Ann Smith Bedsole

Ann Bedsole Ann Smith Bedsole, born Margaret Anna Smith, (1930- ) was the first woman elected to the Alabama State Senate (1983-1995) and the first Republican woman elected to the Alabama House of Representatives (1979-1983). In addition, another notable accomplishment was her role in the founding of the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science (ASMS) in Mobile, Mobile County, in 1991. After leaving politics, she continued to serve in numerous philanthropic, honorary, and business positions and on the board of the ASMS.

Margaret Anna Smith was born on January 7, 1930, in Selma, Dallas County, to timberman and farmer Malcolm White Smith and former schoolteacher Sybil Huey Smith. When Margaret was five years old, her father moved the family to Jackson, Clarke County, after purchasing a local lumber business, which he renamed the M. W. Smith Lumber Company. Margaret finished high school in Waynesboro, Virginia, before enrolling at the University of Alabama and thereafter at the University of Denver in Colorado. In her late 20s, Smith returned to Jackson, where she met and married business executive and philanthropist Massey Palmer Bedsole Jr. in 1958. They later moved to Mobile and would have three children.

By the 1960s, Ann Smith Bedsole had become actively involved with the Republican Party in Mobile. In 1964, she served as an alternative delegate to the Republican National Convention in which conservative Arizona senator Barry Goldwater’s presidential nomination led to a resurgence of the Republican Party in Alabama. Bedsole served as a member of the Alabama Republican State Executive Committee in 1966. Her rise in politics was evident by 1972, when she was designated as a Presidential Elector for Alabama at the Republican National Convention that nominated incumbent president Richard Nixon, and she was elected as the “First Lady of Mobile” that year. Her work in Mobile continued, serving as the Republican chair of Ward 4, where she witnessed a series of failed Republican campaigns. In 1978, she ran for the Alabama House of Representatives from District 101 (Mobile) after Democrat Sonny Callahan vacated his seat to run for the Alabama State Senate. Her victory in the election made her the first Republican woman elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, serving from 1979 to 1982.

Alabama School for Mathematics and Science In 1982, Callahan vacated his seat in the Alabama Senate from District 34 (Mobile) and Bedsole once again ran for his seat and won, serving three terms from 1983 until 1994, making her the first woman elected to the Alabama Senate. A strong proponent of improving public education, she was instrumental in creating the Alabama School of Math and Science, a public residential magnet school focusing on advanced studies in the sciences and mathematics. She also served as the chair of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee, which is charged with developing policy related to agriculture, the environment, fishes, and game for Alabamians. For her work, she was named “Mobilian of the Year” in 1993. The following year, she left the Alabama Senate to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Again, improving public education was an important issue for her. But she lost in a runoff against Forrest “Fob” James who won the office of governor.

Bedsole returned to Mobile, where she continued her business and philanthropic work and was eventually named Philanthropist of the Year in 1998. In 2005, she attempted to reenter politics, running for mayor of Mobile, but was unsuccessful. In 2006, Bedsole’s husband Massey Palmer Bedsole Jr. died, and in 2014, she married architect Nicholas Hanson Holmes Jr., who died in 2016.

Over her career, Bedsole has served in multiple capacities in education, business, and philanthropy. In education, she served as a trustee of Spring Hill College in Mobile and Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Montgomery County, and was a proponent and founder of the ASMS in Mobile in 1991. She has since served as the vice president and president of the ASMS Foundation Board of Directors. Her business pursuits included the establishment of Bedsole Farms in 2008 in Perdue Hill, Monroe County, and she served as president and board chair of the White Smith Land Company in Mobile. Her philanthropic efforts included serving as chair of the distribution committee for the Sybil H. Smith Charitable Trust, which was dissolved in 2015 and reconfigured as the Sybil and White Smith Foundation. She has also served on the board of the J. L Bedsole Foundation (named after her husband’s uncle Joseph Linyer Bedsole) to provide grants for post-secondary education and artistic and economic development opportunities for the citizens of southwest Alabama. She also founded and served as president of the Alabama Forest Resources Center, which works to protect land in Alabama through conservation easements.

A promoter of local history and preservation, Bedsole founded the Mobile Historic Home Tours, was president of the Mobile Tricentennial, was a member of the Mobile Historic Development Commission and the Mobile Bay Lighthouse Committee, and served as a commissioner for the Alabama Historical Commission. For her philanthropic work, she received a Meritorious Public Service Award from the Montgomery Advertiser and the Alabama Journal. In 2002, Bedsole was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, which recognizes living Alabamians for their accomplishments and service to the state of Alabama.

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