3/7/2012 - Former Birmingham Council Member Miglionico Inducted Into Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
By Michael J. Brooks
Her former law partner told the story of Nina Miglionico being chastised by her mother for going to jail to confer with her clients. "Ladies don't go to jail," the elder Miglionico said. "Mother, I'm not a lady; I'm a lawyer," Nina Miglionico replied. But Samuel Rumore Jr. added, "Nina was both."
Miglionico was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame on March 1. Friends and family gathered with the Judson College community for the annual induction.
Miglionico, who died in 2009 at age 95, served as a lawyer for 73 years--the longest record among Alabama's female attorneys.
Miglionico was born in Birmingham to Italian immigrants. She graduated from Woodlawn High School, completed her undergraduate education at Howard College (now Samford University) and earned her law degree at the University of Alabama.
One of the first women lawyers in Alabama to start her own practice, Miglionico was elected president of the National Association of Women Lawyers in 1958. In 1996 she received the "Margaret Brent Award" from the American Bar Association as one of the five outstanding women lawyers in the United States.
Miglionico began her political career by winning a seat in 1963 on the newly-formed Birmingham City Council. She served until 1985, including service as president from 1978 to 1981.
The primary address was delivered by Circuit Judge Helen Shores Lee of Birmingham.
"When I think of Nina, I think of adjectives like perseverance, strength, courage and conviction," Lee said. "She was only four feet 11 inches [in height] but Nina was never overlooked by the council members with whom she served."
Lee said Miglionico was vilified due to her ethnicity, her Catholicism and her progressive views on race. "Nina got phone threats, hate mail, a cross burned in her yard and even an attempted bombing at her home," Lee said. "But she continued to work for the underdog."
Rumore was associated with the Miglionico law firm for 37 years. He noted that Miglionico was able to do law for so long because she began so early. She graduated from Woodlawn High School at 16, from Samford University as valedictorian at 19 and from the University of Alabama Law School at 22. "There were no positions for female attorneys in that day, so she was offered a secretarial job and told to learn shorthand," Rumore said. "Nina decided she'd rather open her own practice, supplementing her income by teaching piano lessons."
Miglionico was inducted into the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens in 2008. She will be inducted into the Alabama Lawyers’ Hall of Fame on May 4.
"Nina wasn't bashful about sharing her ideas," Rumore said. "Her campaign slogan when she ran [unsuccessfully] for Congress in 1974 was 'Nina gets it done.' And she did."
Rumore noted that he also served as Miglionico's executor and that she'd given generously to Catholic charities around the state. "Most surprising was that she left $1 million to the Birmingham Museum of Art," Rumore said.
"She gave the gift in honor of her parents and for the purpose of purchasing and displaying Italian art. People of Alabama will enjoy [her gift] for years to come."
Birmingham attorney and former law partner to Nina Miglionico, Samuel Rumore, poses with the bronze plaque that will be housed in the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame. Photo by Bill Mathews.
The Alabama Women's Hall of Fame (AWHOF), founded in 1970, is housed in the A. Howard Bean Hall on the campus of Judson College in Marion, AL. According to the AWHOF guidelines, a nominee must have been born in Alabama or made special contributions to the state and have been deceased for two years. Additional information is available on the AWHOF website.