Week of the woman: Wallace inaugurated, county's first female juror

Jennifer Cohron
Posted 4/21/17

Aline Drummond made history by sitting down on Thursday, Jan. 19, 1967.

“Walker County’s first woman sat on a jury this morning in Circuit Court,” the Daily Mountain Eagle reported. “Mrs. Aline Drummond took her seat in the jury box …

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Week of the woman: Wallace inaugurated, county's first female juror

Posted

Aline Drummond made history by sitting down on Thursday, Jan. 19, 1967.

“Walker County’s first woman sat on a jury this morning in Circuit Court,” the Daily Mountain Eagle reported. “Mrs. Aline Drummond took her seat in the jury box shortly after court convened at 9 a.m.”

Just three days earlier, Lurleen Wallace had received even more media attention when she became the state’s first female governor.

As local readers are well aware, Kay Ivey became the second when she was sworn in by Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart on April 10.

In January 1967, the idea of a female chief justice must have seemed as far-fetched as the thought of Lurleen Wallace succeeding her husband had been before the voters overwhelmingly made her their choice.

Alabama, which voted against the 19th Amendment in 1919, was one of only three states that had not opened juries to women by the mid-1960s.

Annie Lola Price became the first woman to hold high judicial office in Alabama 15 years before she could legally serve on a jury. Gov. Jim Folsom appointed her to the Alabama Court of Appeals in 1951. She was reelected four times and was serving as presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals at the time of her death in 1972.

In June 1965, Price told reporter Jean Quillen of The Anniston Star, “Women are not full citizens until they are allowed to sit as jurors,” adding, “I think it is their duty.”

Price also dismissed the argument that women should be spared the sordid details of criminal cases.

“Women are and have been witnesses in criminal cases. Women also serve as court reporters, taking down the testimony for records,” Price said.

In January 1966, the top story in the Daily Mountain Eagle was about a possible Lurleen Wallace candidacy.

“Lurleen to Run? Undecided, says Wallace,” read the headline. The “Wallace” in question, of course, was Gov. George Wallace.

During a news conference, Wallace joked that he might appoint his wife “assistant governor to get her a little experience.”

The story noted that the final decision would not be made until after Mrs. Wallace’s operation on Jan. 10, 1966.

Although no specifics were provided, Wallace had a hysterectomy in January 1966 as a result of a recent uterine cancer diagnosis.

One month later, the law prohibiting women from serving on juries was struck down by a federal court that included Judge Frank Johnson, a Winston County native who practiced law in Jasper for several years after World War II.

“Women are allowed to serve on juries in the federal courts and in the courts of 47 states. Only in three — Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina — are women completely excluded from jury service. The time must come when a state's complete exclusion of women from jury service is recognized as so arbitrary and unreasonable as to be unconstitutional. As to Alabama, we can see no reason for not recognizing that fact at the present time,” the three judges involved in the decision wrote in White v. Crook.

Today, the announcement of such a decision would be headline news, but most Daily Mountain Eagle readers probably missed it back in 1966.

Eagle editors chose to run a one-paragraph brief in the lower right corner of the paper, far below this dispatch from Jackson, Mississippi — “Mink Set Sues to Save Booze.”

Much more attention was given to the four latest entries in the Walker County Poultry Queen Contest.

On Jan. 13, 1967, the Walker County Bar Association hosted “A Night in Court,” a mock session for women jurors.

“For the first time in history next week, Walker County juries will have a bit of sparkle with the feminine charm of the fairer sex,” Eagle managing editor Paul Sims wrote in his weekly column on Jan. 11.

Less than a week later, the Eagle editorial board chastised the “big city press” for harping on the fact that Lurleen Wallace was once a dime store clerk.

“What they didn’t say was that when Lurleen was a dime store clerk, she was 16 years old. But the idea intended to be conveyed was that the 40-year-old Lurleen Wallace was a mousy, little, self-effacing thing whose vocabulary couldn’t get past the ‘your change, please’ stage,” the staff wrote in an unsigned editorial.

The front page of that edition featured the Eagle’s coverage of the inauguration. Ironically, the governor herself was not quoted.

Instead, the top headline read, “Walker Theme: George in ‘68.”

Sims reported that Walker County’s float was “the most talked about float of the 90 entered.” The float featured a sick Uncle Sam in a hospital bed and a seven-foot depiction of Wallace as a doctor who knew how to fix Sam’s ills.

Kay Ivey was a student at Auburn University when Lurleen Wallace ran for governor and coordinated on-campus efforts for the campaign.

Fifty years later, she followed in Wallace’s footsteps. Encouraging other women to participate in the political process is a passion for Ivey, according to a column she wrote in 2014 in which she expressed support for the GOP’s “Right Women, Right Now” initiative.

In the 2015-2016 election cycle, the initiative recruited 690 women candidates to run for state-level office, and 163 of them were either elected or appointed.

“Women outnumber men among registered voters nationwide and female voters have exceeded the number of male voters in every election since 1980,” Ivey wrote. “The power of the woman voter is undeniable. By harnessing that power and recruiting and supporting the right candidates, the woeful underrepresentation of women in state government can be reversed.”

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s features editor.