Alabama History: Today in Alabama History
January 1, 1900: Alabama ushers in 1900 with cold temperatures and little fanfare. Snow was recorded in Birmingham and Montgomery at the start of the holiday weekend and freezing temperatures continued to Monday, the first. Most citizens did not celebrate the start of the 20th century until 1901 and the Birmingham Age-Herald remarked “the first day of the last year of the nineteenth century dawned dull enough in Birmingham.”
January 1, 1901: Alabama newspapers welcome a new year and a new century. Declaring January 1, 1901, as the first day of the 20th Century (and not January 1, 1900), the Montgomery Journal predicts that “Montgomery can well afford to welcome the year and the century with enthusiasm.” Likewise, the Birmingham Age-Herald carries a prominent front-page cartoon with a depiction of Father Time greeting the twin babies of the new year and the new century.
January 1, 1926: The University of Alabama football team wins the Rose Bowl. This was the first of six Rose Bowl appearances for Alabama and the first time a southern football team was invited to play in a national bowl game.
January 1, 1953: Legendary singer-songwriter Hank Williams dies at the age of twenty-nine. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral in Montgomery. Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 and received the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Lifetime Award for Performing Achievement in 1985.
January 3, 1972: Alabama’s legislative districts are reapportioned by federal court order to bring them in line with the principle of “one man/one vote.” Neither the first nor the last such federal court action, this plan established single-member districts, which no longer necessarily followed county boundaries.
January 4, 1861: A full week before Alabama secedes from the Union, Gov. A. B. Moore orders the seizure of federal military installations within the state. By the end of the next day Alabama troops controlled Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, and the U.S. Arsenal at Mount Vernon.
January 6, 1702: French colonists from Biloxi unload goods at Massacre Island to be used for the establishment of Fort Louis de la Louisiane on a bluff twenty-seven miles from the mouth of the Mobile River.
January 7, 1839: The Judson Female Institute opens in Marion. A Baptist college, it was named for Ann Hasseltine Judson, one of the nation’s first female foreign missionaries. In 1903 the school was renamed Judson College.
January 9, 1965: The battleship USS Alabama is dedicated in Mobile as a World War II memorial. Commissioned in August 1942, the Alabama served primarily in the Pacific, earning nine battle stars. She was awarded to the state in 1964 through the efforts of the USS Alabama Battleship Commission, and since her dedication has become a primary Mobile tourist attraction.
January 10, 1957: Six pre-dawn bombings in Montgomery damage four black churches and two ministers’ homes, including that of Montgomery Bus Boycott leader Ralph Abernathy. The violence came on the heels of several shooting incidents in which recently desegregated city buses were fired upon.
January 11, 1861: The Alabama Secession Convention passes an Ordinance of Secession, declaring Alabama a “Sovereign and Independent State.” By a vote of 61-39, Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union.
January 12, 1951: Annie Lola Price of Cullman becomes the first woman to serve on the Alabama Court of Appeals when she is appointed to the court by Gov. Jim Folsom. The appointment was especially significant because state law at the time prevented women from serving on juries. In 1952 Price was elected to the three-person court and served the state as an appeals judge until her death in 1972.
January 15, 1879: The State Bar Association holds its organizational meeting in the State Capitol with former Gov. Thomas H. Watts presiding. During its first year eighty-one lawyers were admitted for membership. The Alabama State Bar Association listed 12,761 members in the year 2000.
January 16, 1830: A charter is granted by the state legislature to the Tuscumbia Railroad Company. Tracks were built approximately two miles to Sheffield and were completed in 1832. Though the rail cars were horse drawn and never powered by steam locomotives, it is still considered the first railroad in Alabama.
January 16, 1967: Lurleen Wallace is inaugurated as Alabama’s first female governor–and only the third nationwide–as an estimated 150,000 look on. Wallace succeeded her husband George C. Wallace, who was barred by law at the time from serving consecutive terms. She died in office of cancer on May 7, 1968.
January 19, 1818: The first legislature of the Alabama Territory convenes at the Douglass Hotel in the territorial capital of St. Stephens. Attendance is sparse with twelve members of the House, representing seven counties, and only one member of the Senate conducting the business of the new territory.
