Since 2010, this website has served as a reminder that our state song was almost replaced. Impersonator Julia Tutwiler (from the grave) appeared at the Alabama legislature to thwart this effort. May its story be preserved in Alabama history.
This Web site is dedicated to saving the Alabama state song. Representative Jack Morrow from Red Bay, Alabama, has proposed House Bill No. 336 in the House of Representatives to change the state song. He states that the Tourism Committee needs a song for upcoming tv ads promoting Alabama. I have suggested that he use “Stars Fell on Alabama” which is a beautiful tune, however many feel that the words are not appropriate for school children to sing at school assemblies. It is a love song, a dance song. Please read the message that “Julia Tutwiler from the grave” spoke in Montgomery at the pre-session of the House of Representatives, thanks to Speaker Seth Hammett who so graciously allowed this opportunity. Also, the song was played featuring the “Million Dollar Band” and the “University Singers” from a 1964 record album that was transferred to a CD. There are other versions as beautiful such as the 2009 Alabama All-State Chorus, I am told. It was pleasing to see all in the chamber and the gallery standing in respect while the song was played. Then everyone, representatives, staff members, secretaries, visitors wanted their picture taken with “Julia.” The response was overwhelming in that “Julia” found only one who wanted to change the song and that was Representative Morrow who gave “Julia” a “Southern gentleman” welcome with the red carpet treatment! It is true that many young people in Alabama do not know the state song even though it is supposed to be taught in fourth grade Alabama history curriculum, but we won’t look back. We must look forward and teach our children and grandchildren to sing it and also teach them about the many contributions of Julia Tutwiler, poet, author, and great Alabamian, in the areas of education and prison reform. Through her efforts, the first 10 women were admitted to the University of Alabama. Also, she was responsible for men and women in jails being incarcerated separately as well as drastically improving prison conditions. Numerous were her contributions to education at Montevallo and Livingston (now the University of West Alabama). Buildings, dorms and libraries, across the state are named in her honor. What a shame to change her song to “state anthem” status from the “official state song,” as designated by the state legislature in 1931! We should be proud of our state song and our Alabama heritage. There is a history behind how the words of the state song were penned. Read the message below addressed to the House of Representatives and learn about it if you are not familiar with the story. Please get involved if you only e-mail your state representative or write a letter to your local newspaper editor voicing opposition to this bill. If you are a music or history teacher, please teach the story and the song to your students. If you are a parent or grandparent of a school child, please ask the school to sing the state song at their assemblies. I am sure that there are many Julia Tutwiler biographies in school libraries that are available. Thank you Alabama citizens from all parts of the state for your e-mails, letters, and phone calls of support. Please keep this effort going and alive to swiftly defeat the bill. Unofficial word from Montgomery as of 3-9-10 is that Rep. Morrow may postpone calling for a vote until a future session, but please help continue the efforts to defeat this bill until this is no longer an issue.
Loyally and faithfully,
Sue Bass Wilson, Alabamian
Julia Tutwiler Impersonator
Alabama House of Representatives
March 4, 2010
Covington Historical Society
Real Estate Agent and Former Choral Music Teacher
B. S. Music Education 1969 University of Alabama
Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at email@example.com.
February 22, 2010
In regard to the 3rd effort in recent years by a legislator to change our official state song, let me first say that our current state song that was adopted in 1931 by the legislature is a beautiful tune with lovely and dignified lyrics, appropriate to be sung at club meetings, gatherings, and assemblies. My fellow college students and I played and sang that song on many occasions in the U of AL “Million Dollar Band” in the late 1960’s. It appears that some of our legislators need to refresh their memories of fourth grade Alabama history regarding Julia Tutwiler, a Tuscaloosa native, who was an educator, prison reformer, and writer who penned the lyrics. Google her on Encyclopedia of Alabama and look at her contributions to the State of Alabama. A number of buildings on various college campuses are named in her honor. Prior to Tutwiler’s death in 1916, Alabama clubwomen and some prominent men honored her by portraits, plaques, endowed scholarships, markers, and published articles. The legislature in 1915 recognized her contributions. Such a change would serve not only to show disrespect but also to destroy another part of our Alabama heritage. It’s not about not liking change, it’s about keeping tradition. If the state Tourism Committee wants a song to promote Alabama in tv ads, then play the tunes, “Stars Fell on Alabama,” (a love song) or “I Come From Alabama With the Banjo on My Knee,” but don’t change the state song. In fact, why shouldn’t each session of the legislature begin with the singing of “Alabama, Alabama, We will aye be true to thee…” which would be an example for the school children and teachers of Alabama to learn it and teach it? Who knows, the way we are headed, the next generation of legislators may want to change it to B-I-N-G-O!
