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Terri Sewell
Terri Sewell official photo.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded byArtur Davis
Personal details
Terrycina Andrea Sewell

(1965-01-01) January 1, 1965 (age 55)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Theodore Dixie (Divorced)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
St Hilda's College, Oxford (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Terrycina Andrea "Terri" Sewell (/ˈsjəl/; born January 1, 1965)[1][2] is an American lawyer and politician. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She has served as the U.S. Representative since 2011 for Alabama's 7th congressional district, which includes most of the Black Belt, as well as most of the predominantly Black portions of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery.

A native of Selma, Sewell is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Before entering politics, she had been a securities lawyer for Davis Polk & Wardwell and a public finance lawyer for Maynard, Cooper & Gale, where she was the first Black woman to make partner. She is the first African-American woman to have been elected to Congress from Alabama and, along with[3] Republican Martha Roby, was one of the first women elected to Congress from Alabama in a regular election.[4]

Early life and education

Terri Sewell was born in Huntsville, Alabama to [5] Andrew A. Sewell, a former high school basketball coach, and Nancy Gardner Sewell, a retired high school librarian and former City Councilwoman in Selma. Her mother was the first black woman elected to the Selma City Council.[6]

As a child, Sewell wanted to be a star on Broadway. Because her mother had hoped for her to become a lawyer, Sewell joined the debate team in high school.[6] She was the first black valedictorian of Selma High School.[6][7]

After graduating from high school, Sewell went to Princeton University. She was the first graduate from Selma High School to attend an Ivy League school. She was recruited to attend Princeton by Julian L. McPhillips, who read about Sewell in the local Selma newspaper.[7] At Princeton, she befriended Michelle Obama, who served as what Sewell called her "big sister" on campus.[6] Sewell completed a 158-page long senior thesis, titled "Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come".[8] During her time at Princeton, she interned with Richard Shelby and Howell Heflin.[7]

After graduating from Princeton in 1986, Sewell attended Oxford University. It was there where she befriended Susan Rice.[6] Her master's thesis, on the election of the first black members of the British parliament, was later published as a book titled, Black Tribunes: Race and Representation in British Politics (1993).[9] She graduated from Oxford with a degree in political science in 1988.[5][7] She attended Harvard University for her J.D. degree, which she completed in 1992. She overlapped with and was friends with Barack Obama, who would not only become a lifelong friend, but be a seminal figure in Sewell's decision to pursue a career in politics.[6]

Legal career and political aspirations

After graduation, Sewell served as a judicial law clerk in Birmingham, Alabama to the Chief Judge U. W. Clemon,[10] In New York, she worked at Davis Polk & Wardell, alongside Kirsten Gillibrand, starting in 1994.[6][7]

Sewell returned to Alabama in 2004,[7] due to her father's health problems.[6] She worked for another law firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale PC, where she was the first Black woman partner at the firm.[7] She was a public finance lawyer.[5]

In 2007 Sewell was at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, where she is a member, in Selma, when then senator Barack Obama spoke during the 2008 United States presidential election. Sewell credits Obama's speech, in which he asked, "“The questions that I have today is, what’s called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy, to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?”, as being the catalyst for her serving in politics. Weeks after the Obama speech, Kirsten Gillibrand called Sewell, recruiting Sewell to run for office.[6]

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 majority Democratic, majority-black district. She finished first in the four-way primary with 36.8 percent of the vote.[11] In the runoff, she defeated Jefferson County commissioner Sheila Smoot with 55 percent of the vote.[12][13]

In the general election, Sewell defeated Republican opponent Don Chamberlain in a landslide, taking 72.4 percent of the vote to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. The 7th is so strongly Democratic that Sewell essentially clinched her seat by winning the primary.[14]


Sewell was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination in 2012, and won the general election over Chamberlain as in 2010.[15][16]


Sewell was challenged in the Democratic primary by Tamara Harris Johnson, a former Birmingham City Attorney. No Republican candidate filed. Sewell defeated Johnson with 83.9% of the primary vote, effectively clinching a third term.


Sewell was again unchallenged by a Republican in the 2016 general election. She easily won a fourth term against a write-in opponent.

Tenure and political positions

Sewell and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in 2020
Sewell and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in 2020
Sewell and U.S. Senator Doug Jones in January 2018
Sewell and U.S. Senator Doug Jones in January 2018

Since being elected, Sewell has voted with her party 91% of the time. She was a strong supporter of President Obama's policies.[17][18] She has a lifetime rating of 8% from Heritage Action for America for voting for pro-conservative laws.[19] Despite this, for the 114th United States Congress, Sewell was ranked as the 94th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives (and the most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).[20] Sewell has established herself as a liberal with a focus on job creation.[21] Sewell is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.[22]

In January 2020, Sewell endorsed Joe Biden for president.[23]


Terri Sewell is pro-choice.[24] As of 2018, she has as 100% rating for her voting record on pro-choice legislation by NARAL.[25] Sewell opposed the Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect in 2019. She described the bill on Twitter as "both blatantly unconstitutional and a brazen, extremist attack on women’s rights."[26]