January 19, 1830: LaGrange College in Franklin County chartered by legislature; eventually becomes the University of North Alabama. The college actually opened its doors to students on January 11, 1830.
January 20, 1702: French colonists, led by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, establish Fort Louis de la Mobile on a bluff twenty-seven miles up the Mobile River from Mobile Bay. The settlement, soon known simply as “Mobile,” moved to its permanent site at the mouth of the Mobile River in 1711. It served as the capital of the colony of Louisiana from its founding to 1718.
January 26, 1839: Alabama’s first state prison is established by legislative act. In 1842, at the Wetumpka State Penitentiary, the state’s first inmate began serving time for harboring a runaway slave. The first female was incarcerated in 1850 for murder. Today, the Alabama Department of Corrections oversees a multi-facility state prison system.
January 26, 1983: Alabamians are shocked and saddened when retired University of Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant dies suddenly from a heart attack. Bryant began coaching at Alabama in 1958 and went on to win six national championships with the team. In 1981 he became football’s “winningest” coach with 315 victories.
January 27, 1840: The Alabama legislature passes a joint resolution accepting the disputed boundary line with Georgia. In recognizing the line marked by a Georgia commission in 1826, the legislature stated that “a fixed and known line between this State and Georgia, is of far higher consequence to us, than the acquisition of an inconsiderable portion of territory.”
January 28, 1846: Montgomery is selected as capital of Alabama by the state legislature on the 16th ballot. Montgomery won the final vote largely because of promises of Montgomery city leaders to provide $75,000 for a new capitol and because of the emerging prominence of the Black Belt region of the state.
January 30, 1956: With the Montgomery Bus Boycott about to enter its third month, segregationists bomb the home of boycott spokesman Martin Luther King Jr. The home sustained moderate damage, but no one was injured. The young minister addressed the large crowd that gathered after the blast, declaring, “I want it to be known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped this movement will not stop.”
January 30, 1966: Alabama experiences its coldest ever recorded temperature of -27°F at New Market in Madison County. The average low temperature during January for nearby Huntsville is around 29°.
January 31, 1902: Tallulah Bankhead, star of stage, screen, and radio in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, is born in Huntsville. The daughter of U.S.Congressman William B. Bankhead, Tallulah was most famous for her flamboyant lifestyle, throaty voice, and stage role in The Little Foxes (1939) and her part in the film Lifeboat (1943). [There is some question of the exact birthdate; this is the most generally accepted.]
February 1, 1839: The Alabama legislature abolishes imprisonment for debt, except in cases of fraud. This action continued a modification of English common law that had begun with the Mississippi and Alabama territorial governments. The constitutions of 1868, 1875, and 1901 would prohibit imprisonment of debtors even in cases of fraud.
February 1, 1956: Autherine Lucy of Birmingham becomes the first African American to enroll at the University of Alabama. Her stay at the school ended abruptly, however, as she was suspended and then expelled amid campus unrest. Permanent integration of the university would be delayed until 1963, when two black students enrolled the day of Gov. George Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door.”
February 4, 1861: Delegates from six states that had recently seceded from the Union meet in Montgomery to establish the Confederate States of America. Four days later this provisional Confederate Congress, comprising representatives of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, organized the Confederacy with the adoption of a provisional constitution.
February 6, 1852: The Alabama Insane Hospital is established by the legislature. Built in Tuscaloosa, it received its first patient in 1861, with Dr. Peter Bryce as director. Applying modern methods, Bryce became renowned for humane treatment of his patients. Today, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation oversees multiple facilities and programs, including Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa.
February 7-13: Several Alabama counties established:
- February 7, 1818 Bibb and Shelby
- February 9, 1818 Dallas
- February 9, 1903 Houston
- February 12, 1850 Winston
- February 13, 1818 Conecuh and Marion
February 9, 1903: Alabama’s last county, Houston County, is created by act of the legislature. Formed from parts of Dale, Geneva, and Henry counties in the extreme southeastern corner of the state, it was named for former Gov. George S. Houston. The city of Dothan was made the county seat.
