Thelma Stovall

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Thelma Stovall
Stovall-KDLA-1983-Color.jpg
Thelma Stovall in 1983 while Commissioner of Labor in the Cabinet for Governor John Y. Brown Jr.
47th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
In office
December 9, 1975 – December 11, 1979
GovernorJulian Carroll
Preceded byJulian Carroll
Succeeded byMartha Layne Collins
Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
January 1972 – January 1976
GovernorWendell Ford
Julian Carroll
Preceded byKenneth F. Harper
Succeeded byDrexell R. Davis
In office
January 1964 – January 1968
GovernorNed Breathitt
Louie Nunn
Preceded byHenry C. Carter
Succeeded byElmer Begley
In office
January 1956 – January 1960
GovernorHappy Chandler
Bert Combs
Preceded byCharles K. O'Connell
Succeeded byHenry C. Carter
Kentucky State Treasurer
In office
1968–1972
GovernorLouie Nunn
Wendell Ford
Preceded byEmerson Beauchamp
Succeeded byDrexell R. Davis
In office
1960–1964
GovernorBert Combs
Ned Breathitt
Preceded byHenry H. Carter
Succeeded byEmerson Beauchamp
Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
1950
Personal details
Born
Thelma Loyace Hawkins

(1919-04-01)April 1, 1919
Munfordville, Kentucky
DiedFebruary 4, 1994(1994-02-04) (aged 74)
Louisville, Kentucky
Spouse(s)Lonnie Raymond Stovall
ParentsAddie Mae (Goodman) and Samuel Dewey Hawkins
Occupationpolitician, labor and civil rights activist

Thelma Loyace Stovall (nee Hawkins; April 1, 1919 – February 4, 1994) was a pioneering American politician in the state of Kentucky. In 1949 she won election as state representative for Louisville, and served three consecutive terms. Over the next two decades, Stovall was elected Kentucky State Treasurer twice and Secretary of State of Kentucky three times, she capped her career as the 47th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky (1975–1979) in the administration of her fellow Democrat, Governor Julian Carroll. She was the first woman to hold the office.

Stovall was known for her assertive style. Several times in her career, when she found herself in the position of acting governor, she was unafraid of exercising that power – she issued gubernatorial pardons, called the Kentucky General Assembly into session to consider bills, and most famously issued an executive injunction against the Assembly's attempt to repeal Kentucky's ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Throughout her career, Stovall was an ardent advocate of labor and women's rights.

Background[edit]

Thelma Loyace Hawkins was born in Munfordville, Kentucky on April 1, 1919,[1] her parents, Samuel Dewey Hawkins and Addie Mae Goodman Hawkins, divorced when she was eight years old, and she moved with her mother and sister Edith to Louisville.[1]

At the age of 15, she started working for the Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation to support her family during the Great Depression,[2] she joined the Tobacco Workers International Union and became secretary of her local, TWIU 185.[2][3] She kept that position for 11 years,[2] and remained a stout supporter of labor unions throughout her later political career.[3]

While working at the tobacco company, she met L. Raymond Stovall, and the couple married in September 1936, when he was 18 and she was 17,[1] she graduated from Louisville Girls' High School; studied law at LaSalle Extension University in Chicago, and attended summer school at the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University.[2]

Public office[edit]

Stovall became Louisville's first female state representative: she won election to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1949 and was re-elected twice,[2] she joined the Young Democrats of Kentucky and served as a national committee member (1952 to 1956), and then as the group's first woman president (1956 to 1958).[2]

Stovall was elected Secretary of State of Kentucky three times, serving four-year terms beginning in 1956, 1964 and 1972, she also served four-year two terms as State Treasurer beginning in 1960 and 1968.[2]

In 1959, Stovall was secretary of state, the third-ranking office in Kentucky, when she discovered that the governor and lieutenant governor were both out of state; as the legal acting governor, she pardoned three prisoners, including a holdup man sentenced to up to life for stealing $28.[4]

In 1975, Stovall was the first woman nominated for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky by either major political party. Stovall defeated the Republican nominee, Shirley W. Palmer-Ball, with 430,011 votes (54.6%) to Palmer-Ball's 357,744 votes (45.4%).[5]

As lieutenant governor, Stovall was not reluctant to invoke her powers as acting governor when Governor Julian Carroll left the state. During one of Carroll's absences, Stovall called the Kentucky General Assembly into special session to reduce taxation. Two bills were swiftly passed: one placed a statewide cap on property taxes, while the other removed a 5% state tax on utility bills.[1]

Her most famous intercession was in March 1978 when, with Carroll out of the state, she vetoed the legislature's repeal of its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment;[6] the repeal had come her as a late attachment to another bill regarding state pensions (House Joint Resolution 20), and Stovall claimed a legal right to reject it on two counts: The Kentucky constitution did not permit bills from dealing with more than one subject, and there was a Senate rule that prohibited the introduction of new bills in the final ten days of any legislative session.[7]

