First Black Women in Public Office in Greene County

Mrs. Wadine Williams was elected the first Black Circuit Clerk in Greene County.

Mrs. Amanda Burton was the first Black woman appointed to the Greene County Commission.
Mrs. Lula Cook was the first Black woman appointed and subsequently elected as Greene County Tax Collector.
Mrs. Edna Chambers was the first Black Woman elected to the Greene County Commission

Editor’s Note: In March, as Women’s History Month, the Democrat will salute various Black women who held political office.

Mrs. Wadine Williams was elected the first Black Circuit Clerk in Greene County in 1970 on the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) ticket. She ran for re-election in 1976, but was defeated by Mary McShan, who ran on the Democratic Party ticket.

Ms. Amanda Burton was appointed the first Black Woman on the Greene County Commission, to complete the term of her husband, Franchie Burton, when he passed.
Burton attended school at the Bibb County Training School and Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, where she met her husband, Franchie Burton. After marriage and a move to Greene County, Burton completed her BA degree at Alabama State University in Montgomery and become a certified librarian.
In 1935, Mrs. Burton began teaching at Burton Hill School in Greene County. It was consolidated with Eatman School in 1962 and she continued to teach there and also began its library. She retired in 1972.
She was an active member of the Johnson Hill United Methodist Church in Union. She organized the Johnson Hill Summer Youth Program, which became the Johnson Hill Learning Center.
She was the first Black woman in Greene County to register to vote and the first Black Notary Public in Greene County. She helped incorporate the town of Union and organized a nutrition site for senior citizens in 1981.
Gov. George Wallace appointed her to fill her late husband’s unexpired term as county commissioner, thus making her the first woman commissioner in Greene County.
Mrs. Lula Cook was the first Black Woman appointed to the office of Tax Collector, when her husband, Robert Cook, passed in 1986. She was subsequently elected to that office.
Lula Virginia Davis Cook , (Honey Bae, Honey Baby) was born June 14, 1922 in Boligee, Alabama. After the early demise of her mother, Rebecca Dunlap, she was reared and nurtured in the Christian home by her loving grandparents, George and Lula Davis. She was educated in the Greene County School System. After graduating from Greene County Training School, she attended A & M University, Normal, AL and Miles College in Birmingham, AL, majoring in Early Childhood Education. Because of her love for children, she worked for several years with the Greene County Board of Education.
On December 24, 1948 she married the love of her life, Robert Henry Cook, Sr., who was elected the first Black Tax Collector of Greene County beginning October 1, 1973. In 1986, Lula succeeded her husband after he had served twelve consecutive years by becoming the first Black woman to serve as Greene County’s Tax Collector. Lula loved the Lord and was a loyal member of Macedonia CME Church where she served faithfully until her health prevented her from doing so. She served as Sunday School Teacher, President of the Missionary Society, Secretary of the Sunday School, a Laymen and a Trustee.

Mrs. Edna Chambers was the first Black Woman elected to the Greene County Commission.
Mrs. Edna Chambers, of Knoxville, AL, celebrated her 92nd birthday on January 8, 2023.  Mrs. Chambers has been a community activist all her adult life and continues to share her life experiences and wisdom, receiving many accolades for her outstanding community work.  She is noted as a trailblazer, civil rights activists and humanitarian in Greene County and throughout the state of Alabama.
  Chambers, representing District 1,  served two terms on the Greene County Commission between 1998- 2004.  Prior to running for office, Mrs. Chambers had just retired from the Greene County Health Department as a  home health care employee.  She and her husband for many years operated a small community grocery store. She was also a licensed agent with Primerica Insurance Company. 
  In  her capacity as a community leader,  Mrs. Chambers helped and assisted with the following: Camp Montgomery, Knoxville Volunteer Fire Department, Montgomery Recreation Center and the USDA Commodity Distribution. She is also an active member of the Greene County Chapter of Alabama New South Coalition.
Mrs. Chambers attends Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Knoxville. Her pastor is Rev. Robert Ellis.  


