FL Bubba Copeland was the mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama, who died after a local news site outed his transgender identity on social media.
Copeland’s biography on the Smiths Station website reads,
Copeland has called the Smiths Station area his home for most of his life. He attended Smiths Station High School and obtained a hotel and restaurant management degree from Auburn University. He served on the Lee County Board of Education for 11 years before becoming Mayor in 2016. In addition to serving as Mayor, Copeland owns and operates The Country Market in Salem and pastors at First Baptist Church of Phenix City.
He took his own life on November 3, 2023, as controversy swirled over the reporting from a local news site that had published pictures from Reddit and Instagram, WTVM-TV reported.
The television station reported that some have criticized the site’s reporting in the wake of Copeland’s death, with one local resident saying, “Things that were obviously private came out publicly and quite frankly unexpectedly. I can’t imagine, again, what that must be like for the mayor, his family and for anyone who’s been affected by this.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Few Days Before His Death, F.L. Bubba Copeland Was the Subject of an Expose Into Social Media Accounts He Operated as a ‘Transgender Woman Under the Pseudonym Brittini Blaire Summerlin’
On November 1, 2023, the site “1819 News” published an article headlined, “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.'”
The site reported that Copeland met former President Donald Trump after a tornado devastated the area and was “the lead pastor at the First Baptist Church in nearby Phenix City and owns a convenience store near Lake Harding in Salem” in addition to being the mayor of Smiths Station.
The site continued, “However, during this time, he also had a secret life playing out online on social media and Reddit. Smiths Station’s mayor operated social media accounts as a transgender woman under the pseudonym Brittini Blaire Summerlin.” The site added, “The profile includes regular posting of Copeland in various outfits, some more racy than others. He also posted boudoir pictures of himself in women’s underwear,” and it continued numerous screenshots from the Brittini Summerlin pages.
He also wrote “transgender fiction and erotica,” the site reported, quoting Copeland as confirming he was behind the pages, which he said was his means of “getting rid of stress” and a “hobby” and a “fantasy.”
“Just my wife knows about it,” Copeland said to the site. “It’s a hobby I do to relieve stress. 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.”
A second story by the same site accused Copeland of writing “erotic fiction about murdering a real-life local business owner to steal her life, as well as posting pictures of other locals with explicit commentary without their consent.”
1819 News “announced its formal independence from the Alabama Policy Institute (API). 1819 News, which first began publishing in October 2021, was previously a fully-owned subsidiary of the Alabama Policy Institute,” a page on the site says.
“It became clear years ago that our state needed an independent news organization operated by people with Alabama values,” API President and CEO Caleb Crosby said on the website.
The reporter, Craig Monger, defended his reporting on X, writing, “‘Digging up someone’s personal life’ is reporting on what someone posts publicly on social media? Interesting take. The Alabama Baptist reported on the church’s live stream. I actually spoke to the mayor.”
A person responded on his X thread, “do you feel proud of killing a man? hope you’re sleeping well tonight.”
Daily Beast referred to 1819 News as a “right-wing blog” and “local conservative news site.”
2. Mayor Bubba Copeland, Who Was Accused of ‘Unbiblical Behavior,’ Took His Own Life After Sheriff’s Officials Responded to a Welfare Check, Reports Say
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones confirmed that Copeland had died on November 3, 2023, according to WTVM-TV.
The sheriff told the site that deputies had received information that the mayor needed “a possible welfare check” around 4:15 p.m., and they “found Copeland in the Beulah community area, where a slow pursuit began.”
“The mayor turned onto Lee Road 275 north of Yarbroughs Crossroads and pulled over. When he exited his vehicle, he produced a handgun and used it to take his own life,” the television station reported.
According to WTVM-TV, the Alabama Baptist Leadership had released a statement after the 1819 story but before Copeland’s suicide. It read,
We have become aware of the alleged unbiblical behavior related to the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Phenix City. 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. We are in consultation with the Russell Baptist Association’s leadership as they endeavor to assist the First Baptist family during this critical time of need.
3. On Facebook, Bubba Copeland Posted Family & Community Photos
On his Facebook page, Copeland showcased photos showing him with his wife and three kids.
His most recent post, on October 3, 2023, read, “Guess what has arrived!! Christmas Tree cakes at The Country Market. Come get them before they run out.”
In September, he posted about officiating a baptism. In July, he wrote, “No matter where you are or how far away you are away from him, he still loves you! And will do everything to find you and return you to a relationship with him! Matthew 15: 4-7 ‘we have all been this little sheep.'”
Copeland’s wife is a local teacher, according to her school bio.
4. A Local Journalist Remembered Bubba Copeland as Having a ‘Heart for His Community’
Journalist Colin Scroggins of CNAW wrote on Facebook:
Yesterday, we lost Smiths Station’s mayor.
He was not only a mayor. But he was a husband, a father, a public servant, a pastor, a store manager, a friend, and someone who was well known in the community. I’ve known Bubba Copeland since I was really young.
In the years I’ve known Bubba, I know one thing for sure he had a heart for his community. And loved what he did for the community with a passion.
Over the years I’ve known him, he invited me to ride in the parade in 2018, and has made so many supportive comments throughout my reporting. In 2019, our community was touched by a large tornado with damage in areas of our city. I’ll never forget him letting me interview on the second or third day after of the tornadoes. He helped our community through one of the worst times in our city’s history. Our community has a high suicide rate with several students who have taken their own lives over the years and has been there for everyone who has been affected.
A lot of people don’t know this, back on November 16, 2021, when my dad decided to take his own life in our backyard. Bubba showed up to our the house, while investigators were still arriving on scene. He stood in the driveway and prayed with us. I cried on his shoulder. He was there for support in one of the most difficult times in my life.
As I end this post, I would like to say, everyone has skeletons in their closet. I think our community is still in a very shocked, emotional, numb, angry, and devastated state.
You are not alone. If you need to talk to someone, I am here!
988 – Suicide Prevention Hotline
5. A Friend Who Spoke With Copeland Says He Acknowledged Going Through Some ‘Dark Days’
Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiChiara wrote on Facebook that he had reached out to Copeland before his death. “Please bare with me while I vent. I am so angry right now and heartbroken. 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 wrote.
“I knew he was suffering so I reached out to him yesterday and offered him support and encouragement. He was appreciative and acknowledged that he had been going through some ‘dark days’ over the last few days. I just want to ask you people who thought it humorous to publicly ridicule him, ‘Are you happy now?’”
DiChiara continued: “What crime did he commit? Some of you people make me sick. I hope you are really proud. 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!”
Another man wrote a lengthy post in tribute to Copeland on Facebook. It reads, in part:
This is the driveway that my dear friend and brother pulled out of this morning for the last time. The weight of these past few days became more than his shoulders would endure.
So while so many people are still focusing on the revelations of these last few days and dispensing judgment – I want you to be mindful of this….. At the other end of this driveway sits a mother, who lost her son tonight. She cares for her husband full-time who has Alzheimer’s. Shes wondering now how to face the next day.
Across the room is his wife, who had hopes of getting away next week to celebrate their anniversary in a few days. His young daughters are asking ‘Why?’ as the tears pour down their fragile innocent faces. I have no words, just hugs and shared tears. His son, completely lost without his dad.
These past few days became an unbearable hell-storm of criticism, judgement and malicious comments. The most disappointing part of it all is the volume that came from within the faith community itself. FBC hasn’t been affiliated with the Southern Baptist convention or the Alabama Baptist convention for over 20 years – and yet they felt the need to weigh in. And they wonder why church attendance is declining.
We have literally been monitoring/deleting/blocking rude and hateful comments off our church Facebook page for the past 3 days – and even tonight they continue.
Just a few hours before he gave up this fight – he called and said he was sending over his resignation letter so we could share it online. Several times over the past few days we chatted and made him promise that he’d call if he got to the end of his rope.
Could we have done more? What else should I have said? These questions plague us with every passing minute.
I sat at the end of this driveway tonight – his driveway – crying, praying, getting angry, feeling guilty, questioning God and wondering why in the hell people can be so mean.
READ NEXT: Matthew Perry’s Cause of Death