Mary Ivy Burks was a leading force behind the founding of the Alabama Conservancy the state’s first independent environmental organization. She served as its first president, its first executive director, and chair of its wilderness committee, overseeing the group’s successful campaign for the creation of the Sipsey Wilderness Area. Now know as the Alabama Environmental Council, the organization still exists today.

She was born Mary Louise Ivy in Birmingham, Jefferson County, on December 11, 1920, one of two children of Earl Moore Ivy and Lorene Fletcher Ivy. She graduated in 1942 from Birmingham-Southern College with a degree in English and became a reporter for the Birmingham Post newspaper, where she improved her considerable communications skills. In 1946, she married Robert E. Burks Jr., an organic chemist with the Southern Research Institute, and the couple settled in Birmingham.

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Encyclopedia of Alabama

Photos courtesy of: Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame, Dera Hori Burks, Exploring Alabama