Greene County commemorates 52nd Annual Freedom Day at Courthouse Square; Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee keynotes; vaccinations offered

Staff of the Greene County Health System administering Johnson and Johnson one shot COVID-19 vaccine as part of the program
L to R: John Zippert , Anita Lewis , Greene County Housing Authority Director, Lewis Leonard, who was the first person vaccinate and received a $100 gift certificate, and Spiver W.Gordon
L t o R: Spiver W. Gordon presents certificate to keynote speaker, Johnny Ford , Mayor Latasha Johnson, Lorenzo French and John Zippert

The Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement Museum sponsored the 52nd Annual Freedom Day Program at the Old Courthouse Square on Saturday, July 31, 2021.

About one hundred people attended the outside meeting, in blistering

heat, to commemorate the Special Election on July 29, 1969, when Black people were elected to control the County Commission and School Board in Greene County. 

The Special Election of July 1969 was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court, after local white officials left the Black candidates, running in the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) off the ballot in the November 1968 General Election. The meeting was to commemorate over half a century of Black political progress in Greene County.

The Greene County Health System was on hand to give Johnson and Johnson one-shot coronavirus vaccinations at the event to persons who needed a vaccination. Seven persons were vaccinated and many others received information on the importance of vaccination to protect their health and the health of their families, friends and community. The Museum and other sponsors provided gift certificates to those who were vaccinated.

Spiver Gordon, President of the Museum spoke on the occasion for the program. “Many things have changed for the better since 1969. Electing Black officials allowed us to change many of the insulting racist practices n Greene County but we still need to keep working and keep moving forward.

Everything that happened, happened because ordinary people stood up to help make the needed changes.”

Lorenzo French, Chair of the Greene County Democratic Executive Committee, lamented, “Too many of our candidates are ‘bought and paid for’ before they run for office and when they get into office, they don’t do what we need them to do. We must recruit and train better candidates that will serve the people.”

Johnny Ford, eight term Mayor of Tuskegee and currently a City Council member gave the keynote address. Ford has served as head of the Alabama Conference of Black Mayors, National Conference of Black Mayors and World Conference of Black Mayors. He recently tried to saw the base of the Confederate Soldiers Memorial in Tuskegee to topple the statue.

Ford thanked Greene County for its work over the years since 1969 to pave the way for Black elected officials in Alabama and across the nation. “Today we have 50 Black mayors in Alabama, 200 across the South and more than 700 Mayors and Council-people across The United States, all inspired by what happened in Greene County,” said Ford.

Ford urged people to get vaccinated for the coronavirus and save their lives and the lives of the people around them. “Some people have hesitancy because of what happened in Tuskegee years ago in the syphilis study, where 600 Black men were denied medicine, to study the effects on them. In this case we are being offered a safe vaccine that was developed with the participation of Black doctors. Everyone should take the vaccine,” declared Ford in his remarks.

Ford said, “We have some more rivers to cross. We must Expand Medicaid for poor and working people in Alabama. We must end voter suppression and pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We must end police brutality and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.”

Eutaw Mayor Latasha Johnson also addressed the crowd and urged everyone to participate in government by voting and attending meetings. She also urged everyone to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the coronavirus, especially the new delta strain, which is more powerful and contagious.

Spiver Gordon concluded the meeting by giving a plaque to speaker Mayor Johnny Ford, gift certificates to those who took coronavirus shots at the event and some door prizes to those in attendance. Refreshments were provided at the end of the meeting.

New Civil Rights monuments unveiled as part of 50th anniversary of ‘Freedom Day’ in Greene County

Special to the Democrat by: John Zippert,

Members of the Class of 1965 pose behind the new
monument at former Carver School
Spiver W. Gordon points out information on monument at the home of Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter

