By Chip Brownlee
The Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama lost a political icon, a trailblazer and a mother Friday morning.
Former Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley died peacefully at age 78 Friday morning in her Birmingham, Alabama, home surrounded by her family, according to a statement released by her son, Louis Baxley.
Lucy was the State’s first female lieutenant governor and the last Democrat in the Yellowhammer State to hold a statewide elected office. She oversaw the State’s Senate as lieutenant governor from 2003–2007.
“Often wearing her signature red outfit, she demanded respect, decorum and punctuality,” her family said.
Gov. Robert Bentley served in the Legislature during her time as the leader of the State Senate.
“Today the State of Alabama lost a great public servant,” Bentley said. “Lucy Baxley loved Alabama and loved the people of Alabama. I enjoyed our time working together when I served in the legislature. Lucy will forever be remembered as a fierce advocate for the people of Alabama, for her decades of service and as Alabama’s first female Lieutenant Governor. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this time.”
Lucy oversaw the 35-member Senate for four years even as the Senate was, and remains to be, male dominated.
“Alabama has lost a true stateswoman,” said Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross. “We served together in the Alabama Senate from 2003 until 2007, when she was the 28th lieutenant governor of our State. To know her is to love her. We all loved Lucy. She leaves a legacy of strength and determination, despite all odds. She served Alabama well and we will miss her dearly.”
Lucy was a firebrand politician, but her family remembers her as a loving mother, grandmother and great-grandmother as well.
“She was an incredible cook, a watchful but stern teacher, a woman of many feelings but few outward emotions, and, most of all, she was a friend to all in need,” Louis said. “But more than anything, she was the grandmother who brought a smile to my kids’ faces every time she held them, and for that I will always be grateful.”
Before entering the political scene, Lucy was a successful real estate agent in the Birmingham area. And her term as the State’s second-in-command wasn’t her first foray into Alabama politics.
Lucy served as the State’s treasurer from 1995–2003. She greased her political chops as the State’s Second Lady during her former husband Bill Baxley’s term as lieutenant governor in the 1980s.
In 2006, she ran against incumber Gov. Bob Riley as the Democratic nominee for governor — becoming one of two women in the State to capture a major-party nomination in a gubernatorial race.
She lost and only weeks later suffered a severe stroke that many thought would be the end of her political career.
But she wan’t done.
Lucy ran for, and won, the presidency of the Alabama Public Service Commission only two years later. She served as the president of the PSC, and the last Democrat elected to statewide office, from 2009–2013.
“Lucy was a true public servant, a pillar of the Alabama Democratic Party and will be greatly missed,” said Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford.
Last year, the Alabama Democratic Party inducted Lucy into their hall of fame, honoring her for years of political achievement in the State. Her fellow public servants remember her as politician for the common person.
“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Lucy Baxley,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions. “She empathized with the everyday man and woman. People believed she genuinely cared about the issues facing them, and the truth is that she did. My thoughts and prayers are with the Baxley family.”
Lucy remained on good terms with her former husband, Bill — a former attorney general and lieutenant governor himself who still works as a lawyer in Birmingham, representing high-profile clients like former House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
She is survived by her husband Jim Smith, daughter Becky Nichols, son Louis, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“When I asked Lucy to marry me, I really didn’t know what it would be like to be married to a politician,” Smith said. “I’m still not so sure about the politician part, but I do know what it was like to be married to the most caring and wonderful woman in the world.”