Sue Bass Wilson
Covington Historical Society
March 4, 2010
HONORABLE SPEAKER AND HOUSE MEMBERS:
Around 1868 I penned the lyrics to my poem during reconstruction just after my return from educational study in Germany where I heard patriotic and exciting songs. I thought the people of Alabama could use some inspiration after the War Between the States, because Alabamians had suffered from the ravages of war. So upon my return to Alabama, I gifted these words to the state.
In 1917, Edna Gockel-Gussen of Birmingham, I am told, won the Alabama Federation of Music Club’s competition for her composition setting my poem to music. Later in 1931, a bill introduced by the Honorable Tyler Goodwyn, House Concurrent Resolution No. 74 was adopted making my poem and Edna Gockel-Gussen’s music the state’s official song.
The song, “Alabama, Alabama,” is easy for school children and adults alike to sing in assemblies, gatherings, and club meetings. It is exemplary of a state song with simple and dignified yet meaningful words which are easily memorized and yes, appropriate.
I tried to honor Alabamians with my poetic words about the state and its people – Tennessee, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Bigbee, Warrior, Northern vale, Southern shore, marble white quarries, magnolia groves, snow- white cotton, perfumed south wind, golden jasmine, broad and fertile prairies, strong-armed miners, sturdy farmers and loyal hearts. “Little, little, can(could) I give thee, Alabama, mother mine; but that little – hand, brain, spirit. All I have and am are thine.”
Education is an important issue in the state capitol, and I understand that after my death in 1916, I earned the title of “mother of co-education in Alabama.” Daughter of Henry Tutwiler, a founder and headmaster of the Greene Springs School in what is now Hale County, my career was as a teacher, an administrator, and educational reformer. My father recognized the value of women being educated. I am buried in the Havana United Methodist Church cemetery in Hale County where my family has deep roots. Shouldn’t the creator of a state song be a native Alabamian?
Back in my day, I stood for what was right when it wasn’t necessarily acceptable at that time. Some said I was born 50 years before my time. Today I feel strongly that it is not right to change a state song so rich in tradition of almost 80 years, one that was so carefully worded and composed to instill pride in all Alabamians. We must all follow a path in life of doing what is right, what is gallant.
It is heartwarming to learn that Alabama All-State High School Choruses, college bands and choruses have sung, played, and recorded beautiful arrangements of the state song over a period of many years. May the song ring forever in their dear hearts as they serve Alabama true to its heritage working to build a better state.
It has come to my attention that historical groups and Alabama citizens who have a great appreciation for the history and tradition of this state song of long-standing oppose the passage of House Bill No. 336. On behalf of not only the historical groups of Alabama but also of those unable or unwilling to speak and who share this same belief to want this bill defeated, I respectfully speak for them.
A grave mate of mine who passed this life in the late 1930’s told me that a beautiful love song written in 1934, “Stars Fell on Alabama,” was a popular dance song of the 20th century, and that admirers of this jazz standard have danced many miles on the ballroom dance floors of Alabama; however, the words do not seem to be fitting for school children to sing. Other songs too that have been popularized and suggested for state song status just possibly may not have longevity. We must be very careful. Do we really need to change? We must familiarize ourselves with it to realize the full impact on so many.
Ten years ago in the year of our Lord 2000 when I was told that there was a proposal to change the state song, I rolled over in my grave. This time, I have come from the grave to simply ask the great and distinguished leaders of this legislature to keep the state song. Those who cherish it and who wish to preserve it will be eternally grateful. In conclusion, I offer this observation. Through the years, there are those who have stood at my final place of rest and whispered their kind words of appreciation to me. Now I would like to go, never to return, and REST IN PEACE knowing that the state song has been kept aflame for generations to come.