During this weekend’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Greene County’s Freedom Day – July 29, 1969 –the Alabama Civil Rights Movement Museum unveiled two new monuments in Eutaw to the grassroots leaders and footsoldiers of the movement.
This weekend’s activities celebrated a Special Election held in Greene County, fifty years ago, which elected four African-American County Commissioners – Harry Means, Vassie Knott, Franchie Burton and Levi Morrow Sr. – two school board members – Robert Hines and James Posey. The two school board members joined two elected earlier – Rev. Peter J. Kirksey and John Head, which gave Black people majority control of county government. Greene County, Alabama was the first county in the South, where Black people took political control since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The July 29, 1969 special election was ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court after the names of the Black candidates, running under the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA) were deliberately left off the November 1968 General Election ballot. In the November 1970 election, Judge William McKinley Branch was elected Probate Judge, Thomas Gilmore, Sheriff and Wadine Williams, Circuit Clerk, Robert Cook, Tax Collector.
The success in the elections of 1969 and 1970 had their roots in a student protest and boycott that began in January 1965 at Carver High School in Eutaw and lasted the rest of the semester.
At 9:00 AM on Saturday, July 27, 2019, Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum, convened the program to unveil a monument to the students and supporting parents and community leaders who were involved in the 1965 school boycott. The monument which is in front of the former Carver School, now a City of Eutaw Community Center, lists the names of over 120 grassroots people who took part in this boycott, which paved the way for other civil rights and voting rights victories that followed in the 1960’s.
Joyce Crawford Mitchell, a tenth grade student in 1965 said the boycott came about because of the “blatantly unbelievable inequities in the educational system at that time.
“We had hand-me-down textbooks; sometimes we had to bind the books together they were so old. We could not go to the public library in Eutaw and there weren’t many books in the school. We shut down the school, chained the doors and left the principal inside.”
Jacqueline Bloxton Allen, of the 1965 graduating class described the boycott and ensuing months of marches and protests. “First we met in the First Baptist Church but they were pressured and put us out, so we started meeting in the cemetery across the street from the church. Black students from Eatman Jr. High and Greene County Training School joined us across the county. The parents and groups from around the county sent food for us to eat – mostly bologna sandwiches. We marched into downtown Eutaw. We were fearful and excited. Many parents were evicted from farms when the power structure found out their children were involved in the boycott and protests.”
Allen continued, “We found out that we would not have a graduation because of the boycott. At this point, SCLC scheduled a graduation for us on May 30, 1965 in Selma at Brown’s Chapel Church. We went to the graduation, boys wearing overalls and girls in denim skirts and white blouses.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was our graduation speaker and we all received Freedom Diplomas, signed by Dr. King, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and James Orange. Dr. King told us we would have a bright future because we had taken part in the boycott. He said we had shown that young people are powerful when they make up their minds to change the world.”
The group moved on to unveil a second monument, on Alabama Highway 14, at the home of two Black sisters – Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter – who were grassroots leaders of the movement and allowed their home to be used for strategy meetings and as a resting place for civil rights leaders.
Ms. Rosie Carpenter was a schoolteacher, who was instrumental in actively supporting the civil rights and voting rights struggle in Greene County, when many other educators were afraid to stand-up and speak out against injustice. Mrs. Annie Thomas was a businesswoman who supported the movement. Ms. Carpenter, who is 97 years old, living with her daughter in Maryland, attended the program and made some remarks recalling the difficulties of standing up for justice in the 1960’s.
Others spoke to the role of the two sisters in supporting the civil rights movement. Some recalled that Dr. King, James Orange, Hosea Williams and other SCLC workers stayed at their home as a place of rest during the movement. Renatta Gail Brown, daughter of Robert Brown, first Black School Superintendent, recalled that SNCC workers, Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, played with her, as a child during the 1960’s at Ms. Carpenter’s house.
As the monument was unveiled, the group recited a dedication which concluded, We dedicate this monument to stand for years as a symbol that grassroots and ordinary people can do extraordinary and exemplary things, despite insurmountable obstacles, to advance their destiny and quality of life, as part of a movement for social change in their home community, the state, the nation and the world.
Gordon postponed, until a later date, the unveiling of a third monument, to be placed at the Robert Brown Middle School to honor Black students who integrated the schools of Greene County in the late 1960’s.
The Democrat will have additional reports and photographs of the 50th anniversary commemoration in next weeks and future editions of this newspaper.

