CULLMAN – On Oct. 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor, a school teacher from Michigan, became the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926, and in 1946 Edith Houghton became the first woman hired as a Major League Baseball scout. There’s a first for everything, and women throughout history have proven that they can do anything a man can, and sometimes even better! Cullman was home to one such woman; her name was Annie Lola Price.
Annie Lola Price was born on June 7, 1903 right here in Cullman. As a young woman, she attended both Athens College and Wheeler Business School in Birmingham. In the 1920s she came back to Cullman and began her extensive legal career by working as a stenographer and studying law in the offices of Judge A. A. Griffith and Joel Bascom Brown. In 1928 she passed the Alabama bar exam, becoming not only Cullman’s first female lawyer, but one of the first women lawyers in Alabama!
Price practiced law and was later appointed court reporter in the old 8th Judicial Circuit. In 1947, she went to Montgomery and served as assistant legal advisor to Governor Jim Folsom. Not long after, “Big Jim” Folsom appointed her to serve as his legal advisor in 1950. This was another first for Price- she was the first female legal advisor to serve a governor in Alabama!
Price didn’t stop there, on Jan. 12, 1951, Folsom appointed her, his legal advisor, to the Court of Appeals. This was 15 years before women were allowed to serve on juries in Alabama. Women just didn’t do that sort of thing back then, so the appointment was an extremely controversial one. As a result, Price declined the public investiture ceremony. Instead, she chose to have a private ceremony in her office where she was sworn in by her friend, Secretary of State Mabel Amos. She was the first woman to ever serve on an Alabama appellate court.
Price served as associate judge of the Court of Appeals from 1951 to 1962. She became presiding judge in 1962 and continued in that capacity when the Court of Appeals became the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1969. She served as the first presiding judge for the Court of Criminal Appeals until her death on June 18, 1972.
"Judge Price was more than simply a fine judge whose legal opinions have become judicial precedents. She was a great lady in the truest sense of the word. She was a quiet and unobtrusive pioneer, and exhibited the hardihood which must accompany those who lead, if they are to survive," former Montgomery attorney and Vice President of the Alabama Bar Association, M. Roland Nachman, Jr., once said.
"Judge Price contributed to the betterment of the women of Alabama in all walks of life,” longtime friend Amos once said about her.
It is also interesting to know that Price earned her pilot's license in the 1930s and was a member of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization for women pilots. And, she served as president of the Alabama Women Lawyers Association and was a member of the National Association of Women Lawyers.
Judge Annie Lola Price was an amazing woman and one of Cullman’s finest. As a woman, she blazed a trail that has enabled many women to follow. She is remembered fondly as being ahead of her time, a trendsetter and an eloquent lady.