February 10, 1881: The Alabama legislature establishes Tuskegee Institute as a “normal school for the education of colored teachers.” The law stipulated that no tuition be charged and that graduates agree to teach for two years in Alabama schools. Booker T. Washington was chosen as the first superintendent and arrived in Alabama in June 1881. Washington’s leadership would make Tuskegee one of the most famous and celebrated historic black colleges in the U.S.
February 13, 1866: On Fat Tuesday, Confederate veteran Joe Cain parades through the streets of federal-occupied Mobile dressed as a Chickasaw Indian chief he dubbed “Slackabamorinico.” The antics of “Chief Slac” marked the first public celebration of Mardi Gras in Mobile since the start of the Civil War, and led to larger, more formalized festivities the next year. Joe Cain Day is observed annually in Mobile on the Sunday before Mardi Gras.
February 15, 1854: Alabama establishes a statewide public school system. The legislation, which provided funding for the system and created the position of state superintendent, cited the state’s 1819 constitution as the basis for a system of free schools in Alabama: “Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged in this State.”
February 15, 1866: Elmore County was created by an act of the Alabama State Legislature on from portions of Coosa, Autauga, and Montgomery Counties.
February 15, 1965: Nat King Cole, “the man with the velvet voice,” dies in Santa Monica, California. Born the son of a Baptist minister in Montgomery in 1919, Cole sold over 50 million records and became the first African-American male with a weekly network television series.
February 16, 1895: Alabama formally adopts a state flag for the first time. The legislature dictated “a crimson cross of St. Andrew upon a field of white,” which was the design submitted by John W. A. Sanford, Jr., who also sponsored the bill. This flag remains Alabama’s flag today.
February 16, 1968: The first-ever 911 call is placed in Haleyville. State Representative Rankin Fite made the call fom the mayor’s office and it was answered at the police station by Congressman Tom Bevill. The system was put into operation within weeks of AT&T’s announcement that it planned to establish 911 as a nationwide emergency number. Alabama Telephone Company, in a successful attempt to implement the number before AT&T, determined that Haleyville’s equipment could be quickly converted to accommodate an emergency system.
February 17, 1864: The H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine built in Mobile, becomes the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship. After torpedoing the USS Housatonicin Charleston Harbor the Hunley sank. It did not return to port until it was recovered in August 2000.
February 18, 1861: After being welcomed to Montgomery with great fanfare, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America on the portico of the Alabama capitol. Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi, lived in Montgomery until May, when the Confederate government was moved from Montgomery to its new capital of Richmond, Virginia.
February 19, 1807: Former U.S. vice-president Aaron Burr is arrested in the Mississippi Territory at McIntosh Bluff, Washington County, in present-day Alabama. Burr was accused of treason for attempting to form a new republic in the southwest. After spending several weeks in custody in Alabama, Burr was returned to Richmond, Virginia, for trial. Burr was acquitted of the charges, but quickly left the country to avoid other charges relating to the murder of Alexander Hamilton during an 1804 duel.
February 22, 1893: The first Alabama/Auburn football game is played in Birmingham’s Lakeview Park before a crowd of 5,000 spectators. Auburn won this first match-up 32-22. The rivalry continued until 1907 when games were stopped, with the renewal of the series not coming until 1948.
February 26, 1965: Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young black man, dies eight days after being shot by a state trooper during civil rights protests in Marion. His death gave immediate impetus to the decision of civil rights organizers to lead a march from nearby Selma to the state capital in support of voting rights for black Alabamians. The historic Selma-to-Montgomery March took place the next month.
February 28, 1887: Alabama passes its first child labor law, fixing age limits and restricting work hours for certain types of labor. The legislation, which also protected women workers, was repealed in the 1890s, but efforts of reformers like Rev. Edgar Gardner Murphy of Montgomery resulted in new child labor laws during the first two decades of the 20th century.
March 2, 1901: Trustees of the Alabama Department of Archives and History meet in Gov. William J. Samford’s office to organize the nation’s first state archival agency. Charged with, among other responsibilities, “the care and custody of official archives [and] the collection of materials bearing upon the history of the State,” the department was housed in the capitol until 1940. In that year it moved across Washington Avenue to the War Memorial Building, which had been constructed for the Archives.
