough to chase away that aging ghost.