Flowers: Baxley was ‘queen bee’

Published 3:00 am Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lucy Baxley, who served as Alabama’s first female lieutenant governor, died Friday at age 78.

Baxley won election to three statewide offices and was the second woman in Alabama history to win a major party nomination for governor.

Political analyst and former state representative Steve Flowers and Baxley were longtime friends. He was at the State House when Baxley was the “queen bee.”

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“Lucy was from Pansey in rural Houston, County,” Flowers said. “My uncle, Maurice Miller, taught history at Ashford and taught Lucy. She was a country girl so she never went to college but she worked in the Houston County Courthouse as the secretary for Judge Keener Baxley, Bill Baxley’s dad. Bill grew up in that courthouse.”

At age 28, Bill Baxley was elected attorney general and Lucy went to Montgomery as his administrative assistant and quickly took charge of all the young assistant attorney generals, including Flowers and Pike Countians Don Dickert and Dickie Calhoun.

“She was in charge of all of us,” Flowers said. “She was the queen bee. She was a littler older than Bill and we all thought she was like his big sister and, lo and behold, they got married. We had no idea there was anything romantic between them.”

The Baxleys’ marriage ended in divorce and she moved to Birmingham and went into real estate.

“But Lucy had gotten bitten by the political bug and decided to run for state treasurer,” Flowers said. “She had one of the best campaign slogans I’ve ever seen – I Love Lucy.  She was elected state treasurer in 1994 and served two terms in office. She won election as lieutenant governor in 2002 and was so well known around the state that she was known just a Lucy. Her parking space at the capitol was mark Lucy, no last name, just Lucy.”

In 2006, Baxley won the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor but lost to Gov. Bob Riley in the general election.

Flowers said through Baxley’s political campaigns, Bill Baxley was her biggest contributor. 

“I’ve never seen a better retail politician than Lucy Baxley,” Flowers said. “She was genuine and she was honest and forthright. She was a hard worker and she didn’t take anything from anybody. She liked people and they liked her and were attracted to her. Not many politicians like to campaign but Lucy did. She was the best one-on-one politician I have ever seen.”

Baxley was elected president of the Public Service Commission in 2008. She was defeated for re-election by Twinkle Cavanaugh in 2012.  “Lucy’s health was such that she was rather reclusive in the last few years,” Flowers said. “She was in a wheelchair for a long time. She asked me to come visit her and asked if I thought being in the wheelchair would hurt her if she ran for public office. I told her, not the wheelchair, but running as a Democrat. She was a yellow-dog Democrat.

“Lucy left a lucrative real estate business to get back into politics. She loved being in the political area and she was a successful politician.”

Flowers said Lucy Baxley broke the ice for female politicians in Alabama and left a definitive mark on Alabama politics.