Wilson portrays Julia Tutwiler at Statehouse

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2010

Sue Bass Wilson’s unusual attire made her the talk of the statehouse yesterday.

Wilson dressed as Julia Tutwiler to protest a proposed bill to change the state song, “Alabama,” which was penned by Tutwiler.

Wilson wore black and white clothes typical of the 1860s and a mourning veil, as well as a black and white “Julia Tutwiler – Save our State Song” name badge.

“I will be speaking from the grave as Julia, “ she said in preparing for the event.

Given an opportunity to speak to the House of Representatives just before they came to order yesterday, she gave what amounted to a one-woman show Thursday. She described how Tutwiler penned the lyrics of the song during Reconstruction to inspire pride in Alabamians.

Democratic Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow of Red Bay has introduced a bill to change “Alabama” to the state anthem and make “Stars Fell on Alabama” the state song. Morrow said Alabama needs a more familiar state song for tourism promotions.

Wilson said “Alabama” might be more familiar if the Legislature used it to open each session. To give them a taste of what that would be like, she had a recording of “Alabama” played for them.

Wilson said as she moved about the Statehouse, many who work there asked to have their photograph taken with “Julia.”

“It was a wonderful experience,” she said.

She even had an opportunity to meet Morrow, whom she described as personable, and to challenge his bill.

“He said he’s on the Tourism and Travel committee and that they wanted a more familiar song to use to promote tourism,” she said. “I told him to go ahead and use the song in commercials, but that ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ is a love song and not appropriate as a state song.”

She said that Morrow joked with her that after her appearance in Montgomery, he fully expected to win the legislature’s “shroud award” for his bill.

The award is a gag honor that for three decades has marked the end of the session for lawmakers in Montgomery.

Wilson is president of the Covington Historical Society. House Speaker Seth Hammett who arranged her appearance, which coincided with her grandson, Hampton Glenn, working as a page in Montgomery.