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LWVGB Newsletter The Voter
March 2017 Edition

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Informational Session for Greater Birmingham Observer Corps a Huge Success!

Also, see "Greater Birmingham League of Women Voters Shines Light on Government" LWVGB Press Release, 3/9/2017

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On February 23, 2017, the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham hosted an Informational Session on our efforts to strengthen the Greater Birmingham Observer Corps. LWVGB members Carol Clarke and Haley Lewis, and LWVGB President Jean Johnson spent the past several months planning this Informational Event and invited all LWVGB members, CAC Young Partners, media partners and other community-service minded Greater Birmingham residents.

We welcomed about 20-25 (including representatives from Weld and Birmingham Watch) guests at Architecture Works on the 23
rd. After enjoying delicious refreshments and conversation, Carol Clarke began the session by welcoming everyone and explaining that she, Jean and Haley came together to work on reviving the Observer Corps after discussing with other Birmingham community leaders that a “helpful presence” in board and agency meetings is a current, un-met need in Greater Birmingham. Jean Johnson then briefly introduced the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham and explained the history of the Observer Corps and its role in board and agency meetings. Jean also described the role of an Observer and the benefits to the person observing, to the board or agency being observed and to the community at large. Finally, Haley Lewis initiated the call to action: to encourage all attendees to sign up for Observer Training, which will be spearheaded by Ann Smith, on March 15, 2017 from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at Architecture Works.

For more information about the Greater Birmingham Observer Corps, visit observercorps.lwvgb.org. If you are interested in attending the training, please email observercorps@lwvgb.org. We are all thrilled at the level of interest we have received thus far and are eager to revive the Greater Birmingham Observer Corps in the coming months!

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Young people want to vote!
We want to help!

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If you are a high school or college student who has never registered to vote, don't worry. We're on our way! Once again LWVGB Voter Service will be out in the community this Spring registering voters. We will be in several area high schools educating students about our electoral system and the importance of voting and, of course, registering eligible young people to vote! Look for more information soon.

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In Memoriam to Ruth J. Wright, LWV Champion

Update: A memorial service for Ruth will be held on February 11, 2017 at 2:00 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, 4300 Hampton Heights Drive, Birmingham, 35209. Please join us to celebrate and remember Ruth’s life.

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Dear LWVGB Members and Friends,

It is with a heavy heart that we report that Ruth J. Wright, Life Member of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham, has passed away. She died peacefully last night, January 18, 2017, at Brookwood Hospital due to respiratory complications. She was 93 years old. Ruth was an active leader in both the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham and of Alabama. She was a champion of the League and for all citizens of our community and state. 

Ruth was the go-to person for LWVGB in the 1970s and '80s on the environment and conservation of natural resources. She worked to preserve our air and water quality and for wise land use. Ruth was particularly concerned about the land-transport of hazardous materials, especially nuclear materials, across Jefferson County and other Alabama counties.

In the 1990s Ruth focused on public transit in the Greater Birmingham area, and worked tirelessly, along with another League champion, Jessie Tehranchi, to try to make good public transportation available to all.

Ruth worked to improve the fairness and efficiency of local government. She was a League leader in advocating for the County Manager in Jefferson County, a position that was created in 2009 and filled in 2011 by then Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos. 

These are just highlights of Ruth’s many works. There is virtually no public issue in which she was not involved. For decades she was a regular observer of the Jefferson County Commission and the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority and an advocate for League issues in Jefferson County and in Montgomery. Ruth participated in many local and state League studies - wrote study plans, participated in the research, and often drafted League positions following member consensus. She served on the Board of Directors of both the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham and of Alabama.

We wanted you to be aware of the many, many contributions she made to the League of Women Voters, information that might not be included in her obituary. She will be deeply missed as a friend and a League colleague. 

Our deepest sympathy goes out to her son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Nina Wright. We will keep you informed of any plans for a memorial service or suggested memorial gifts. 

Jean Johnson
LWVGB President

p.s. This news does not pertain to Ruth L. Wright, also a champion of the League of Women Voters, who is doing well. Ruth L. Wright is a leader of the LWV of East Alabama and LWV of Alabama.

