Lucy Mae Baxley Smith (1937-2016) was a politician who served in numerous state offices in Alabama, most notably as the first woman lieutenant governor. She was the last person elected as a Democrat to a statewide office, as president of the Public Service Commission, in 2008.
Lucy Baxley Lucy Mae Bruner was born in Pansey, Houston County, on December 21, 1937, to Charlie Joshua Bruner and Nellie Mildred Shriver Bruner and was one of four children. Her father is listed as a farmer in the 1940 Census. She attended local schools and graduated from Ashford High School, in Ashford, Houston County, in 1956. She married at the age of 18, but details of that marriage are unavailable. In 1964, she took her first job in public service, as executive assistant in the Houston County Probate Office in Dothan. In 1970, she moved to Montgomery, Montgomery County, and became the executive assistant Office of the Alabama Attorney General, an office then held by Dothan attorney Bill Baxley. She also attended Auburn University Montgomery during this time but did not graduate. In 1974, she and Baxley married and would have two children. In 1976, she was named administrator of the Legal Division of the Alabama Highway Department. In 1987, Baxley divorced Bill Baxley after he engaged in a very public affair with a reporter. She also left public service, joining the Birmingham real estate firm of Johnston, Rast, and Hays.
Bill Baxley, Frank Johnson, Jim Folsom Sr. In 1993, she returned to public service when she successfully ran for the office of Alabama State Treasurer, using the iconic title of the popular television series I Love Lucy as her slogan. She took office the following year. In 1996, she married Jim Lee Smith Sr., a computer salesman, and also was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. In 1998, she was reelected to a second term as treasurer. In 2002, she ran for lieutenant governor, defeating Republican candidate and state senator Bill Armistead and Libertarian candidate Lyn Curtis Adams with more votes than any candidate in state history up to that time. She also garnered more votes than either of the gubernatorial candidates. Baxley was a progressive on many issues, including increasing the minimum wage, lowering utility rates, and enacting equal pay laws for women.
In 2006, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor, losing by a wide margin to incumbent Bob Riley. On Thanksgiving Day of that year, Baxley suffered a stroke and was admitted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham medical center and underwent successful rehabilitation and recovery. Two years later, she was elected to her final public office: president of the three-member Alabama Public Service Commission, defeating Republican candidate Twinkle Cavanaugh. The agency oversees public utilities and some forms of transportation in the state. Baxley was defeated by Cavanaugh in her reelection bid in 2012 and retired from public life, settling in Birmingham. She died at her home on October 14, 2016, and was buried in Ashford City Cemetery in Ashford, Houston County.
Baxley was involved in many organizations representing women in politics and public service, including the Women’s Philanthropy Board of Auburn University and the University of Alabama‘s women’s advocacy organization XXXI and chaired the Advisory Council of the Alabama Federation of Democratic Women. Service with state organizations included seats on the boards of the Legislative Council, the Joint Committee on Administrative Regulation Review, the Alabama Historical Commission, and the Alabama Film Commission. She also served on the board of the National Association of Lieutenant Governors and was vice-chair of the Aerospace States Association. Her awards include the Senior Citizens’ Golden Eagle Statesman of the Year and Outstanding Woman Leader by the American Association of University Women.