Impersonator-Sue Bass Wilson
April 22, 2000
I do not like the idea of "elevating" the state song, "Alabama," to "state anthem." That's like putting it on the shelf, like putting grandma in a nursing home, like turning ones back on an old friend. It is ungentlemanly toward Miss (Julia) Tutwiler. It is not gallant. It is not Southern.
Phillip Rawls of the Associated Press quoted Sen. Jack Biddle, the man behind the proposed change, as saying that his replacement, "Stars Fell on Alabama," is a song "you can dance to, a song you can hug your sweetie to." A state song is not for shaking and baking. It is for sentiment, tradition, and dignity.
I have had "Alabama" on my school room wall for 34 years. I belong to an organization that opens its meeting with "Alabama." It reminds me of my childhood (growing up in Montgomery), my heritage and happier days. I feel as much resentment over this proposed changing the name of the state or the street on which I was reared or the name of Montgomery. Our world is filled with enough changes already. Some things should be left alone.
There seems to be a trend to change names. Old honors are set aside to honor the latest crowd-pleasers. It seems to me that an honor should be forever. It seems to me that those who cast aside the honors of the past are not worthy to be entrusted with public confidence.
Sen. Biddle was quoted again by Rawls as saying, "You can't do anything to 'Alabama.'" Yes, one can. One can respect it. One can still with his hat removed and sing it with pride. One can swell with appreciation at his heritage and at the beauty of this state. One can be dignified. One can listen to the words which say much more of Alabama than "Stars Fell on Alabama."
I have a suggestion for the representatives of the people in Montgomery. Begin each of your meetings by singing "Alabama." Set an example for the children. After having sung "Alabama" a dozen times, perhaps you might "catch on" to the tune and words and find them worthy, after all.
Also, send copies of "Alabama" to the schools so the children will have a chance to learn and love it, too.
Joseph Cecil Wingard
*Note - Mr. Wingard is a graduate of Lee High School in Montgomery and Samford University in Birmingham. He is the Charter President of the Covington Historical Society in Andalusia (est. 1976), a retired English teacher(39 years) of the Andalusia High School, poet, author, and weekly social columnist of "Mrs. Grundy, Sees All, Tells All"(See www.andalusiastarnews.com). This editorial was written in 2000 when an effort was made then to change the state song. The bill was defeated.
Wilson wins 1st round in fight for song
Andalusia resident Sue Bass Wilson's costumed appearance before the state legislature last week produced the desired results, at least for now. Wilson, who is president of the Covington Historical Society, dressed as Julia Tutwiler, the pioneering Alabama woman who penned the state song, which begins "Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee," and is seldom heard outside fourth grade Alabama history classrooms. Wilson went to Montgomery to protest a bill proposed by Democratic Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow of Red Bay, which would make "Alabama" the state anthem and designate "Stars Fell on Alabama," a 1934 jazz standard, as the state song. Morrow said he proposed the change because tourism officials want a more "recognizable" song to use in promotions. Morrow's bill came out of committee on Tuesday, but he said he doesn't plan to try to pass the bill this year. Instead, he wants the Alabama Tourism Department to put a poll of about 20 Alabama-related songs on its Web site and let people vote on their favorite. Then he will use the results to write a new bill. Wilson's not falling for the ploy. She said a Facebook site has been set up and a Web site is being developed in support of the efforts and should be available at www.savethealabamastatesong.org within 24 hours.
AP ARTICLE FROM THE MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER - MARCH 5, 2010
Law makers postpone vote on state song bill
"...Wilson, president of the Covington Historical Society, appeared before the House last week dressed as Tutwiler and urged the House not to change the state song. She said Tutwiler's Reconstruction-era lyrics inspire pride in the state, and the strong reaction to her committee appearance proves it. 'I've had so many e-mails I haven't been able to work,' Wilson said. Morrow is not the first legislator to try to change the state song. Former Republican state Sen. Jack Biddle of Gardendale tried in 1978 and 2000 without success."
"He may think we'll back up, but we're just getting revved up."
— Sue Bass Wilson —
These are just a few of many which appeared in The Montgomery Advertiser & The Andalusia Star-News:
Adopt more official music
I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the Legislature is so hard at work. They have given the state an official anthem, a song, and a ballad. Now if only they would follow up with a state hymn, state waltz, and state concerto and perhaps throw in an official medley or two, they can pat themselves on the back, collect their expense money and dance on home satisfied.
