Secretary of State

Thelma Loyace Hawkins Stovall

Term of OfficeJanuary 1956 - January, 1960; January 1964 - January 1968; January 1972 - January 1976
Significant AccomplishmentsServed as national committee member and president of the Young Democrats of Kentucky. As Lt. Governor, she called a special legislative session during Governor Carroll's out-of-state absence that eliminated or reduced Kentucky taxes. Also as Acting Governor, she vetoed the legislature's rescission of its previous ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Governor during her term of OfficeA B Chandler; Edward T Breathitt, Jr; Wendell Ford
Assistant Secretary of StateFrances Marshall Travis
EducationLouisville Girls' High School (Jefferson County, Kentucky); Halleck Hall; Mary Rose Kelly Secretarial School; LaSalle Extension University; attended the University of Kentucky & Eastern Kentucky University
Spouse(s)Lonnie Raymond Stovall
ParentsSamuel Dewey & Addie Mae (Goodman) Hawkins
SiblingsEdith Hawkins
ResidenceKentucky (Louisville, Jefferson County)
OccupationSecretary; Career Politician
Birth Date4/1/1919
Birth PlaceKentucky (Munfordville, Hart County)
Place of DeathKentucky (Louisville, Jefferson County)
Other State Offices HeldKentucky House of Representatives; Kentucky State Treasurer; Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky
NoteAs Secretary of State, Secretary Stovall maintained the Executive Journals & filed Executive Orders for Governors Bert T. Combs, Louie B. Nunn, & Julian M. Carroll.
Historical FirstsFirst woman to serve three (non-successive) terms as Kentucky Secretary of State. She also served two (non-successive) terms as Kentucky State Treasurer.
First woman to be elected Kentucky's Lieutenant Governor (1975).

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).