LaFayette Sun News

Portraits of Honor recognize six LaFayette women

March is National Women’s History Month and LaFayette is honoring six women whose legacy and history helped shape the town with the Portraits of Honor. On Wednesday, March 1, the new portraits displayed in downtown LaFayette on the top windows of the once known McClendon building, honoring six women who are no longer with us but made an everlasting impact and put others before self.
The City of LaFayette and LaFayette Main Street partner in the Portraits of Honor project to celebrate accomplishments of many who throughout the years impacted LaFayette’s culture and society.
“LaFayette will forever be thankful for the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who shaped our town”, said LaFayette Main Street Executive Director, DeAnna Hand.
In 1987, Congress declared the entire month of March Women’s History Month. Since then, every president has declared the month of March Women’s History Month.
Portraits include: (Left to right)
Mary Florence Woody – Mary Florence Woody was in LaFayette, Alabama where she grew up on her family’s farm. Her father also owned a gristmill and a general store, where Woody often worked in her youth. She had five older siblings. Woody was inspired to pursue nursing by the violent events of World War II. After graduating from high school, she completed Cadet Nurse Corps training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in 1947.
Before pursuing higher degrees in nursing, Woody worked for as a staff nurse for five years in three different hospitals. In 1948, she joined the staff at Wheeler Hospital in Lafayette, Alabama. Then, in 1949, she transferred to the acute polio unit at Willard Parker Hospital in New York City. One year later, she moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where she served as a nurse and supervisor at the VA Hospital until 1953.
In 1979, she became the founding dean at the Auburn University School of Nursing. Over the course of the five years, she served in this position, Woody helped develop a practice oriented undergraduate nursing program.
On September 15, 1992, Woody was named the interim dean of the nursing Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. She held this position for one year. Woody retired from nursing on October 1, 1993, at the age of 67.
Throughout her career, Woody advocated for the integration of professional associations in nursing. She led the integration of the American Nurses Association Nursing students at Auburn University can be considered for the Mary F. Woody Alumni Endowed Scholarship.
Ruth Cotney – Mrs. Cotney was born July 19, 1927 in Chambers County. She was a member of the First Methodist Church of LaFayette. She worked in the Chambers County Tax Collectors office for 50 years, serving as the Tax Collector for 12 of those years. She was appointed to this position by Governor Fob James in 1979 and worked diligently serving the public.
Ms. Cotney was a well-known and highly respected member of her community and the town of LaFayette. She was kind to others and always shared her knowledge and expertise. She loved the town of LaFayette and spent her life giving back to others.
Essie Handy – Essie Handy came to LaFayette in 1925. She was an educator and active in civic and religious activities. In 1940 their oldest son, Ralph, died from tuberculosis and was buried in the only cemetery in La Fayette for African-Americans at the time. Mrs. Handy went throughout the community asking for contributions to purchase land for a new African-American cemetery. In 1949 she had her son’s body exhumed and transferred to the new community cemetery bearing her name.
In 1945 she became the first African-American to vote in Chambers County and she was recognized as a Civil Rights leader in the area. Mrs. Handy met with President Lyndon B. Johnson and was invited to his Inauguration in 1965. Mrs. Handy privately operated the cemetery until her death in 1977. Subsequently, the cemetery was deeded to the City of Lafayette who recognized Mrs. Handy for her achievements and impact on the community.
Stella Abernathy Pierce – received from “The Valley Times, News” – Wednesday, April 19, 2006:
Mrs. Stella Abernathy Pierce, was born Dec. 7, 1921 in Chambers County. She lived in LaFayette her entire life with the exception of one year. She was a graduate of LaFayette High School.
Mrs. Pierce worked as deputy clerk of the circuit court for John A. Williams from 1953 until his death in 1964. At that time, she was appointed to fill his position. She was later elected clerk, becoming the first woman ever to be elected to public office in Chambers County. She remained clerk until her retirement in 1991.
