Julia’s Top 10 Reasons to Keep the State Song

Published 1:10 am Friday, March 5, 2010

JULIA TUTWILER Impersonator Sue Bass Wilson, president of the Covington Historical Society and a resident of Andalusia, Ala., went to Montgomery to protest a bill that would change the state song. Her presentation follows:


1. Around 1868 I penned the lyrics 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.”

5. 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?

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.