There Must Be A Witness: Stories of Abuse, Advocacy, and the Fight to Put Children First • Sue Bell Cobb
True child advocates are not born, they are forged out of frustration and faith. There Must Be A Witness profiles a group of child advocates in Alabama who have devoted themselves to help children thrive—and by extension, to better meet the needs of their communities. This collection of stories, narrated by Sue Bell Cobb, the state’s first female Chief Justice and a former juvenile court judge, draws back the curtain on what drives such advocates. In the case of Liz Huntley, a prominent Birmingham lawyer, and Roberta Crenshaw, a former prison lay counselor, advocacy grew out of enduring the most horrific abuse. For Jannah Bailey, the director of Child Protect, her calling has always been to stand between children and violence. Cobb’s own life of advocacy stems from what she saw in courtrooms across Alabama. As a jurist she was bound to serve the law, but as an advocate she championed some of the state’s most sweeping child policy reforms in recent decades, including a toe-to-toe fight with back-slapping tobacco company lobbyists. Along the way she was humbled by the inspiring group of child advocates she met digging firebreaks against poverty, child abuse and neglect, inadequate medical care, and shortcomings in education. Collectively, the stories included in this volume call us to stand witness and testify to policymakers on behalf of children—to insist that government be used as a force for good in people’s lives.
Throughout a long and pioneering Alabama judiciary career, Sue Bell Cobb has been an outspoken advocate for children. A former resident of Evergreen, Alabama, she was the first female Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and before that was the first woman elected to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Her thirty-year career on the bench began when she was appointed district judge of Conecuh County in 1981. She has devoted herself to juvenile justice, access to justice, public safety, and sentencing reform and has been a public advocate for those issues through appearances on NPR's Fresh Air, Politico, and in the documentary Skewed Justice, and as an International Speaker for the U.S. State Department. Sue Bell Cobb earned history and law degrees with distinction from the University of Alabama. She was a founding member of the Children First Foundation, in addition to her many board memberships which have included the Conference of Chief Justices; Council of State Governments; and Alabama Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. She is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and was inducted into the National Voting Rights Women's Hall of Fame. Her awards and honors include Stennis Center for Public Service Pacesetter; Prevent Child Abuse Lifetime Achievement Award; Children's Voice Award; Alabama State Bar Judicial Award of Merit; Outstanding Public Official Award, Alabama Chapter of National Social Worker's Association; Past State Board Chair and Volunteer of the Year, Alabama Division, American Cancer Society. She is married to William J. Cobb. They have three children (Bill, Andy and Caitlin) and three grandchildren (Olivia, Will, and Abigail).
Nick Cenegy is a Texas-based writer. He has graduate degrees in English and journalism and was a Knight Fellow in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama. A former staff writer for the Anniston Star, he now teaches writing at Texas A&M University. He lives in Bryan with his wife, son, dog, and his wife's three cats.