Nora Ezell, Eutaw


Nora Lee McKeown Ezell (1919-2007)

Nora Lee McKeown Ezell (1919 – 2007) of Mantua, Alabama was a quilt maker of extraordinary talent and dedication as well as an articulate spokesperson for an art form that is deeply rooted in Alabama culture. This Greene County resident taught herself to quilt by watching her mother and her aunt make the traditional scrap quilts that were once a necessity. While Mrs. Ezell continued to use time-honored patterns, such as "wedding ring," "log cabin," and "bear's paw" in her work, she gained recognition from quilt scholars and collectors for her innovative storytelling quilts. Using the traditional techniques for piecing, applique and embroidery, Mrs. Ezell created individual scenes that were linked thematically to the rest of the images on the quilt.


She began making her narrative quilts in the early 1980s. One of her significant early works, a quilt depicting important moments in the life of Martin Luther King, led to a piece commissioned by the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham called "A Tribute to the Civil Righters of Alabama."


Her work was featured in a one-woman show at Stillman College in 1986, followed by shows at the Birmingham Public Library and the Alabama Artists Gallery in Montgomery. She exhibited and sold her quilts at many regional craft fairs, including the Kentuck Festival in Northport, Alabama. For twelve years, she taught quilting as a master artist in the Alabama State Council on the Arts’ folk arts apprenticeship program.


Ezell received the Alabama Folk Heritage Award from the Alabama State Council on the Arts in 1990 and the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1992.


In 1998, My Quilts and Me: The Diary of an American Quilter, a book about Ms. Ezell's quilting was published by River City Publishing. She died in Tuscaloosa in September 2007.

Click >here to hear Alabama Folkways Radio Series program interview with Nora Ezell.