Thelma Loyace (Hawkins) Stovall, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1956-60, 1964-68, and 1972-76, was born April 1, 1919, in Munfordville, Kentucky, to Samuel Dewey and Addie Mae (Goodman) Hawkins. Her parents divorced when she was eight, and her mother moved to Louisville with Thelma and her sister, Edith. Thelma attended Louisville Girls’ High School and Halleck Hall, studied law at LaSalle Extension University in Chicago, and took classes at the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University. She completed a secretarial course at Mary Rose Kelly Secretarial School. In 1936 she married Lonnie Raymond Stovall. The couple had no children.
After high school, Stovall worked for Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, where she joined the tobacco workers union. She became an ardent union supporter and served as secretary for the Tobacco Workers International Union Local 185. In 1949, labor officials suggested Stovall to the Jefferson County Democratic organization as a candidate to run for the Kentucky House. She won and was reelected, serving until 1955, the year she was elected Secretary of State. Stovall served three terms as Secretary of State—1956-60, 1964-68, and 1972-76. Between those terms she served as Kentucky State Treasurer.
In 1975, Stovall ran for Lieutenant Governor. She easily won the Democratic primary, receiving 28 percent of the vote against a field of ten men. She was elected as Kentucky’s first female Lieutenant Governor in the November election. On November 13, 1978, during Julian Carroll’s absence from the state, as Acting Governor she called a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly to reduce taxes. The special session passed most of Stovall’s proposals, including elimination of a 5-percent sales tax on home utilities and a bill placing a 4-percent ceiling on yearly increases in revenue created from property taxes. Also, as Acting Governor, Stovall vetoed the legislature’s rescission of its previous ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This action made her a heroine of the women’s rights movement.
In 1979, Stovall launched a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination but lost in the primary to John Y. Brown Jr. This was her only electoral loss. She had had a mild stroke in 1971, and her health became one of the issues in the race. She retired to Louisville, where she suffered several strokes in coming years. She died in her sleep at Regency Health Care Center on February 4, 1994.
Kleber, John E., ed. "The Kentucky Encyclopedia", (Lexington, 1992).
"Louisville Courier-Journal", February 5, 1994.
U.S. Public Relations Service, Inc., " Who’s Who in Kentucky", (Atlanta, 1974).