CELEBRATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: Lurleen B. Wallace
BY MOLLIE S. WATERS
The Greenville Standard
“The Greenville Standard” has been featuring prominent Alabama women all March in honor of Women’s History Month.
This week’s featured Alabamian is Lurleen B. Wallace, who was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, sponsored by Judson College, in 1972.
Most people will recognize Lurleen B. Wallace as the first female governor of Alabama, and as the wife of another Alabama governor, George Wallace.
According to an “Encyclopedia of Alabama” website article about Wallace, she was born into a working-class family on Sept. 19, 1926.
She married George Wallace when she was only 16.
The two would go on to have four children together, and while her husband moved up through the political ranks, Lurleen raised their growing family.
Eventually, George won the Alabama gubernatorial race, and he became the state’s governor.
“Upon George’s election as governor in 1962,” states the aforementioned article, “Lurleen assumed the responsibilities of First Lady. Although she played the role, the reticent Lurleen disliked playing hostess and declined invitations to join social clubs.”
When George Wallace ran for President of the United States, “He decided to run Lurleen for governor, position himself as ‘advisor,’ and could continue his access to the public resources that subsidized his presidential campaigns,” states the “Encyclopedia of Alabama” article.
At the time, Lurleen Wallace had already undergone cancer treatments, but she won the election and became Alabama’s first female governor.
Tragically, Lurleen Wallace’s cancer returned while she was still in office, and she succumb to it on May 7, 1968, at 41 years of age.
According to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame page dedicated to Wallace, she was selected for the distinction because of her work with mental health facilities.
Lurleen Burns Wallace was well-respected by our family. The first thing she undertook was humanizing the mental health system in Alabama. She visited Partlowe and Bryce Hospitals and left them with a look of pure anguish. She returned to the Governor’s office and began to formalize legislation to improve the campuses and personal care for those who had no rights. I’m proud to have watched this heart-filled politicians step up to the plate. She served only a short time but she served well! Her children, I’m sure are proud.