Civil rights

Terri Sewell with John Lewis and Frederick D. Reese in 2016
Terri Sewell with John Lewis and Frederick D. Reese in 2016

Sewell has a 79% rating from the ACLU for her pro-civil rights voting record.[27] As of 2015, she is the only representative from Alabama to have a 100% rating from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda for supporting Latino civil rights related legislation.[28] She has a 94% rating from the NAACP for her voting history regarding legislature supporting African Americans.[29]

Sewell has been endorsed by the Feminist Majority in past elections.[30] In 2011, Sewell signed the Equal Rights Amendment. Two years later, in 2013, Sewell voted in support of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.[31] In 2019, she voted in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act.[32]

She has a score of "85" out of 100 for her voting on pro-LGBTQ laws from the Human Rights Campaign.[33] She co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 which, if enacted, would have protected LGBT students from anti-gay bullying and discrimination in public schools.[31]

Sewell is a staunch advocate for voting rights. In 2019, she sponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by providing increased oversight over voting changes, updating the pre-clearance formula to oversee contemporary discrimination patterns, and expanding the power of the Attorney General to send federal observers to jurisdictions in areas at risk for discrimination during voting.[34] In 2019, she co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019.[32]

Corporations and labor

Sewell has a 92% lifetime rating for her pro-union voting history from the AFL-CIO and a 97% lifetime rating from the AFSCME.[35][36] She has a lifetime score of 61% from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for her pro-business votes.[37] Sewell is a proponent of a $15 minimum wage.[38]


Sewell’s stance has been generally anti-drug. Although she supports scientific research to evaluate the medical use of marijuana, she does not support legalization of cannabis in Alabama. Sewell has a "D" rating from NORML, and a score of 3 out of 6 from National Cannabis Industry Association, regarding her voting record for cannabis.[39][40]


Sewell is a major supporter of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In 2019, she sponsored a bill, which passed, funding HBCUs $70 million for capital improvements and to support their educational work.[41]

Energy and oil

Sewell opposes offshore drilling and greenhouse gas regulations.[42]


In 2018, the Humane Society of the United States gave Sewell a rating of 45% for her pro-animal welfare voting history.[43] She has a 79% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for her pro-environment voting record.[44]

Families and children

Sewell has worked with Ivanka Trump to develop policies related to paid parental leave.[38]

Foreign policy

Sewell supported Obama's decisions regarding Afghanistan, citing "trust" for his policies.[17] She was part of a bipartisan 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."[45]

Free trade

Sewell supports tariffs on countries involved in currency manipulation. She signed the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act 2010.[46]

Government reform

Sewell co-sponsored the STOCK Act in 2011 and the DISCLOSE Act in 2012. That same year, she also co-sponsored the SIMPLE Voting Act, to require a minimum of 15 days of nationwide early voting.[47]

Gun law

In 2019, Sewell voted in support for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, requiring background checks on anyone seeking to buy a firearm.[32]

Health care

Sewell is the only representative from Alabama to have a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood for voting history of support for women's health.[48]

Sewell voted in favor for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She supports Medicaid expansion and offering incentives for states to do so. She is currently sponsoring bills to lower prescription drug costs, expand funding for rural hospitals, and to support more health studies on African American health disparities.[38]

Homeland security

Sewell supported extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretapping.[49] She voted against funding to support Trump's wall.[44]

Kay Ivey

When Alabama governor Kay Ivey shared that she had performed in a college skit in blackface, Sewell responded calling Ivey's actions "reprehensible" and "deeply offensive,” adding that "racism – in any of its forms – is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now."[50]

Social security

As of 2018, Sewell has a 96% lifetime score from the Alliance of Retired Americans for her pro-retirement voting record.[51]

Tax reform

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.[17] 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."[52]

Sewell wants to see the Military Widow’s Tax eliminated.[53]

Donald J. Trump

On December 18, 2019, Sewell voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump and was the lone Representative from Alabama in the House to do so. [54]

War and peace

Sewell opposed removing armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011.[55]

Welfare and poverty

Sewell has voted in opposition to work requirements for welfare recipients.[56]

Committee assignments

Representative Sewell currently serves on the following House committees:[57]

Caucus memberships

Electoral history

Alabama's 7th Congressional District Democratic Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 31,531 36.80
Democratic Sheila Smoot 24,490 28.59
Democratic Earl Hilliard, Jr. 22,981 26.82
Democratic Martha Bozeman 6,672 7.79
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Democratic Primary Runoff Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 32,366 55.00
Democratic Sheila Smoot 26,481 45.00
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 136,696 72.43
Republican Don Chamberlain 51,890 27.50
Write-ins Write-ins 138 0.07
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (inc.) 232,520 75.85
Republican Don Chamberlain 73,835 24.09
Write-ins Write-ins 203 0.07
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Democratic Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (inc.) 74,953 83.91
Democratic Tamara Harris Johnson 14,374 16.09
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (inc.) 133,687 98.37
Write-ins Write-ins 2,212 1.63
Alabama's 7th Congressional District Election, 2016[58]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (inc.) 229,330 98.3
Write-ins Write-ins 3,698 1.6

Personal life

Sewell married in 1998 to Theodore Dixie of Huntsville, Alabama.[59] They are divorced.

