By Cassandra Burns
Alabama Political Reporter
When the Alabama State Senate is gaveled into session in 2013 it will be a historic event for women.
For the first time in Alabama history a female of African-American decent will be the minority leader of the State Senate. That woman will be Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile).
Figures says as minority leader one of the things she wants to do is to travel the state talking to other women about the problems and opportunities facing Alabamians.
“I thinks it will take women to turn things around in our state,” said Figures. “We have to be inclusive in our work, because it will take all of us working together to meet the demands of the future.”
Figures says she never envisioned herself in politics until she decided to run for city council is Mobile.
However, it was the untimely death of her husband Senator Michael A. Figures that catapulted her career in state government.
In 1978, her husband was the first African-American from Mobile County to be elected to the Senate, he was later to serve as Senate President Pro Tem in 1995.
After the death of her husband, Figures said, “Many people were encouraging me to run for his seat, but I didn’t feel qualified.”
In what was to be a turning point in her life her then 7-year-old son looked at her one day and said, “Mommy you are the only one who can take Daddy’s place,” At that moment she said she felt she had to do it, “I am a vessel. I felt it was what God was calling me to do, to serve people.”
She was elected to the Alabama State Senate in 1997 with an 87 precent victory. This made Figures the first African-American woman to be elected to the Senate from Mobile County and the second African-American female to be elected in the state of Alabama.
In 2008, she became Alabama’s first African American woman to be the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. Although this was her first statewide run for public office, she garnered 37 percent of the vote while President Barack Obama had 39 percent in Alabama.
The Senator recently returned from Ohio where she visited her son. She said she and her son watched the election returns together some friends, “When the President was reelected, it was pure excitement, everyone was thanking God and toasting the President.”
Figures, says she has great respect for the President and the First Lady, “They both have a heart for people, they have a heart for all the people.”
While she admits that she has not always agreed with everything the President has said and done she does believe, “He is the leader America needs right now.”
Figures, says she has been discouraged by the rancor of partisan politics that has so stymied Washington,
“I just pray that Congress, members of Congress, can put aside partisan politics and work together and make America the powerful nation it once was.”
Figures continues by saying, “America is a melting pot, so we should be working together, for each other.”
Figures, is currently one of three Democrats serving on the Joint Legislative Committee on Medicaid. She says she is deeply disappointed that the committee has so little input from women and Democrats. She has also been disturbed that the Governor’s Commission on Medicaid is not “fully represented” by woman, minorities and members of her party. But she hopes things will change and that the state will embrace, the future with the Affordable Care Act.
Figures somewhat bristles at the term “Obamacare” saying, “The President has accepted that term even though it was meant to be disparaging, but if they mean Obama cares, then I am okay with that.”
Figures says that “service to others and love,” are what motivates her and she is looking forward to serving as Minorty Leader with all Alabamians in mind.