March 2, 1961: Alabama native Luther Leonidas Terry begins serving as U.S. Surgeon General under President John F. Kennedy. Terry was born in Red Level in 1911 and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1931. As Surgeon General he issued a landmark report on smoking and health that raised awareness among policymakers and the public about the dangers of smoking. Terry served until October 1, 1965.
March 3, 1817: The Alabama Territory is created when Congress passes the enabling act allowing the division of the Mississippi Territory and the admission of Mississippi into the union as a state. Alabama would remain a territory for over two years before becoming the 22nd state in December 1819.
March 4, 1861: The first Confederate flag is raised over the Alabama Capitol at 3:30 PM by Letita Tyler, granddaughter of former U.S. president John Tyler. The flag, which flew on a flagpole by the capitol clock, was not the Confederate battle flag, but the “First National Pattern,” also known as the stars and bars.
March 7, 1965: Six-hundred demonstrators make the first of three attempts to march from Selma to the capitol in Montgomery to demand removal of voting restrictions on black Americans. Attacked by state and local law enforcement officers as they crossed Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers fled back into the city. The dramatic scene was captured on camera and broadcast across the nation later that Sunday, causing a surge of support for the protestors.
March 9, 1964: In the Alabama case New York Times v. Sullivan the U.S. Supreme Court hands down a landmark free speech decision. A Montgomery city commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, had sued the Times for running a factually inaccurate ad that criticized the city’s handling of civil rights demonstrators. Citing the First Amendment the court ruled against Sullivan, thereby strengthening the right to freely criticize government.
March 10, 1890: Juliet Opie Hopkins dies. Hopkins served as the Superintendent of Civil War Hospitals established in Richmond by the State of Alabama during the Civil War. She became a Confederate heroine for her efforts and her portrait even appeared on Alabama state bank notes during the Civil War years.
March 10, 1948: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald–Montgomery belle, writer, artist, and (with her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald) icon of the Jazz Age–dies in a hospital fire in Asheville, North Carolina.
March 11, 1861: The Confederate Congress, meeting in Montgomery, adopts a permanent constitution for the Confederate States of America to replace the provisional constitution adopted the previous month. The seceded states then ratified the essentially conservative document, which was based largely on the United States Constitution.
March 13, 1887: Fugitive State Treasurer Isaac “Honest Ike” Vincent is arrested on a train in Big Sandy, Texas, and is returned to Alabama for trial. Four years earlier Vincent had absconded with more than $225,000 in state funds unaccounted for. Vincent was tried and convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to fifteen years in the state penitentiary.
March 14, 1780: After only a day of resistance the British commander at Fort Charlotte surrenders Mobile to Spain. The city remained under Spanish control until the War of 1812 when the United States took it over, adding it to the Mississippi Territory.
March 15, 1929: Elba residents are forced to take refuge on housetops as they await rescue from rapidly rising flood waters. Rains beginning in late February resulted in flooding that affected most of the state and left 15,000 south Alabamians homeless. Although the Flood of 1929 hit Elba the hardest, several other towns, including Geneva and Brewton, were covered in as much as fifteen feet of water.
March 17, 1825: Benjamin Sterling Turner is born a slave in North Carolina. In 1830 he was brought to Dallas County, Alabama. After freedom Turner began a mercantile business and was elected Dallas County tax collector in 1867. In 1871 Turner was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the state’s first African-American congressman.
March 17, 1863: John Pelham, a 24-year-old Confederate hero from Calhoun County, is mortally wounded on the battlefield at Kelley’s Ford, Virginia. He died the next day and his body lay in state in the capitol at Richmond before being taken to Alabama for burial. Pelham’s skill and daring as an artillery commander distinguished him from the outset of the Civil War and earned him the nickname “the gallant Pelham” from Robert E. Lee.
March 17, 1970: The Alabama Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is dedicated, with Wernher von Braun calling it “a graphic display of man’s entering into the cosmic age.” Now known as the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, visitors tour the museum, which includes rockets and spacecraft, and participate in activities like Space Camp.
March 20, 1872: Because of financial problems, the Methodist church transfers the grounds, buildings, and legal control of East Alabama Male College in Auburn to the State of Alabama. The institution is rechartered as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, the first land-grant college in the South to be established separate from the state university. The school became Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1899 and Auburn University in 1960.