In an oral history interview in 1977, Stovall gave her plainspoken view of the ERA: "It's ridiculous after 200 years that women are still second class citizens. No – black men were allowed to vote fifty years before women could vote; as long there is still some statutes that say there are certain things that a woman can not do, we are still second class citizens."[8] After her veto the following year, she resolutely defended her action, declaring: "Every elective official is faced sooner or later with the prospect of acting for political expediency, acting from conscience and law, or avoiding the issue by not acting at all; when the people vote to elect their leaders, they expect them to act and act decisively."[9]

Stovall sought election as Governor of Kentucky in 1979 but lost in the Democratic primary to John Y. Brown, Jr., who went on to win the general election. Stovall won 47,633 votes, good for fifth place behind Brown's 165,188 votes, 139,713 for Harvey I. Sloane, the mayor of Louisville, 131,530 for Terry McBrayer and 68,577 for 1st District Congressman Carroll Hubbard.[10] Stovall did finish ahead of four minor candidates in the gubernatorial primary.[10] but it would be her last race and the only loss of her career.[3]

After the primary, Stovall announced her retirement from state politics.[11] To celebrate her 30 years of public service, a large party was held in the Kentucky State Capitol on December 3, 1979.[11] Congratulations were sent by President Jimmy Carter and the date was officially proclaimed by the state as "Thelma Stovall Day".[11]

Despite their former rivalry, in December 1982 Governor Brown appointed Stovall as the state's Commissioner of Labor.[12] In his announcement, Brown praised her as "the grande dame of the feminist movement and... the indisputable advocate of working people".[12]

Death[edit]

Stovall died in her sleep in Louisville at the age of 74,[13] she was honored by being allowed to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.[3] She is interred at Louisville's Resthaven Cemetery.[3]

Honors[edit]

Thelma Stovall Park is located along the Green River in her hometown of Munfordville.[14]

Stovall's portrait, painted by Louisville portrait painter Doris Leist, hangs in the Capitol and a plaque commemorating her achievements was placed in the Capitol in 1982. A Kentucky newspaper wrote in praise for one of the state's most controversial politicians:

Say what you will about Thelma Stovall, you always knew where she stood.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Stovall Hailed as Pioneer for Women (continued as 'Stovall')". The Paducah Sun. Paducah, Kentucky. AP. February 6, 1994. p. 2. Archived from the original on February 10, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Kleber, John E. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 854. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Stovall Hailed as Pioneer for Women". The Paducah Sun. Paducah, Kentucky. AP. February 6, 1994. p. 1. Archived from the original on February 10, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  4. ^ "Kentucky's Shrewd Lady," Time Magazine, February 12, 1979. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  5. ^ "1975 Primary and General Election Results: Governor/Lt.Governor" (PDF). Ky.gov. Commonwealth of Kentucky State Board of Elections. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  6. ^ "ERA Supporter Vetoes Resolution". The Tuscaloosa News. Tuscaloosa, Alabama. AP. March 21, 1978. p. 2. Retrieved February 17, 2019 – via Google news.
  7. ^ Freedman, Samuel S.; Naughton, Pamela J. (1978). ERA: May a State Change Its Vote?. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-8143-1624-7.
  8. ^ Thelma Stovall. Sharon Hall and Janice Stieneker, interviewers (2002). "Interview with Thelma Stovall, October 31, 1977" (transcript). Oral History Center. University of Louisville, University Archives and Records Center. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Boyd, Janet L. (March 20, 1998). "Thelma Stovall's Example". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  10. ^ a b "1979 Primary Election Results: Governor/Lt.Governor". Ky.gov. Commonwealth of Kentucky State Board of Elections. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Pardue, Anne (December 4, 1979). "Former governors, friends and staff honor Thelma Stovall". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. p. 5. Archived from the original on February 17, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  12. ^ a b "Thelma Stovall named labor commissioner". Messenger-Inquirer. Owensboro, Kentucky. AP. December 23, 1982. p. 15. Archived from the original on November 27, 2018. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  13. ^ "Thelma H. Stovall". Orlando Sentinel. Florida. February 6, 1994. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  14. ^ McClellan, Lee (July 14, 2013). "Floating on gorgeous stretch of Green River". The Advocate-Messenger. Danville, Kentucky. p. 16. Archived from the original on November 27, 2018. Retrieved November 26, 2018 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  15. ^ "Thelma Stovall was one of a kind". Kentucky New Era. Frankfort, Kentucky: Google news. 5 February 1994. Retrieved 2 January 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Julian Carroll
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
1975
Succeeded by
Martha Layne Collins
Political offices
Preceded by
Julian Carroll
Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
1975–1979
Succeeded by
Martha Layne Collins
Preceded by
Kenneth F. Harper
Kentucky Secretary of State
1972–1975
Succeeded by
Drexell R. Davis
Preceded by
Emerson Beauchamp
Kentucky State Treasurer
1968–1972
Succeeded by
Drexell R. Davis
Preceded by
Henry C. Carter
Kentucky Secretary of State
1964–1968
Succeeded by
Elmer Begley
Preceded by
Henry H. Carter
Kentucky State Treasurer
1960–1964
Succeeded by
Emerson Beauchamp
Preceded by
Charles K. O'Connell
Kentucky Secretary of State
1956–1960
Succeeded by
Henry C. Carter