Robert E. McCue, Montgomery, April 30, 2000
State's official song could be worse
...Just leave "Alabama" in place as the traditional song and pick one of the others as a "State Tune." At any rate, the Legislature has bigger fish to fry than conducting a sing-along. Lord knows, if they don't fix Alabama's budget shortfall, our de facto state song will be "Brother, can you spare a dime."
Ralph Foster, Montgomery, March 17, 2010
State song bill is 'shroud'ed
"Well I'd like to tell him 'Congratulations.' " That's what Sue Bass Wilson said yesterday when she learned the sponsor of a bill to change the state song received the shroud award for the "deadest bill of the session." Johnny Mack Morrow of Red Bay, who sponsored a bill to change "Alabama" to the state anthem and make "Stars Fell on Alabama" the state song, received the annual coffin-shaped award as the legislature ended its 2010 session. Morrow had said Alabama needs a more familiar song for tourism promotions. Wilson dressed as Julia Tutwiler, who actually wrote the state song, and went to Montgomery twice during the session to protest the bill. She also went to a tea at the governor's mansion hosted by First Lady Patsy Riley in her "Julia" attire. Wilson said Morrow "was very cordial to me and a real Southern gentleman." "I thought about it all day today, and hoped they didn't slip the bill in. I'm relieved," Wilson said. Wilson also has a Web site protesting the proposed change of the state song, www.savethealabamastatesong.org .
Note from Kathryn Tucker Windham;
"Thank you for saving our state's splendid official song. Miss Julia would be very proud of you."
Kathryn Tucker Windham, Author and Storyteller, Selma, Alabama
E-mail from Cecelia Kervin Meeks;
"Sue-I want to thank you for defending Alabama's traditional state song. Perhaps if teachers-as you did at Montezuma (Christian Academy) would strive to ensure students learn more about Alabama's wonderful history, songs and traditions, one wouldn't have to worry about such nonsense as legislators trying to exchange our historic state song for a tourism gimmick. Thanks again, CKM"
Celia Kervin Meeks, Field Representative, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, Dothan, AL
Letter from Randall Bradley, DMA;
"In my years growing up in Florala, we learned the state song in the 4th grade when we studied Alabama history with Mrs. Joann Geohagen. When we went to the state capitol for our field trip, we sang this song proudly on the steps of the capitol. I think Alabamians could use a bit more old-fashioned pride in our great state, the pride that many of us grew up treasuring."
Randall Bradley, DMA Professor of Music-Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Letter from Molly Barnett;
"You will be happy to know that many pre-schoolers have learned the Alabama State Song! The teachers have been teaching this song to their classes for the past three years. We sing it every morning after our pledge to the American flag. The children learn it quickly and it amazes the parents. Thank you for doing your part in keeping the song alive as our official state song."
Molly Barnett, Teacher, Homewood, Alabama
Note from Andalusia Elementary School 4th Grade Teachers:
Thanks so much for coming to AES to bring Julia Tutwiler to life for our 4th graders. You shared so much more than our history books! I believe our 4th graders would fight to keep our state song just as it is!!
Debbie Grimes, Tammy McKinney, Julie Hardy, Jennifer Earnest, Beverly Moore, Lucretia Hawkins
Part I Fall 1991-No. 22-Julia Tutwiler, educator and social reformer, wanted to change the world-or at least change Alabama.
Part II Winter 1992-No. 23-As a woman, Julia Tutwiler could neither vote or hold office. Yet she changed the face of higher education in Alabama and forced prison reform on a reluctant state.
By-Paul M. Pruitt, Jr.
CALL, WRITE, OR EMAIL YOUR SENATOR OR REPRESENTATIVE
(334) 242-7800 (general information)
This Website is dedicated to the memory of Alabama renowned legend Kathryn Tucker Windham, author and storyteller, who wrote “My Name is Julia” and who performed this one-woman play on stage in period costume “all over the state of Alabama at least 100 times.” At the age of 93, Kathryn Tucker Windham passed away surrounded by her relatives on Sunday afternoon, June 12, 2011, at her home in Selma, Alabama. We must all plan to visit the KTW Museum in Thomasville, Alabama, her hometown. One may read more about Mrs. Windham’s life and her contributions as well as hear personal video interviews with her at www.montgomeryadvertiser.com