Birmingham attorney shares how being able to read saved her life - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Birmingham attorney shares how being able to read saved her life

Liz Humphrey Huntley. Source: WBRC video Liz Humphrey Huntley. Source: WBRC video

At age five Liz Humphrey Huntley lived in a Huntsville housing project with her drug dealing parents.

After her father was sent to prison and her mother committed suicide, Humphrey and a sister were sent to live with their grandmother in Clanton where they were still in poverty and where Huntley would be sexually assaulted.

Despite all that, Huntley is now an attorney in a top Birmingham law firm, Lightfoot, Franklin and White.

"I give glory to God first and foremost. He's the one that puts those angels in our path sometimes that we need to get us through things," she said.

Some of the first angels were in her grandmother's neighborhood, who started a church kindergarten where Huntley first learned to read.

On her first day of first grade, she was sent to school alone but because she could read she was able to find her name on a list of students. She found her way to the classroom where she met another angel, her first grade teacher Pam Jones.

Huntley explained how that moment was a crossroads in her life.

"And [Pam Jones] looked at me, and I didn't appreciate it at the time, but her eyes watered up and she looked down at me and her response to all of that - which could have been call DHR, it could have been a lot of things - she said, "Elizabeth Humphrey, you're gonna be the brightest student I ever have,'" Huntley said.

Those turned out to be prophetic words as Huntley went on to be valedictorian, a star student at Auburn University, a Tigerette with Coach Pat Dye, a graduate of Alabama's Farrah School of Law, a member of the law school's board of trustees and the Auburn board of trustees, and now a powerful advocate for children and literacy in Alabama.

Through it all, Huntley knows firsthand how reading can change the direction of a young life.

"We all know the power of reading and what it does for kids. Particularly for me, it was my little mini escape. I could go into another world," she said.

She was also able to read the Bible which she says gave her hope in what seemed like hopeless circumstances.

Now, her world is filled with hope and the joy of a loving husband and two daughters.

It's a world that little girl in the projects could have never reached without reading.

"Literacy is just fundamental to everybody in society," Huntley said. "If we want to improve society in Alabama we have to start making sure folks are literate. If we want to eliminate some of the remedial things that we have to do in education, we can start by making sure kids can. It's a game changer."

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