Sewell is a lifetime member of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama.[60]

See also


  1. ^ "Terrycina Andrea Sewell - $1,802,819 raised, '10 election cycle, Alabama (AL), Democratic 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. Archived from the original on 2012-07-07. 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. ^ a b c "The Honorable Terri A. Sewell's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Archived from the original on 15 January 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thompson, Krissah (March 1, 2015). "Rep. Terri Sewell, a daughter of Selma, rues her city's lost promise". Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Che, Erica. "Sewell '86 launches historic campaign for Congress". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  8. ^ Sewell, Terrycina Andrea. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (ed.). "Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Gulden, Erin (May 2008). "Selma Bound". Alabama Super Lawyers. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  10. ^ "U. W. Clemon". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  11. ^ "AL - District 07 - D Primary Race - Jun 01, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  12. ^ "AL District 07 - D Runoff Race - Jul 13, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  13. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (July 13, 2010). "Robert Bentley clinches Republican nod for governor in Alabama". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  14. ^ "AL - District 07 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2012-08-29.
  15. ^ Dean, Charles J. (January 13, 2012). "U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell uncontested in Democratic primary". The Birmingham News. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  16. ^ "Alabama Secretary of State "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2013.
  17. ^ a b c "On The Issues". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  18. ^ "Voting History". Open Congress. OpenCongress. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  19. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell". Heritage Action For America. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  20. ^ The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017
  21. ^ "Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.)". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  22. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell Endorses Joe Biden for President". The Birmingham Times. 23 January 2020. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Terri Sewell on Abortion". On the Issues. 24 June 2019. Archived from the original on 24 June 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  25. ^ "Terri Sewell". NARAL Pro-Choice America. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  26. ^ "ACLU says it will sue Ala. again, others react to passage of abortion bill". WBRC. Archived from the original on 15 May 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  27. ^ "Legislative Scorecard 2018". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  28. ^ "National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Congressional Scorecard 113th Congress" (PDF). National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  29. ^ "How Congress Voted 115th Congress" (PDF). NAACP. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  30. ^ "2018 Candidate Endorsements – Feminist Majority". The Feminist Majority. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  31. ^ a b "Terri Sewell on Civil Rights". On the Issues. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  32. ^ a b c Powell, Adam (30 December 2019). "Sewell on front lines for explosive year in Washington - The Selma Times‑Journal". The Selma Times‑Journal. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  33. ^ "Congressional Scorecard - 115th Congress" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  34. ^ Pilkingtonin, Ed (25 February 2019). "'We should be outraged': Alabama congresswoman tackles voter suppression". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 24 December 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  35. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell". AFLCIO. Archived from the original on 24 August 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  36. ^ "115th Congress First Session Congressional Score Card" (PDF). AFSCME. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  37. ^ "2018". U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  38. ^ a b c Boykina, Teresa (6 June 2019). "Sewell addresses issues at town hall - The Demopolis Times". The Demopolis Times. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  39. ^ "2016 Alabama Scorecard". NORML. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  40. ^ "Congressional Scorecard". The National Cannabis Industry Association. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  41. ^ "Terri Sewell successful in securing critical HBCU funding". Alabama Today. 19 June 2019. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  42. ^ "Terri Sewell on Energy & Oil". On the Issues. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  43. ^ "Humane Scorecard" (PDF). Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  44. ^ a b "Check out Representative Terri Sewell's Environmental Voting Record". League of Conservation Voters Scorecard. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  45. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (13 May 2012). "Pelosi leads delegation on Afghanistan visit". The Hill's Global Affairs. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  46. ^ "Terri Sewell on Free Trade". On the Issues. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  47. ^ "Terri Sewell on Government Reform". On the Issues. 23 June 2019. Archived from the original on 23 June 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  48. ^ "Congressional Scorecard". Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  49. ^ "Terri Sewell on Homeland Security". On the Issues. Archived from the original on 20 August 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  50. ^ Moseley, Brandon (30 August 2019). "Sewell reacts to Ivey's blackface revelation". Alabama Political Reporter. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  51. ^ "Alabama Congressional Voting Record" (PDF). Alliance for Retired Americans. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  52. ^ "Statement From Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell on President Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform". House Press Release. Archived from the original on 16 September 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
  53. ^ Moseley, Brandon (20 September 2019). "Sewell hopeful Congress will eliminate widow's tax in this year's NDAA". Alabama Political Reporter. Archived from the original on 21 September 2019. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  54. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  55. ^ "Terri Sewell on War & Peace". OnTheIssues. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  56. ^ "Terri Sewell on Welfare & Poverty". On the Issues. Archived from the original on 24 January 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  57. ^ a b c d "Committees & Caucuses". U.S. Congress. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  58. ^
  59. ^ "Theodore Dixie Jr., Terrycina Sewell". The New York Times. 21 June 1998.
  60. ^ Thompson, Krissah; Harris, Hamil R. (2015-06-20). "What's the right reaction when a white stranger walks into a black church?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-04-28.

External links

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

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Austin Scott
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Steve Stivers
This page was last edited on 12 August 2020, at 22:26
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