Sibyl Murphree Pool

Sibyl Murphree Pool (1901-1973) was the first woman to hold statewide elected office in Alabama, as Secretary of State, helping to pave the way for women in state politics. She was also the second woman elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, after Hattie Hooker Wilkins in 1923. Pool as was elected State Treasurer and Commissioner of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

Pool was born on October 7, 1901, in Birmingham, Jefferson County, to Benjamin Franklin and Annie Mae Mills Pool; she was the second of five children. Her father was a native of Birmingham, and her mother was born in York, Sumter County. The family lived in Texas at the time of the 1910 Census when her father worked in real estate. They were living in Linden, Marengo County, at the time of the 1910 Census. Pool was educated in the public schools of Linden and received an introduction to politics when her father became tax collector around 1923. In 1920 and 1921, she attended the Alabama College for Women (present-day University of Montevallo) in Montevallo, Shelby County, but she did not graduate. Pool played the violin and taught violin lessons at Linden High School for two years. She never married nor had children.

Pool's career in public service began in the 1930s, when she managed the Marengo County Farm Bureau and worked as the secretary for the Linden Chamber of Commerce. In 1936, she took a position as a clerk for Marengo County representative Clint Harrison. When Harrison left his position to accept a post with the Alabama Public Service Commission, the Marengo County Democratic Executive Committee selected Pool to replace him. Upon her appointment, she served two years in the Alabama House of Representatives. She was then elected for full terms in 1938 and 1942, serving a total of eight years in the legislature. During her tenure, she served on the Committees on Rules; Revision of Laws; Privileges and Elections; Seaports, Harbors, and Maritime Commerce; and Insurance and Insurance Companies. She was the chair of the Committee on County Organizations during her third term. While in the legislature, Pool did not introduce legislation or debate with the other representatives. Because women's involvement in politics was so unusual for the time, Pool maneuvered carefully so as not to endanger her political career. When she left office in 1944, another woman would not serve in the legislature until Clara Stone Fields was elected in 1962.

On May 19, 1944, during Pool's third term in the legislature, Gov. Chauncey Sparks appointed her secretary of state for two years after Howell Turner resigned to chair the Board of Pardons and Paroles. In 1946, Pool ran to retain her office and carried 63 of Alabama's 67 counties. (After Pool left this position, women won the office for six terms in a row, until 1979.) In 1950, she successfully ran for state treasurer. She received the largest number of votes ever cast for any candidate for state office in Alabama's history at that time, carrying 65 counties.

Near the end of her term as treasurer, Pool reached a crossroads in her career. In 1953, she considered entering the races for governor, U.S. senator, and Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities around the state. She chose the latter because it held the greatest chance for victory and the least risk and was elected a member of the commission in 1955. She carried every county in the state and received more than 365,000 votes. She won three more terms during the next 16 years, and her terms as commissioner also included additional duties as associate commissioner of the Alabama Liquefied Petroleum Gas Commission. Beginning in 1964, she served under commission president Eugene "Bull" Connor, the infamous former Birmingham city commissioner who fought to uphold white supremacy in that city in the 1960s.

Pool retired from politics in 1970 after a 34-year career, returning to her cattle farm in Linden. She died of a stroke in Demopolis on October 31, 1973. Her death was noted in the U.S. Congressional Record, and U.S. Rep. Walter W. Flowers of the Seventh Congressional District eulogized her in Congress on November 30, 1973. Pool opened the door to state political involvement for women in Alabama and in recognition of her contributions, the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame inducted her in 2001.

Additional Resources

Thomas, Mary Martha, ed. Stepping Out of the Shadows: Alabama Women, 1819-1990. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

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Sibyl Murphree Pool

Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History
Sibyl Murphree Pool