Selma woman says Riley aide lied

By Alvin Benn
Montgomery Advertiser

SELMA — A Selma woman has accused Gov. Bob Riley’s communications director of a "blatant, cold-blooded lie" for saying she has referred to herself as a "wizardess" with members of the governor’s staff.

"I am livid over Jeff Emerson’s bald-faced lies," Godwin said Tuesday, referring to Riley’s top spokesman’s statement in an Associated Press brief that ran in the March 2 editions of the Montgomery Advertiser. "It was only a limp attempt at damage control — a hit-and-run attempt at that."

Godwin, one of Alabama’s staunchest supporters of the Confederacy, wants a "face-to-face" meeting with Riley to discuss a Christmas card addressed to her as "Wizardess."

Emerson said Tuesday afternoon that "more than one" member of Riley’s staff had heard Godwin refer to herself as "Wizardess." He did not name anyone, but did say "at least two" claimed to have heard her use the word.

"My understanding is that she said ‘You can refer to me as the Wizardess,’" Emerson said. "She said this to several people. She said it verbally. We don’t make this stuff up."

Emerson produced a copy of an Internet e-mail on Jan. 13, 2003, in which Godwin’s name is listed in a discussion of a "Secession Day" gathering at a Montgomery restaurant. He said it was part of an "Internet chat room."

The e-mail lists Godwin’s name next to an address with "The Wizardess" at the end of the communication. It was sent to a member of the Internet group, but it did not have a recipient’s name.

Godwin said Tuesday afternoon that the use of "wizardess" was a "private joke" between her and the person, who has access to the Internet group.

Emerson also had a copy of an Internet article written by Olaf Childress of Baldwin County. In it, Childress ended a sentence with: "replied the Wizardess of Selma, Patricia Godwin."

The governor’s spokesman wondered if Godwin would seek an apology from Childress for also using "wizardess."

Godwin said Tuesday night that she would have sought an apology "if I had known about it. I will ask for an apology from Mr. Childress now that I have been informed about the column."

Childress described Godwin as a "very sharp-witted person" and said he had never heard her describe herself as a "wizardess."

Godwin insisted that she has never written any official correspondence or had any conversation "with any member of any state staff and referred to myself as a wizardess."

The Selma woman was one of thousands of Alabamians who received a Christmas card from Riley last December. She said she has been "incensed" since first spotting the word "Wizardess" in front of her name.

In addition to being a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Order of Confederate Rose, Godwin also has been an outspoken supporter of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Godwin said she has been trying to meet personally with Riley, but has either been "put on hold" for long periods when she calls or has been referred instead to Sandra Lucas, who directs the governor’s office on constituent issues.

Riley has issued a formal apology to Godwin "for grievances caused by an improperly addressed correspondence sent to you from my office." Godwin said it was an "admission of wrongdoing."

The letter didn’t go far enough for her, however, and she wants the person responsible for adding "Wizardess" to the Christmas card envelope fired.

"The bottom line here is that I am the target of someone in the governor’s office who wishes to damage my reputation," Godwin said. "I am a victim of defamation of character and according to the Patriot Act I’ll bet this might even fall within the guidelines of a hate crime."

She said Lucas has repeatedly told her that she assumed "full responsibility" for the questionable Christmas card, but said she did not have information as to who added "Wizardess" to the card "or why."

Godwin said Riley should want to "get to the bottom of this issue as bad as I do and bring closure to it."

She said the governor should "remove this person from his staff and do as his office demands him to do –serve the people of the state of Alabama."

"(Riley) is aiding and abetting someone who has slandered a private Alabama citizen," Godwin said.

Godwin has denied ever being a member of the Ku Klux Klan and knowing anyone who is or was a member.

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