She was a member of Pilot International and was a member of organizations relating to her position as circuit clerk. She was elected as President of the State Clerks Association and served on special tasks force for the state to assist in the criminal justice system.
Mrs. Pierce was a member of LaFayette First Baptist Church and was very instrumental in the LaFayette Community.
“She served tirelessly and selflessly until she retired from that office in 1991, 28 years as circuit clerk,” said the late Chambers County Circuit Clerk Charles Story. “Mrs. Stella was not only loved and respected by the citizens of Chambers County for the job that she did, but was also well thought of and respected throughout the court system in the state of Alabama. Through the years I observed Mrs. Stella at work and in the community. She never ceased to amaze me as to how she cared for and loved others. She had a presence about her that would absolutely light up a room. You knew when Mrs. Stella was there and she always had a smile and a kind word for everyone she came in contact with.”
When she retired in 1991 her loving sister, Sakie, Sara Abernathy Yancey wrote a poem which is now registered in the Library of Congress. Senator Howard Heflin worked to get this poem registered.
Nell Davis – Nell Davis of LaFayette, Chambers County, Alabama was born on February 4, 1940, and died at age 70 years old on April 7, 2010. She is buried at Handy Cemetery in LaFayette, AL.
Ms. Davis worked at Head Start for 31 years and made an impact on many children, educators and friends. Ms. Davis led many generations of family and friends to have courage and compassion. She was an outstanding role model in LaFayette and lived her life to serve others.
Ms. Davis was active in her community and always greeted all with a smile. She was a part of the LaFayette Tulip Clubs and planted many flowers around Lafayette to help beautify the city and make it a pleasant view for many.
She was a member of the NAACP and Chambers County Democratic Club. She was a loving friend and community member. She loved LaFayette and cherished it dearly. She and her sister, Ms. Bell Todd catered for numerous events in LaFayette, AL and Chambers County.
Daisy Ingrum Tucker – Daisy Tucker was born in Anderson, AL, the daughter of William F. and Minnie Belue Ingrum. She enjoyed a large family as she was the youngest of 10 siblings. She was a graduate of Florence State Teacher’s College with a degree in education. She began teaching at Chambers County High School, Milltown, AL in 1940.
Her 42 year career in public education included schools in Lexington, Al, Oak Ridge, TN and various Chambers County Schools. Most of her tenure was at LaFayette High School. She taught a variety of courses with 7th and 10th grade English being her primary duties. While at LHS, “Mrs. Daisy”, as she was known by many of her students, volunteered as cheerleader sponsor. She loved investing her time and energy in her students. Mrs. Tucker’s daughter, Becky Tucker Swindall, remembers hearing her mother often say, “If I’ve helped but one student have a better go at life, my life is worth it.” After retiring from the public school system, she taught adult education at East Alabama Services for the Elderly for several years.
Through the years Mrs. Tucker was involved in countless civic, community, school, and church activities. She was a long-time member of LaFayette Pilot Club and LaFayette Study Club. As a member of the First Baptist Church, she taught Sunday School for over 50 years. Her passion was working with the Youth Ministry. She was still acting as department secretary at the time of her passing. She was a member of the adult choir and the fellowship committee that she chaired for several years.
While teaching at Milltown, Daisy met her future husband, a native of the LaFayette area. Mrs. Tucker and her husband, James D. Tucker, were married 61 years. They had 3 children; 5 grandchildren, and her family grew to include 4 great grandchildren. Her family was devoted to “Mama Daisy and Papa Tuck”. Many neighbors and friends shared in calling Daisy and James by these terms of endearment because of the love and joy it symbolized.
In April, portraits of Law Enforcement from LaFayette will be displayed and in May educators that impacted LaFayette citizens will be displayed. If you are interested in displaying a portrait, nominations are welcome. Please email a portrait and write up of the nominee to or mail to P.O. Box 116 LaFayette, AL 36862. The April deadline is March 24th.

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