March 21, 1932: Over 250 Alabamians die in tornadoes that sweep the state. More than 1,500 others were injured and damage was estimated at $5 million. The western and north-central parts of the state, especially the towns of Northport, Cullman, and Columbiana, were hardest hit.
March 21, 1965: Rev. Martin Luther King leads 3,200 marchers from Selma toward Montgomery in support of civil rights for black Americans, after two earlier marches had ended at the Edmund Pettus Bridge–the first in violence and the second in prayer. Four days later, outside the Alabama state capitol, King told 25,000 demonstrators that “we are on the move now . . . and no wave of racism can stop us.” On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
March 24, 1832: In Washington, D.C., representatives of the Creek Indians sign a treaty ceding “to the United States all their land, East of the Mississippi,” which included large portions of east Alabama. Known as the Treaty of Cusseta, it was negotiated in the wake of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Approximately 20,000 Creeks were removed to the Oklahoma Indian Territory by 1840, although some remained, including the ancestors of the Poarch Band of Creeks, who are concentrated near Atmore, Alabama.
March 24, 1853: William Rufus King of Selma is inaugurated as Vice President of the United States near Havana, Cuba. Elected the previous fall on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce, King had been in the warm Cuban climate since January in an attempt to recover his failing health. When it became apparent that he would be unable to travel to Washington for the inauguration, Congress passed a special act to allow him to take the oath of office in Cuba. When his health did not improve, King returned to Alabama, where he died April 18, 1853, never formally serving as Vice President.
March 25, 1931: Nine black youths, soon to be known as the Scottsboro Boys, are arrested in Paint Rock and jailed in Scottsboro, the Jackson County seat. Charged with raping two white women on a freight train from Chattanooga, the sheriff had to protect them from mob violence that night. Within a month, eight of the nine were sentenced to death. Based on questionable evidence, the convictions by an all-white jury generated international outrage.
March 26, 1910: Orville Wright pilots the first plane in Alabama, causing the Montgomery Advertiser to report “a strange new bird soared over the cotton fields west of Montgomery.” The Wright brothers came to Montgomery to set up a pilots’ training school. Several pilots were trained, but the brothers left the area by the end of May. Replacement parts for broken machinery were difficult to locate in the area and the flyers’ efforts were frustrated by numerous spectators during their stay.
March 27, 1814: In the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Andrew Jackson leads a force of Americans, Creeks, and Cherokees against Red Stick Creeks. Attacking the Red Stick stronghold of Tohopeka on the banks of the Tallapoosa River, Jackson’s men killed more than 900 people. The victory soon led to the end of the Creek War and the cession of 23 million acres of Creek territory to the United States.
April 1, 1862: As the first year of the Civil War comes to a close, an order by Gov. John Gill Shorter prohibiting the distillation of hard liquors in Alabama goes into effect. Shorter was willing to make some exceptions, but was determined to prevent distillers from “converting food necessary to sustain our armies and people into poison to demoralize and destroy them.”
April 3, 1825: During his tour of the United States, French general and Revolutionary War hero, the Marquis de Lafayette, is entertained at Montgomery with great fanfare. Gov. Israel Pickens spared no expense for Lafayette’s visit to Alabama–which included stops at Cahaba and Mobile–expending more funds than existed in the state treasury.
April 3-4, 1974: During a record outbreak of tornadoes in twelve states and Canada, eighty-six Alabamians die and 949 are injured. A total of 148 tornadoes caused 315 fatalities, 6,142 injuries, and $600 million in property damage in the United States and Canada.
April 5, 1856: Booker T. Washington, African-American educator, author and leader, is born near Hale’s Ford, Virginia. Born a slave, Washington worked his way through school and in 1881 was selected to head the newly established Normal School for Colored Teachers at Tuskegee, Alabama. He guided the development of the institution until his death in 1915. (The date of his birth was unknown even to Washington; based on evidence submitted after his death, the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee Institute adopted April 5, 1856, as “the exact date of his birth.”)