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Thank you, T.K. Thorne, for sharing your personal story and research into the investigation of the 1963 bombing of the Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Thank you, also, to all members and guests who attended the LWVGB Luncheon and shared this special time. If you missed the luncheon, read on to see what you missed. This article appeared in the December, 2016 edition of The Voter, LWVGB’s newsletter.

LWVGB Annual Holiday Luncheon

Saturday, December 3, 2016
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
The Club
1 Robert S. Smith Dr.
Birmingham, AL 35209


Guest Speaker:
T. K. Thorne

Author of
Last Chance for Justice:
How Relentless Investigators
Uncovered New Evidence Convicting
the Birmingham Church Bombers



INVESTIGATION OF THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH BOMBING COMES TO LIGHT

Author T. K. Thorne is a compelling storyteller and a meticulous historian. That is why the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham welcomed Thorne as guest speaker at this year’s LWVGB Holiday Luncheon. The luncheon was held on December 3rd at The Club atop Birmingham’s Red Mountain.

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Thorne spoke on her book Last Chance for Justice: How Relentless Investigators Uncovered New Evidence Convicting the Birmingham Church Bombers. The book has been listed on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading.” Now we know why.

Last Chance for Justice recounts the investigation of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church on September 16th, 1963 in Birmingham. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied, but there were those who struggled to bring closure. Ben Herren and Bill Fleming and others worked diligently for five years to put Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry behind bars for the rest of their lives. Blanton and Cherry were two of the murderers of Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, all 14, and 11- year-old Denise McNair. Blanton and Cherry were finally convicted in 2002. Thorne also put us behind the scene in the investigation and trial of murderer “Dynamite” Bob Chambliss who was convicted of this crime in 1977. We thank T. K. Thorne for bringing these people - the four little girls, the heroes, and the vile perpetrators of this heinous crime - to life through her writing.

In the 60’s and 70’s, T. K. (Teresa) Thorne’s mother, the late Jane Katz, was a forceful lobbyist in the state legislature for the LWV of Alabama. In her honor, the “Jane Katz Public Service Award” is given each year by LWVAL to “recognize an individual or organization whose work strengthens democracy.”

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But there was another side to this woman Jane Katz. Attendees at the luncheon were deeply moved by T. K.’s loving personal story of herself as a young girl and her mother. On one special occasion before a big dinner in the Katz’s home, Teresa’s little hands did not have the strength or balance to hold two precious homemade pies, and the results were disastrous. Thank goodness, the upside down pie-dump happened out of view from the many guests. Mother Jane did not scold. Instead she comforted and had only kind words for her daughter. She proceeded to create something beautiful and delicious (and sanitary) out of the mess. The secret of this little tragedy remained between mother and daughter. And so we learned that Jane Katz, the legendary woman who was literally feared by legislators on Goat Hill as a ferocious advocate for the League of Women Voters of Alabama, was a very kind, loving (and inventive!) mother. Thank you, T.K., for sharing this personal and moving story with us.


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T. K. Thorne is a retired captain from the Birmingham Police Department and recently retired as the Executive Director of Birmingham’s Citizen Action Partnership (CAP) after many years of service. Thorne now spends much of her time on book tours around the country. She is the winner of several awards for her historical nonfiction books Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate.


Readers can learn more about T. K. and all of her books at https://tkthorne.com/books/ Get Last Chance for Justice at https://tkthorne.com/books/last-chance-for-justice/ It is a must-read for students of history and especially the struggle for Civil Rights.

We thank T.K. Thorne for sharing this history and her personal story with us, and Laura Parenteau, for making the books available to League members and assisting her sis T. K.. We also thank LWVGB member Seth Johnson and wife April Smoke Johnson for hosting this 2016 Holiday Luncheon at The Club. We enjoyed a delicious feast and a grand view of our Magic City! And thank you also to Ida Tyree-Hyche, Esq. with assistance from LWVGB VP Arlene Godwin for event photos! See more photos at
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwvgb/albums/72157675721938252.

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See the LWVGB News Archive for news about previous League happenings and projects.