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Terri Sewell

Terri Sewell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded by Artur Davis
Personal details
Born (1965-01-01) January 1, 1965
Huntsville, Alabama
Political party Democratic Party
Residence Birmingham, Alabama
Alma mater Princeton University, B.A. 1986
Oxford University, M.A. 1986
Harvard Law School, J.D. 1988
Profession Public Finance Attorney
Religion Protestant
Website Official website

Terrycina Andrea "Terri" Sewell[1] (born January 1, 1965)[2] is an American politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Alabama's 7th congressional district since 2011. The district includes most of the Black Belt, as well as most of the predominantly black portions of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. She is a member of the Democratic Party and the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama.[3] Sewell is the only Democrat in Alabama's seven-member Congressional delegation. Sewell and Martha Roby are the first women elected to Congress from Alabama in regular elections[4]

A native of Selma, she is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School and Oxford University, and is a public finance attorney.

Early life and education

Sewell was raised in Selma. Her maternal family offered its homestead to travelers on the 1966 March from Selma to Montgomery. Sewell spent her childhood summers in Lowndes County, Alabama with her grandparents. Her grandfather, a Primitive Baptist Minister and a farmer, instilled in her a love for the land, an appreciation of hard work and the importance of her faith. It was her grandfather and the members of Beulah Primitive Baptist Church that gave her a deep understanding of the Black Belt Region of Alabama and its people.

Sewell is the daughter of retired Coach Andrew A. Sewell and former City Councilwoman and retired librarian Nancy Gardner Sewell of Selma, Alabama. Nancy Gardner Sewell was the first black woman elected to the Selma City Council. Both parents held careers in the Selma public school system. Sewell became the first black valedictorian of Selma High School.

Sewell graduated with honors from Princeton University and received a scholarship from U.S. News and World Report, among others. A lifelong Democrat, during the summers while in college, she worked on Capitol Hill for 7th Congressional District congressman Richard Shelby, as well as for then Alabama Senator Howell Heflin. She was a leader on the college campus, serving in various roles including class vice-president, class representative to the Student Union, and spearheading the admission office’s effort to set up a Minority Student Recruitment office to recruit and encourage more minority students to attend the university.[5]

Upon graduation from college, Sewell was featured on NBC’s Today Show as one of the “Top Collegian Women” and was chosen as one of the “Top Ten College Women in America,” by Glamour Magazine. She received the Afro-American Studies Thesis Prize for her senior thesis, "Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come", which featured a personal interview with Shirley Chisholm, the first black U.S. Congresswoman.[6] Sewell continued her education, receiving a Masters degree with first-class Honours from Oxford University. At the age of 25, she published her Masters’ thesis on the election of the first black members of British parliament as a book titled Black Tribunes: Race and Representation in British Politics.[7]

Sewell attended Harvard Law School with the help of an NAACP Legal Defense Fund scholarship, graduating in 1992. In law school, she served as an editor of the Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review[8] and published an article about the legal struggles in Selma in the Harvard Black Letter Journal titled “Selma, Lord, Selma” (vol. 8, Spring 1991).

Legal career

After graduation, Sewell served as a judicial law clerk in Birmingham, Alabama to the Honorable Chief Judge U. W. Clemon,[9] United States District Court (AL-ND), Alabama’s first black federal judge.

Sewell began her legal career in 1994 at the September 11, 2001.

Sewell moved back to Alabama in 2004 to assist her mother in the care of her father.

As the first black female partner in the Birmingham law firm of Maynard, Cooper, & Gale, P.C., Sewell has distinguished herself as one of the only black public finance lawyers in the State of Alabama. She served as a lawyer helping to raise money for public projects for some of the state’s most underserved public entities, many in the 7th Congressional district, including the City of Selma, Dallas County Water Authority and Lowndes County Board of Education. Sewell made educational finance a particular focus of her practice representing the historically black colleges in the State of Alabama including Alabama State University, Tuskegee University, and Stillman College as well as other state higher education institutions like Wallace State-Hanceville, Jefferson State Community College, Chattahoochee Valley Community College and the State of Alabama’s Public Schools and University Authority.

U.S. House of Representatives



After four-term Democratic incumbent Artur Davis gave up the seat to run for governor, Sewell entered the Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. She finished first in the four-way primary with 36.8 percent of the vote.[10] In the runoff, she defeated Jefferson County commissioner Sheila Smoot with 55 percent of the vote.[11][12]

In the general election, Sewell trounced Republican challenger Don Chamberlain, taking 72.4 percent of the vote to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. The 7th is so heavily Democratic that Sewell essentially clinched the seat by winning the primary.[13]


Sewell was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination in 2012 and won the general election over Chamberlain as in 2010.[14][15]


Since being elected, Sewell has voted with her party 91% of the time, and she has been noted as an avid supporter of President Obama's policies.[16][17] Sewell has established herself as a loyal Democrat and Liberal with a focus on job creation.[18] Sewell is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.


