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Baxley skips Senate opening for stroke recovery

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Outgoing Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, who has not made a public appearance since suffering a stroke in late November, skipped her last official duty before leaving office.

The Democratic lieutenant governor had planned to preside over the opening of the state Senate’s organizational session at noon Tuesday. But she decided to follow the advice of her neurologist, Emily Riser, and other caregivers, who encouraged her to stay in Birmingham, where she is undergoing daily therapy.

“They said her therapy has progressed wonderfully, and she doesn’t need any setbacks,” said John Hamm, her chief of staff.

The opening day of the Senate’s organizational session is usually noisy and tense — which was the case Tuesday — and her caregivers thought it would not be good for her.

Last official duty

If she had attended, it would have been her last official duty as lieutenant governor before her successor, Jim Folsom Jr., is sworn into office Monday.

Baxley, 69, of Montgomery, suffered a stroke Nov. 22 while in Birmingham to spend Thanksgiving with her children.

The stroke came about two weeks after she lost the governor’s race to Republican incumbent Bob Riley.

Baxley’s family initially described her stroke as “mild.” But senators who have visited her during her recovery in Birmingham said her left side is severely impacted.

“Lucy’s situation is serious,” Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said Tuesday.

He said that when he visited her recently, she was having difficulty moving her left leg and “she was unable to move her left arm.”

Prayer for Baxley

The Senate began its organizational session Tuesday with a prayer for Baxley.

In her absence, Secretary of the Senate McDowell Lee presided until the senators elected Sen. Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, as president pro tem.

Then he took over, with plans to preside until Folsom takes office.

After the vote for Mitchem, Barron stood in front of reporters gathered outside the Senate chamber and sent an emotional message to Baxley.

“We love you Lucy. Today, Lucy, you will be proud. The Democrats prevailed and we are going to organize the Senate,” he said. ]

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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