Starting her political involvement at the age of 18, Terry Lathan has been a driving force for the Alabama Republican party for over 40 years.
A native of Mobile, Ala. Lathan earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Auburn University at Montgomery, and taught fifth and sixth grade in a public school for a decade.
She went on to serve as a Board member to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater South Alabama, and in 2012 was named the Boys and Girls Club Alabama Board Member of the Year — out of 735 members. In 2013 graduated from Leadership Mobile, a program whose mission is to train and empower leaders in Mobile who are committed to supporting and leading community growth and progress.
Her years spent as en educator came full-circle when was appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley in 2011 to the Alabama State Mathematics Textbook Committee.
A longtime sustaining donor to the Women’s Resource Center, a Pro-Life Organization in Mobile, Lathan has also served there as a counselor and Life Chain coordinator.
Lathan’s career in politics started in In 1977, when she volunteered for former Governor of Alabama Guy Hunt‘s campaign. Since that time she has served in many different capacities for several campaigns including: former President Ronald Reagan‘s, both of George W. Bush‘s in 2000 and 2004; was an Alabama College Elector for former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney in 2012, and a RNC delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from Alabama, supporting President Donald Trump at the convention.
She has been a member of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee since 1990, and became county chair of the Mobile County Republican Party in 2010. In 2004, 2010 and 2014 she and her husband Jerry Lathan won the Alabama Republican of the Year awards. She is also a winner of the Mobile County Republican Party Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008.
In 2015 Lathan was elected chair of the Alabama Republican party, a position she still holds today; pledging to work toward transparency and unity within the Republican Party.
It’s safe to say, Lathan is a political sage, with many years of experience in the political world. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some of Alabama Today’s questions about her life, work and influences:
How have other women influenced your success?
The first day of school I went home and announced I wanted to be a teacher. My teachers mesmerized me. I had a great desire, even at six, to be like them. The strength, compassion and caring they had was a huge influence on me. They modeled that anyone could do anything they wanted in life. I taught 5th and 6th grades for ten years. I then wanted to spend time with my two children helping at their school so I stepped away from teaching. I still miss being in a classroom.
What shaped your desire to work with education and government?
I love children and teaching. If I have a choice of standing at a political event or sitting on the floor with children, I’ll be down on the floor. I also love mentoring teens and College Republicans. When I was a teenager and started tuning in to current events, I became very pro-life. I realized I could never be a part of a political party who fights for the destruction of unborn children. My life values and Democrat actions clashed inside of me. I would do what I could to use our system to get in that arena. History and the love of country greatly appealed to me- the military, veterans, first responders and volunteers who helped others in times of need. I also grew to recognize that more freedom and less government in our lives ramped up my interest in volunteering in the Republican Party. Instead of reading or hearing about issues I disagreed with, I simply started volunteering to change things.
What has been your favorite area of service, and what is your favorite thing about that position?
Meeting thousands of Republicans who love Alabama and America is up lifting. I have visited all 67 counties meeting with Republican committees, clubs, auxiliary groups, elected officials and grassroots activists. Helping fellow citizens to win elections with conservative issues is still exciting after forty years. I love teaching about the mechanics of elections, new technology uses and sharing the conservative policies of the Republican Party.
Being a teacher didn’t end for me in a classroom door. I love sharing information with my Republican teammates. I also try to be a political ambassador that believes raising the bar of decency, integrity and putting people first in politics is imperative. We have so many great public servants who work hard everyday. I reject the sayings of “They’re all like that” or “That’s just politics”. That’s a false excuse that should never be accepted for lowering the bar of expectations of public service. I try to share that message everywhere I speak.
Have you read any books that have shaped your perspective on life?
Other than the Bible, there is not one particular book that has shaped my perspective. I was moved by the autobiography of former slave and Republican Frederick Douglass. His story is breathtaking and gives a foundation of freedom, will power and strength that everyone should read. From a slave who died a millionaire and counseled several presidents, it’s a true story of the power of the human spirit.
What advice would you give to young women who want to work in education or politics?
Jump in. Find a place to use your strengths. Be prepared to lose some along with the wins, but keep going. Know that not everyone will always agree with you politically, but that’s with everything in life. Don’t back down on something you feel strongly about but learn to work with what you can. Be patient and keep going forward no matter what. Always remember the big picture.
How do you spend your (rare) free time?
My GOP state chairman position is a volunteer job which runs 30-50 hours a week. We have a supportive staff that helps our mission. The political world doesn’t take time off as it is a fluid motion so I have to fight for down time. It has no clock. My husband and I like to travel as much as we can. I also am an avid college football fan and have season tickets at Auburn University so football season is my passion. We also try to attend the New Orleans Saints games and love going to NASCAR races. When we aren’t away, I have hours of my DVR favorite shows to catch up on since I am away so much.
For her work in her community in Mobile, Ala., over 40 years of service to the Republican Party and the state of Alabama, Terry Lathan is without a doubt, an Alabama woman of influence.