Sewell supported President Obama's plan to extend tax cuts for low- and middle-income Americans, but declined to discuss her stance on taxation for high-income Americans.[16] In response to Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform, Sewell said: "I applaud the President for outlining a bold framework for reforming the U.S. business tax system."[19]

Terri Sewell has also criticized Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's tax returns and effective tax rates, saying "… It should be about shared responsibility. I think that something is fundamentally wrong if a person of his great wealth is only paying 13.9 percent effective tax rate and most of Americans are paying 28, 30 percent and they make far less.”[20]

Foreign policy

Sewell supported Obama's decisions regarding Afghanistan, citing "trust" for his policies.[16] She also was part of a bi-partisan delegation to accompany Nancy Pelosi on a 2-day trip to Afghanistan in May 2012. While there, they spent time "with American service-members and meeting local officials to discuss security and women’s issues."[21]


Sewell has sponsored five bills of her own:[22]

112th Congress (2011-2012)

  • H.R. 1730, a bill to create small business start-up savings accounts, with annual contributions up to $10,000, to pay for trade and business expenses, and to be taxed in a similar way to how Individual retirement accounts are taxed, introduced May 4, 2011, reintroduced in the 113th Congress as H.R. 1323

113th Congress (2013-2014)

  • H.R. 360, a bill to award posthumously Congressional Gold Medals to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, introduced January 23, 2013, signed into law May 24, 2013
  • H.R. 1324, a bill to allow for a business-related tax credit equal to 50% of wages (up to $2,000) paid to an apprenticeship employee during an apprenticeship period and 40% of wages (up to $6,000) paid to such an employee during a post-apprenticeship period, introduced March 21, 2013
  • H.R. 2254, a bill to establish a National Heritage Area for the Black Belt region of Alabama, introduced June 4, 2013

Committee assignments

Personal life

Terri Sewell served as co-chair of the Women’s Fund “Voices Against Violence” inaugural campaign, which promoted women helping women to overcome domestic violence. The campaign raised more than $70,000 in four months to fight domestic violence in Birmingham, providing funds to establish the first Domestic Violence Court in Birmingham Municipal Court.[23] Sewell led the effort to have Teach for America select Alabama’s Black Belt region as a new site in 2010.

Sewell has served on numerous boards, including St. Vincent’s Foundation (elected Treasurer of the Board and Chair of its Finance Committee); Girl Scouts of Cahaba Council; the Alabama Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; the Community Advisory Board for the UAB Minority Health and Research Center; the Governing Board of the Alabama Council on Economic Education; and she is a member of the Corporate Partners Council for Birmingham Art Museum.

Sewell was listed in the magazine Alabama Super Lawyers[7] for 2008 and 2009 and was honored with the 2007 Minority Business “Rising Star” award by the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ).[23] She was also selected by the BBJ as one of the “Top Birmingham Women” in 2005. She was a member of the class of 2006-2007 Leadership Birmingham, a member of the YWCA’s Women Leadership MOMENTUM class of 2007-2008. She is currently a member of the class of 2008-2009 Leadership Alabama.

Sewell is a lifetime member of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma and currently worships at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. She was also selected to participate on the panel, "From Lincoln to Obama," for the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Forum to discuss Southern politics.

She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and The Links, Incorporated.


  1. ^ "Terrycina Andrea Sewell - $1,802,819 raised, '10 election cycle, Alabama (AL), Democrat Party, Congress". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  2. ^ "New Members 2010 - Alabama - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill". Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  3. ^ "Black Lawmakers Break New Ground, Suffer Losses | Madame Noire | Black Women's Lifestyle Guide | Black Hair | Black Love". 2010-11-03. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  4. ^ Elizabeth B. Andrews was elected to fill an unexpired term in the House, while Senators Dixie Bibb Graves and Maryon Pittman Allen were appointed and never elected.
  5. ^ Che, Erica (April 8, 2009). "Sewell ’86 launches historic campaign for Congress". The Daily Princetonian. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  6. ^ Olopade, Dayo (March 10, 2010). "Tomorrow's Crop of Black Women Leaders". The Root. Retrieved August 22, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Gulden, Erin (May 2008). "Selma Bound". Alabama Super Lawyers. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Harvard CRCL Has Moved!". Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  9. ^ "U. W. Clemon". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  10. ^ "AL - District 07 - D Primary Race - Jun 01, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  11. ^ "AL District 07 - D Runoff Race - Jul 13, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  12. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (July 13, 2010). "Robert Bentley clinches Republican nod for governor in Alabama". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "AL - District 07 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29. 
  14. ^ Dean, Charles J. (January 13, 2012). "U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell uncontested in Democratic primary".  
  15. ^ "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"Alabama Secretary of State
  16. ^ a b c "On The Issues". Who Runs Gov (The Washington Post). Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Voting History". Open Congress. OpenCongress. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  18. ^ "Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.)". Who Runs Gov (The Washington Post). Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  19. ^ "Statement From Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell on President Obama’s Framework for Business Tax Reform". House Press Release. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Rep. Sewell (D-AL) criticizes Romney tax rate; Rep. West (R-FL) says we need reform". CNN. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (13 May 2012). "Pelosi leads delegation on Afghanistan visit". The Hill's Global Affairs. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  22. ^ "Representative Sewell's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Pier, Ashley (August 17, 2007). "Sewell has answered the call since returning home". Birmingham Business Journal. Retrieved 22 August 2010. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Artur Davis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th congressional district

January 3, 2011 – present
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Austin Scott
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steve Southerland
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