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93-year-old Alabama poll chief honored by Birmingham as she prepares to retire on Nov. 3

Mrs. Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker has been a poll worker for 57 years and will retire on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Tucker was honored by the mayor and city council for her many years of service. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

After 57 years as a poll worker who has seen election of the first Black Birmingham City Councilor, the first Black Birmingham Mayor and the first Black President of the United States, Mrs. Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker will work her last election on Tuesday, November 3.

Tucker, 93, has been a poll worker in Birmingham since 1963, working every city, county, state, and presidential election and remembering when late attorney Arthur Shores became the first Black on Birmingham’s City Council (1969), Richard Arrington became the city’s first Black Mayor (1979) and Barack Obama was elected President (2008).

On Tuesday, Mayor Randall Woodfin, council members and other state and local officials honored Tucker for her service.

“We are here to recognize a legend in our community, a hero to many and she probably has the coolest name in the state of Alabama,” said Woodfin.

The mayor and the council have declared next Tuesday, Tucker’s last day as a poll worker, as Mrs. Martha Mae Ophelia Moon Tucker Day.

“I want to thank the Lord for my life. I want to thank the city council, mayor and everyone involved in this celebration,” she said. “I want to thank all of those who have worked with me and for me. This lets me know that my work has already spoken for me, thank you.”

Tucker began working as a poll worker after registering to vote in 1963. She signed up to work at the polling place in the Titusville neighborhood where she and her husband lived. Tucker has not missed serving as a poll leader since, even as the polling precinct moved from Washington School to Center Street Middle School to Sixth Avenue Baptist Church where voters will cast their ballots on November 3.

Tucker, who serves as the precinct’s chief inspector, said, “I’m going to vote as long as they let me, as long as I have breath in my body. I didn’t do it for the recognition. I did it because it was right.”

Councilor Crystal Smitherman, who represents the district where Tucker serves, presented her with a proclamation from the council and said she was inspired by Tucker’s legacy to run for public office.

“This is a little more personal for me because my family knows the Tucker family very well,” said Smitherman. “I want to thank her because when I was younger and my parents went to vote, Mrs. Tucker would give me the sticker. Because of her, I make sure that I vote in every election.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson, who also represents the district, presented Tucker a resolution on behalf of the commission.

“I’ve known Mrs. Tucker just about all of my life,” said Tyson. “ . . . I was riding my bike coming through Titusville and I could always stop by there and get a water or a sandwich… she always paid attention to what I was doing because she knew I was doing voter registration.”

Updated at 10:41 on 10/28/2020 to rewrite headline.