The 50th Anniversary of Alabama governor Lurleen Wallace’s Death in Office will be next Tuesday and State Auditor Jim Zeigler is concerned that her portrait has still not been returned to its place of honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
“The official portrait of Gov. Lurleen Wallace remains out of the capitol rotunda where it historically and legally was until January 2015,” Zeigler said.. “The mistreatment of the Lurleen Wallace portrait by the Bentley administration was a shameful example of historical revision.”
“It was three years and three months ago, January 15, 2015, five days before I would take office as State Auditor,” Zeigler continued. “With no notice, officials of the Bentley administration hurriedly removed the two Wallace portraits from the capitol rotunda. In their place, they erected a new portrait of Gov. Robert Bentley, in the final days of his first term. It was premature. Traditionally, the portraits of governors are erected in the capitol rotunda after the governor leaves office. But Gov. Bentley just could not wait. He jumped the gun. He had his own official portrait painted and erected just before his second term started.”
After the portraits were suddenly removed, Zeigler, “Immediately began researching the law about the placement of the Wallace portraits. I found a joint resolution of the 1983 legislature which mandated that the Wallace portraits be displayed in the rotunda in perpetuity. The action of the Bentley administration in removing the Wallace portraits from the rotunda was illegal, in violation of the letter of the law and the clear legislative intent.”
Despite Zeigler’s presenting “clear evidence that the action was illegal,” the director of Historic Sites, who had actually removed the Wallace portraits, refused to restore them, even with the information that one of the Wallace’s children was on his death bed. He was then fired as director of Historic Sites.
“I drew up a third request, this time to the Director of the Alabama Historical Commission, Frank White, asking that he return the portraits to their legal and historical place,” Zeigler said. “He met with me, listened, and was as courteous and professional as could be. But he did not return the Wallace portraits to the rotunda. Frank White was then fired as Director of the Alabama Historical Commission.”
Zeigler then sent a fourth request to return the Wallace portraits to the Historical Commission itself and they declined to return the portraits. The Bentley Administration never intervened to enforce the legislative resolution that was on the books.
Zeigler is hoping that Mrs. Wallace’s portrait can be restored before next Tuesday and is asking for people to contact the Alabama Historical Commission.
Lurleen Burns Wallace was the first lady from 1963 to 1967 and governor from 1967 to 1968. She only served 16 months as governor before her death from cancer while in office at 41.
She is the lasts Alabama governor to die in office and is the only woman elected to the office.
Gov. Kay Ivey is the second female governor in state history. She was lieutenant governor and was elevated to the position when Gov. Robert Bentley resigned after pleading guilty to campaign finance laws.
Zeigler was an outspoken critic of the Bentley Administration.
Zeigler is facing primary opposition from pastor Dr. Stan Cooke and Elliott Lipinsky in the Republican primary on June 5. The eventual GOP nominee will face Democrat Miranda Karrine Joseph in the November 6 general election.