Two-day celebration planned for 50th anniversary of ‘Greene Co. Freedom Day’, July 29, 1969, when Black people were elected to take control of county government

NDPA Political Planning Session
L to R: Rev. Peter Kirskey, School Board Member, Rev. William M. Branch Probate Judge candidate, Malcom Branch, Judge Branch’s son, Greene County Commissioner Franchie Burton, Dr. John Cashin, NDPA President, Rev. Thomas Gilmore, Sheriff Candidate, County Commissioner Levi Morrow, Sr., and County Commissioner Harry Means. The group shown here is meeting in a planning session for the special election for Greene County in 1968. (The Afro-American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)
Packed courtroom on hand for the oath taking ceremony for Greene County Commissioners and school board members listened intently as Circuit Court Judge Emmett Hildreth read a six page speech in which he lists achievements of past administrations and county bank balance. Newly elected Black officials were joined by fifth commissioner, Dennis Herndon, Probate Judge and other school board members in 1969. ( AFRO Staff Photos  By Irving H. Phillips of The Afro- American Newspaper in Baltimore MD.)

Special to the
Democrat by: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

“We will be holding a two day celebration of the 50th anniversary of Greene County Freedom Day – July 29, 1969 – when a Special Election was held in the county that elected the first four Black County Commissioners and two additional Black school board members, which gave Black people control of the major agencies of government,” said Spiver W. Gordon, President of the Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement in Eutaw, Alabama.
This special election in the summer of 1969 was ordered by the United States Supreme Court when the names of Black candidates, running on the National Democratic Party of Alabama (NDPA), were deliberately left off the November 1968 General Election ballot by the ruling white political officials of the time. The special election of July 29, 1969 allowed Black voters, many newly registered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, who were the majority in Greene County to have their say in a free and democratic election.
This was a historic event, which heralded a change in political power across the Alabama Black Belt and began a generational shift in the political power in Greene County that has continued for fifty years.
“As part of our commemorative celebration on the weekend of July 27 and 28, 2019, we will be unveiling and dedicating three monuments with the names of the ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to changing the history of Greene County, the Alabama Black Belt, the South and the nation,” said Gordon.
The three monuments will be dedicated on Saturday morning, July 27, 2019 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.
The first monument will be for the Carver High School Class of 1965 and other Greene County school students, who boycotted classes and closed the schools to demonstrate against segregated schools and unacceptable civil rights conditions in Greene County at that time. The Class of 1965 closed the schools for the remainder of the spring 1965 semester and there was no formal graduation that year. Many of the students received a “Freedom Diploma” signed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph D. Abernathy and James Orange, at Brown’s Chapel Church in Selma, Alabama later in the summer.
The monument at the former Carver High School, now the Robert H. Cook Community Center, features the names of over 120 young people that took part in the school boycott and demonstrations of 1965, which led to the voting rights and election struggles later in that decade.
The second monument will be placed in front of ‘The Freedom House’, home of the late Annie Thomas and Rosie Carpenter on Highway 14 in Eutaw. These two courageous sisters, one a businesswoman and the other a school teacher, allowed their home to be used, starting in the 1960’s and continuing into the 1990’s for strategy sessions and political action planning meetings related to the civil and voting rights struggles of Greene County.
The third monument to be placed in front of the current Robert Brown Middle School and former Greene County High School site, to honor the young African-American students who first integrated the schools of Greene County in the 1960’s. The names of 45 or more persons are on this marker.
On Saturday, July 27, 2019 at 6:00 PM there will be a banquet honoring the foot soldiers who participated in the civil rights and voting rights movement of the 1960’s in Greene County. Among the living leaders who participated in the struggle, who have agreed to attend are: Rosie Carpenter (who now lives in Bowie, Maryland), Bill Edwards (Portland, OR), Atty. Sheryl Cashin (daughter of John Cashin from Washington, D. C.) Fred Taylor, Tyrone Brooks, and Dexter Wimbush (Georgia), Wendell H. Paris (Jackson, MS), Judge John England, Hank Sanders, Sen. Bobby Singleton and many other dignitaries.
On Sunday July 28, 2019, at 4:00 PM there will be a Freedom Rally, honoring the fallen Black political leaders of Greene County, at the William M. Branch Courthouse in Eutaw.
The rally will be followed by a fish-fry and watermelon eating fellowship meeting on the grounds of the old Courthouse in Eutaw.
For more information and to support the Freedom Day 50th anniversary celebration, contact: Spiver Gordon, Alabama Civil Rights Museum Movement, Inc., P. O. Box 385, Eutaw, Alabama 35462; phone 205-372-3446;