Ceremony marks 50th anniversary of AL Gov. Lurleen Wallace's death

Ceremony marks 50th anniversary of AL Gov. Lurleen Wallace's death
Official portrait of Alabama Gov. Lurleen Wallace
Flowers were placed at the marble bust of Gov. Wallace in the Alabama Capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of her death. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Flowers were placed at the marble bust of Gov. Wallace in the Alabama Capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of her death. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Gov. Lurleen Wallace died while in office after battling cancer. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Gov. Lurleen Wallace died while in office after battling cancer. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Gov. Lurleen Wallace's son, George Wallace, Jr. had flowers in the shape of the state of Alabama delivered to the capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of her death. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Gov. Lurleen Wallace's son, George Wallace, Jr. had flowers in the shape of the state of Alabama delivered to the capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of her death. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A ceremony was held Monday at Alabama's Capitol to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the state's first female governor, Lurleen B. Wallace.

Wallace died of cancer on May 7, 1968, after just 16 months on the job. The wife of former Gov. George C. Wallace, it was never a secret that her election was to help her term-restricted husband continue his policies.

The commemoration was the work of State Auditor Jim Zeigler, who invited members of the Wallace family, as well as friends. Flowers were delivered and placed at the marble bust of Gov. Wallace that is on display near the capitol's entrance.

The Wallace's eldest daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy was in attendance. Her brother, George Wallace Jr., had delivered a flower arrangement in the shape of Alabama.

"I know that a lot of people remember her as dying with dignity and with courage, and that's great. She did. She fought a gallant fight for her life. " Kennedy said. "But my mother was so vivacious and full of life. She loved to fish. She loved to swim. She loved to ski, and she loved the beach," she recalled, adding her mother was a joker with a dry sense of humor. "There was a lot to my mother that people don't know."

Zeigler said he discovered two weeks ago that there were no plans to mark the passing of the state's first female governor, "and that did not sit well with me."

"We had a very nice ceremony with members of the Wallace family and friends there and just remembered maybe a kinder, gentler time in Alabama politics..." Zeigler went on.

The auditor has made it his mission to have the Wallace gubernatorial portraits returned to the capitol's rotunda. Kennedy said she thinks her mother would be happy wherever her portrait is hanging.

Kay Ivey, Alabama's second - and current - female governor, tweeted a photo of herself with then-Gov. Wallace as a way of marking the anniversary. Ivey called her predecessor "a mentor, a friend" and said "knowing and working with her was my privilege."

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News All rights reserved.