For almost 100 years, one of, if not the best, annual event for young Alabama high school leaders in Alabama has been the Alabama Boys State and the Alabama Girls State programs.
These events are sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxillary. Boys State and Girls State are sponsored nationwide by the American Legion. The programs epitomize the American Legion’s mission to honor those who have bought us our American freedom.
The Girls State and Boys State programs bring the brightest high school leaders together every June. These young Alabama leaders will be Alabama’s governmental leaders in the future.
During the week-long session, these high school rising seniors develop leadership skills and action-based understanding of the governmental process that gives them a lasting foundation for success both professionally and personally.
Boys State has spawned Alabama’s governmental leaders for decades. I attended Boys State 50 years ago this month. I remember it like it was yesterday. It is a lifetime memory. You make friends that last throughout life and have resurfaced my entire life. One of my contemporaries from Boys State, who became a lifetime friend, is current Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Tom Parker.
Now that women have taken their rightful place in Alabama governmental positions, it is appropriate that our top two female leaders in Alabama got their start at Alabama Girls State. Gov. Kay Ivey and Business Council of Alabama Chief Executive Officer Katie Britt were leaders at Girls State. Katie Britt, who was young Katie Boyd, has always been an outstanding leader. Katie became governor of Girls State.
Ivey has stayed extremely active as a board member and director of Girls State ever since her years at Auburn University. She has volunteered as a counselor for over 50 years. She loves Girls State. In fact, when these young female leaders meet next week at the University of Alabama for the 79th time, Kay will address them as their governor and fellow Girls Stater.
These young women leaders will organize and assume the roles of government leaders. They will campaign in mock parties called the “Federalists” and “Nationalists.” They will divide up in cities and become mayors and county officials. Then others will have bigger roles as state constitutional officers and supreme court judges. One will become Governor. She and the lieutenant governor will go to Washington, D.C., to attend Girls Nation. They may even run for president of Girls Nation.
Ivey has mentored several Girls State leaders over the years. Lee Grant Sellers, “Mrs.” Girls State, was an outstanding leader from Montgomery. She is now the 18-year director of Alabama Girls State. Lee’s husband, Will Sellers, currently sits on the Alabama Supreme Court. By the way, Lee and Will are Kay Ivey’s closest friends and confidants.
We have had a president of Girls Nation mentored by Gov. Kay Ivey, Cathy Johnson Randall. Kay bonded with Cathy through Girls State. Cathy has been one of the most outstanding leaders in Alabama over the past 50 years. She headed Kay Ivey’s Gubernatorial Inauguration Committee.
I knew Cathy as a student at the University of Alabama. She was by far the most respected leader on campus, male or female. She was president of everything on campus. While at the University, she was a Chi Omega, a Crimson Girl, Student Government Association Senator and Omicron Delta Kappa, and a member of Mortar Board.
After graduation from the Capstone, she married Pettus Randall from Tuscaloosa, thus becoming Cathy Johnson Randall. Upon his death, she became the chairman of the board of Randall Holdings. She is also on the board of the Alabama Power Company and Mercedes Benz.
While in high School, Cathy Johnson Randall was elected governor of Girls State and then went on to become President of Girls Nation. Believe it or not, her husband, Pettus, was Boys State governor and Boys Nation president.
Furthermore, she and Pettus had a daughter who was governor of Girls State and president of Girls Nation.
See you next week.
(Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.)