Judith Gallman Schenck

Judith Gallman Schenck

Judith Gallman was born in Mobile, AL, in December 1946, to a Southern Baptist preacher and his wife. They shortly moved to Montgomery where her father assumed pastoral duties at Second Baptist Church on Madison Avenue. In 1951, the family moved to Jackson, MS, where her father became the first director of the Seminary Extension Dept. The Mississippi years were stressful for the family, as Rev. Gallman continued his pursuit of higher education, which resulted in him changing his views on segregation. The house was on a street that dead ended in Lynch Street, at an African American Catholic Church frequently harassed by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). When Judith’s father wrote a letter to the editor of a Jackson newspaper, the KKK began watching the family, even claiming they had kidnapped Judith and her brother Lee. In 1960, the family moved to Birmingham when her father became director of Howard College’s Extension Department. She and her brother graduated from Shades Valley High School a year apart, then both attended and graduated from Birmingham’s Howard College, now Samford University.

She married Bill Schenck after meeting him in Florida during a summer job. They moved to Chapel Hill, NC, where he went to graduate school at the University of North Carolina. After graduation, they moved to New Haven, CT, where she and her husband worked at Yale University. Two years later, Judith confirmed that she was gay, and they separated. She moved to upstate New York where she lived in a women’s collective for a year. In 1975, she moved to western Massachusetts where she lives today. She has been with her partner for 44 years, having wed in 2013 when same-sex marriages became legal nationwide.

She was in technology sales for many years, while also becoming more skilled as a watercolor artist. With age, she has had to give up watercolor and has taken up digital art.

And this was only one year

1963 changed my life. The tensions were growing, and everyone was on edge. Then, Easter morning between Sunday School and church, a couple of us dashed over to the local drug store in Homewood—a block from our very big Southern Baptist Church—to read comics and buy gum. As we walked back to our church, a car filled with African Americans pulled into our front parking lot. They stopped briefly, and I looked up to see what they were seeing. The church deacons were standing at the top of the stairs, their arms locked together as if they were playing Red Rover. Then they slowly walked down the stairs with their arms locked together. Their message was clear—they were not going to allow the African Americans to enter our church to worship with us.

Later my mother said, “Those people didn’t come to worship.” I told her I didn’t think Mr. P and Mr. H came to worship either. They were officers of the large insurance company headquartered in Birmingham, and used their church connections for business. I’ll never forget the look of determination on their hard faces.

In May, the protests began in downtown Birmingham. (more…)