April 8, 1911: An explosion at Jefferson County’s Banner Mine kills 129 miners. Most of the miners were prisoners leased to Pratt Consolidated Coal Company under the state’s notorious convict lease system. While many southern states leased convicts, Alabama’s program lasted the longest, from 1846 to1928. In 1883 at least 10% of state revenue was derived from the convict lease program.
April 8, 1927: Horace Devaughn, a black man convicted of double murder in Jefferson County, is executed at Kilby Prison, marking Alabama’s first use of the electric chair. Two weeks later, Virgil Murphy, a veteran of World War I who was convicted in Houston County of murdering his wife, became the first white man electrocuted in the chair. Before the state’s use of the electric chair, executions generally were carried out in the counties by hanging.
April 8, 1974: Mobile native Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run to break Babe Ruth’s longstanding record. Aaron finished his career with 755 home runs, the best in Major League Baseball at that time.
April 9, 1931: The Scottsboro Boys, eight young men ranging in age from 13 to 21, are sentenced to die for the alleged rape of two white women on a freight train between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Scottsboro, Alabama. The conviction by an all-white jury and the subsequent appeals were widely publicized and led to major protests around the world. Four of the men were freed in 1937, while the others endured lengthy prison sentences. The final prisoner was released in 1950.
April 12, 1887: Alabama industrialist Henry DeBardeleben and his partners sell the first lots for the new city of Bessemer. Located twelve miles southwest of Birmingham and named after Henry Bessemer, the British inventor of the Bessemer steel process, the community was envisioned as a steelmaking center. Within a year Bessemer had a population of 3,500 and boasted a large industrial complex.
April 13, 1813: Surrounded, with little hope of support from his government, Captain Cayetano Perez, commander of the Spanish forces at Ft. Charlotte in Mobile, meets with General James Wilkinson of the United States. Two days later U.S. forces take possession of Ft. Charlotte and Spanish Mobile.
April 14, 1955: In a ceremony at Huntsville High School, Wernher von Braun and 102 other German-born scientists, technicians, and family members based at Redstone Arsenalbecome American citizens. Recruited to the United States at the end of World War II, the scientists conducted rocket research crucial to the development of the U.S. space program.
April 15, 1956: A Sunday afternoon tornado touches down in western Jefferson County, killing 25 people and injuring 200, most of whom lived in the Stacey Hollow and McDonald’s Chapel communities. Rated an F4, the tornado traveled 20 miles, was 300 yards wide, and destroyed or damaged more than 350 homes.
April 16, 1979: Alabama native Edward O. Wilson wins the Pulitzer Prize in the General Non-Fiction category for his book, On Human Nature. Wilson was born in Birmingham, and lived in Mobile, Brewton, and Decatur, before attending the University of Alabama, where he studied biology. He earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University and went on to an internationally recognized career in the sciences, receiving more than sixty other awards and honors, including another Pulitizer Prize in 1991 for The Ants.
April 18, 1831: The University of Alabama formally opens its doors. Fifty-two students were accepted that first day, but by the end of the session the student body had swelled to nearly one hundred. The faculty was made up of four men including the Reverend Alva Woods, who had been inaugurated president of the university on April 12, 1831.
April 18, 1853: William Rufus King, Alabama’s leading nineteenth-century politician, dies in Dallas County. King was a member of the state’s first constitutional convention in 1819 and served for many years in the U.S. Senate and as Minister to France in the 1840s. In 1852 King was elected vice-president of the U.S. on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce. King took the oath of office in Havana, Cuba, where he had gone to recuperate from ill health. King’s health did not improve and he returned to his plantation in Dallas County to die, never actually serving as vice-president.
April 23, 1957: An earthquake with its epicenter near Guntersville affects parts of Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, but causes little damage. The Montgomery Advertiserreported that “thousands of light sleepers were awakened by the shock” at about 3:30 a.m.
April 23, 1963: At the outset of his one-man march against segregation, William Moore is slain alongside an Etowah County highway when he is shot by a rifle fired at close range. Moore, a white postal worker from Binghamton, New York, had begun his march in Chattanooga intending to travel to Jackson, Mississippi. A white store owner from DeKalb County was implicated in the shooting but never indicted.
