Alabama mayor dies of apparent suicide days after website publishes pictures of him allegedly in women’s clothes

A small-town Alabama mayor died apparently by suicide just days after a conservative news site published pictures of him allegedly wearing women’s clothes and makeup, officials said Sunday.

Smiths Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, who was also a pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City, fatally shot himself and was pronounced dead at 5:01 p.m. CT Friday, Lee County Coroner Daniel Sexton told NBC News in a statement.

An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

“Thank you all for your prayers and expressions of sympathy and support,” First Baptist Church said in a statement Saturday. “First and foremost, we ask that you keep Pastor Bubba Copeland’s family in your prayers today, and in the days ahead.”

Copeland died two days after the 1819 News published a story with photos of the mayor donning women’s clothes and makeup.

Smith Station Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland. City of Smith Station “It is sad and disgusting how he was treated by” 1819 News, former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., said in a statement Saturday. “We live in a mean, bitter world where the self righteous tend to throw the largest stones.”

A representative for 1819 News could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday.

Copeland was best known for leading his town through a tornado that killed 23 people in eastern Alabama in 2019 .

“I am so saddened at the death of my friend Mayor Bubba Copeland,” Jones said. “He was a good man and a great mayor who led the small town of Smith Station through the tough times of a devastating tornado a few years ago.”

Then-President Donald Trump visited damaged communities, and Jones said Copeland played a vital role in communicating the region’s needs to the White House.

“I toured the destruction with him, helped him navigate the FEMA recovery efforts and made sure that he was able to plead his case directly to President Trump,” Jones said.

The city of Smiths Station, about 80 miles east of Montgomery, Alabama’s capital, near the Georgia border, has a population of about 5,400 people.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat live at  988lifeline.org . You can also visit  SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources  for additional support.

David K. Li

David K. Li is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.

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