Lee McKeown Ezell, born in 1919, in Brooksville, Mississippi, was one of 10 children. When she was young, the family moved to the Birmingham. Alabama. Her father was a steelworker, her mother a seamstress. Nora married in 1936 and moved to Aliceville (Pickens County) in 1938. She had one child, Annie Ruth Phillips.
After her first husband died and her daughter grown, Ezell remarried and moved to Paterson, N.J. She worked in factories making drapery, upholstery, lingerie and other clothing, and continued quilting. She and her husband moved to backed to Alabama in 1979 to be closer to her daughter in Greene County. There, Nora and her daughter, Annie Ruth, made their first “story quilt,” In 1982 they began another “narrative quilt” as a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King. In 1986 the King quilt was included in a national exhibition called “Stitching Memories: African American Story Quilts” organized by Williams College in Massachusetts.
Her works are now in collections around the world, including the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan. She received a National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1992 and a Folk Heritage Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 1990.
Nora Ezell died in 2007 and rests in the Old Bethany Cemetery in Aliceville, Pickens, County. Alabama.
A rule to live by from book Diary of a Quilter by Nora Ezell:
Don’t try to be perfect, just do a good job. Cut your fabric straight, sew your seams good and tight, but not too tight. Match you seams and corners; crooked seems look bad, and nothing looks worse than crooked quilting, and please, pretty please with sugar on it, DO NOT MAKE LONG STITCHES
This quilt is on loan from the Birmingham Museum of Art,
National Endowment of the Arts: