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
1975–1979
Preceded by Julian Carroll
Succeeded by Martha Layne Collins
Secretary of State of Kentucky
In office
January 1972 – January 1976
Preceded by Kenneth F. Harper
Succeeded by Drexell R. Davis
In office
January 1964 – January 1968
Preceded by Henry C. Carter
Succeeded by Elmer Begley
Kentucky State Treasurer
In office
1968–1972
Preceded by Emerson Beauchamp
Succeeded by Drexell R. Davis
In office
1960–1964
Preceded by Henry H. Carter
Succeeded by Emerson Beauchamp
Personal details
Born Thelma Loyace Hawkins
(1919-04-01)April 1, 1919
Munfordville, Kentucky
Died February 4, 1994(1994-02-04) (aged 74)
Louisville, Kentucky
Spouse(s) Lonnie Raymond Stovall
Parents Addie Mae (Goodman) and Samuel Dewey Hawkins
Occupation politician, labor and civil rights activist

Thelma Loyace Hawkins Stovall (April 1, 1919 - February 4, 1994) was a pioneering female Southern politician who won several statewide elective offices in Kentucky, capping her career as the 47th Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky (1975–1979) under the administration of her fellow Democrat, Governor Julian Carroll.

Background[edit]

Stovall was born in Munfordville, Kentucky. She moved with her mother and little sister to Louisville when she was eight years old.

At the age of 15, she started working for the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation to support her family during the Great Depression. She became involved in union politics in young adulthood and remained close to Kentucky labor unions throughout her career. She was elected secretary of the Tobacco Workers International Union, Local 185, and held that position for eleven years. 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, earning her degree from La Salle Extension University.[1]

In 1936 she married Lonnie Raymond Stovall. She was a national committee member for the Young Democrats of Kentucky from 1952 to 1956 and served as the organization's first woman president from 1956 to 1958.[2]

Public Office[edit]

Stovall won election to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1950 and was re-elected twice. She served as president of the Kentucky Young Democrats, 1952-1956. Stovall was elected Secretary of State of Kentucky in 1956, 1964 and 1972, and Kentucky State Treasurer in 1960 and 1968. Stovall served in those two offices continuously for five straight terms, 1956–1975, thereby becoming (with Frances Jones Mills and Drexell R. Davis) among the best-known practitioners of "musical chairs" office holding in the time when Kentucky's constitution prohibited any statewide officials from serving consecutive terms in the same office.

In 1959, Stovall was secretary of state, then the third-ranking office in Kentucky. When she discovered that the governor and lieutenant governor were both out of state, as acting governor (by law) she pardoned three prisoners, including a holdup man sentenced to up to life for stealing $28.[3]

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%). Stovall ran well behind Julian Carroll, who headed the Democratic ticket and won the governor's office with 470,159 votes (62.8%) to 277,998 votes (37.2%) for the Republican nominee Bob Gable.

Under a since-repealed constitutional provision, as lieutenant governor Stovall often invoked her powers as acting governor when Governor Julian Carroll left the state. In 1978, as acting governor in Carroll's absence Stovall issued pardons and called the Kentucky General Assembly into special session to enact legislation limiting property tax increases. Most famously, she "vetoed" the legislature's repeal of its ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment,[4] an action that was strongly opposed by conservatives, both women and men. Some politicians went on record to ridicule Stovall for her actions because only the state legislatures ratify proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution, with state governors playing no role.[5] In an oral history interview, Stovall explained why she defended Kentucky's ratification of the ERA:

I am awfully disappointed that the John Birch Society has gotten into the thing. Of course, it's an emotional issue. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with homosexual marriages or lesbians or abortion. ERA is exactly what it says it is. 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.[6]

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. Stovall did finish ahead of four minor candidates in the gubernatorial primary, the only loss of her career. She was appointed by Governor Brown as the Commissioner of Labor.

She died in her sleep in Louisville at the age of 74.[7]

Honors[edit]

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. After her death in 1994, she was honored by being allowed to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. 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.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kleber, John E., ed. "The Kentucky Encyclopedia", (Lexington, 1992).
  2. ^ Kleber, John E. (2001). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 854. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Kentucky's Shrewd Lady," Time Magazine, Feb. 12, 1979. Retrieved May 16, 2010.
  4. ^ "ERA Supporter Vetoes Resolution". The Tuscaloosa News (Alabama: Google news). 21 March 1978. p. 2. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Stovall, Thelma; Sharon Hall and Janice Stieneke, interviewers (2002). "Interview with Thelma Stovall, October 31, 1977" (transcript). Oral History Center. University of Louisville, University Archives and Records Center. Retrieved 2 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Thelma H. Stovall". Orlando Sentinel (Florida). 6 February 1994. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  8. ^ "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