April 24, 1922: Alabama’s first radio station, WSY, begins broadcasting. The station was started by Alabama Power Company to help keep in touch with line crews in isolated areas. In 1925 the station merged with Auburn’s WMAV to become WAPI.
April 25, 1944: The United Negro College Fund is established by Tuskegee president F. D. Patterson, after convincing 26 other black colleges to “pool their small monies and make a united appeal to the national conscience.” Since its founding, UNCF has raised more than a billion dollars in support of its member institutions.
April 28, 1926: Harper Lee is born in Monroeville. Her famous novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, was published on July 11, 1960, and sold more than two-and-one-half million copies in the first year. On May 1, 1961, To Kill A Mockingbird was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Letters.
April 30, 1863: The Battle of Day’s Gap is fought between the cavalry forces of Union Col. Abel Streight and Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The engagement was the first in a series of skirmishes between Streight and Forrest during Streight’s Raid across north Alabama. The raid ended with Streight’s surrender to Forrest just short of Streight’s intended destination of Rome, Georgia.
May 1, 1780: John McKinley, Alabama’s first Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is born in Virginia. McKinley moved to Alabama in 1819 and was elected to the Alabama legislature from Madison County in 1820. During the next fifteen years he served in both the Alabama state legislature and U.S. Congress. He was chosen by President Martin Van Buren to serve on the Supreme Court in 1837; he held that position until his death in 1852.
May 1, 1961: Harper Lee of Monroeville wins the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill A Mockingbird, her first, and only, novel. The gripping tale set in 1930s Alabama became an international bestseller and was made into a major Hollywood motion picture starring Gregory Peck.
May 3, 1963: Peaceful African American demonstrators, many of them teenagers, are beaten back in downtown Birmingham by fire hoses and police dogs. The extreme tactics, ordered by police commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor because his jails were already full of protestors, brought international attention to Project C, the name given to civil rights demonstrations in the city led by Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttlesworth.
May 4, 1865: At Citronelle, Alabama, three and a half weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the last major Confederate force east of the Mississippi surrenders. Lt. Gen. Richard Taylor surrendered the 12,000 troops of the Department of East Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to Maj. Gen. E. R. S. Canby of the U.S. Army.
May 5, 1799: U.S. Army Lieutenant John McClary takes possession of Fort St. Stephens from the Spanish and the United States flag is raised for the first time on soil that would eventually belong to Alabama.
May 5, 1910: An explosion at Palos Coal Mine No. 3 in Jefferson County kills 84 miners. At the time it was the second-worst mine disaster in Alabama history, and it followed on the heels of a mine explosion at nearby Mulga that killed 40 miners. The Palos tragedy also marked the first time that the Red Cross led a disaster relief effort in Alabama.
May 8, 1820: The Alabama Supreme Court convenes for the first time. The court, meeting in the capital of Cahaba, was composed of Alabama’s circuit court judges. Clement C. Clay, who later served in Congress and as governor, was appointed Chief Justice.
May 11, 1811: The first newspaper in Alabama, The Mobile Centinel, is published at Fort Stoddert.
May 13, 1914: Joe Louis, “The Brown Bomber,” is born near LaFayette. In 1926 the family moved to Detroit and Louis began boxing. Louis held the world heavyweight boxing title from 1937 to 1948 and made a division record 25 successful title defenses. His matches in 1936 and 1938 against Max Schmeling of Germany were seen by many as heroic fights between the democratic free world and the Nazi forces. Louis died in 1981.
May 15, 1972: Gov. George C. Wallace is shot in Maryland while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president. The assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer left the Governor paralyzed from the waist down and effectively ended his chances at the nomination. He campaigned again for president in 1976, marking his fourth consecutive run for that office.
May 17, 1934: The Ave Maria Grotto park is dedicated at the St. Bernard Benedictine Abbey in Cullman. Known by visitors from around the world as “Jerusalem in Miniature,” the park is filled with miniature re-creations of historic buildings by monk Joseph Zoettl.
May 18, 1933: Congress establishes the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The New Deal program would have a lasting impact on Alabama, especially the northern third of the state. As its focus, TVA constructed hydroelectric dams on the Tennessee River, which, among other benefits, brought electricity to rural areas and attracted industry.
May 19, 1963: Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is issued to the public in a press release. Begun April 16 from the Birmingham City Jail, where King was under arrest for participation in civil rights demonstrations, the letter was addressed to eight local clergymen who had recently urged civil rights leaders to use the courts and local negotiations instead of mass demonstrations to promote their cause in Birmingham. King’s letter, which soon became a classic text of the civil rights movement, rejected the clergymen’s plea.
May 20, 1894: The first bloodshed of the 1894 miners’ strike occurs when a strike breaker is killed by striking miners near Birmingham. In their first show of industrial strength and discontent, 8,000 Alabama miners left the job in April 1894. The strike was over by August, as the powerful coal companies prevailed with the help of the State Militia and leased convicts.
May 20, 1961: The Freedom Riders arrive at the Greyhound bus terminal in Montgomery where they are attacked by an angry mob. The Freedom Ride, an integrated bus trip from Washington D.C., through the Deep South, was formed to test the 1960 Supreme Court decision prohibiting segregation in bus and train terminal facilities. Before reaching Montgomery, they had already suffered violent reprisals in Anniston and Birmingham. The Freedom Ride eventually resulted in a campaign that caused the Interstate Commerce Commission to rule against segregated facilities in interstate travel.
May 21, 1861: The Confederate Congress meets for the last time in Montgomery. Montgomery served as capital for just three months, from February to May 1861. After Virginia joined the Confederacy in April 1861, leaders urged the move to the larger city of Richmond, which was closer to the military action.
May 21, 1901: The Constitutional Convention of 1901 assembles in Montgomery to write Alabama’s sixth constitution. Convention president John B. Knox of Anniston, pointing to ongoing “race conflict” in state politics, explained that the foremost objective of the convention was “to establish white supremacy in this State.” The delegates accomplished that by producing a document that effectively disfranchised blacks, along with poor whites. Voters ratified the Constitution of 1901 in November of that year.
May 25, 1865: During the early weeks of Federal occupation of Mobile, the city suffers one of its worst disasters as twenty tons of captured Confederate gunpowder explodes in a warehouse being used as an arsenal. Property loss was put at $5,000,000 and the number of casualties was never determined, although it has been estimated at possibly 300. The entire northern part of the city was laid in ruins by the explosion.
May 25, 1910: The first-ever nighttime airplane flight is made at Orville Wright’s flying school near Montgomery. Walter Brookins and Archibald Hoxsey piloted the plane, which the Montgomery Advertiser described as “glinting now and then in the moonlight” during flight. The flying school closed shortly after the historic event, but the site eventually became home to Maxwell Air Force Base.
May 25, 1971: President Richard Nixon visits Mobile to mark the start of construction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The waterway, when completed in 1985, ran from Pickwick Lake to Demopolis, Alabama, to connect the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee River. A link between the two rivers had long been desired, having been first proposed by the French in the eighteenth century.
May 28, 1828: A United States arsenal is established at Mt. Vernon, near the juncture of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers. It had previously been the headquarters for General Claiborne in the Creek War of 1813-1814. In 1873 the Arsenal was converted into a barracks, which from 1887 to 1894 housed Apache Indian prisoners, including Geronimo. In 1895 the land was conveyed to the State of Alabama and became the site of the Mt. Vernon Hospital.
May 28, 1951: Batting for the New York Giants against the Boston Braves, Alabama native Willie Mays gets his first hit in the Major Leagues–a home run. Born near Birmingham, the “Say Hey Kid” went on to be named National League Rookie of the Year and hit 660 homers in a legendary Hall of Fame career.
May 29, 1901: Seven days into the Constitutional Convention of 1901 a petition submitted by Booker T. Washington and twenty-three other African-American leaders is read to convention delegates, all of whom are white. The petition asked that the black Alabamian be given “some humble share in choosing those who shall rule over him.” Nevertheless, with the ratification of the Constitution of 1901 in November, blacks–along with poor whites–were effectively disfranchised.
June 1, 1956: The NAACP is barred from operating in Alabama. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones issued the order at the request of Attorney General John Patterson, who argued that the NAACP was not properly registered in the state. Jones also fined the organization $100,000 and ordered it to turn over its records and membership lists to the state. The ban lasted until October 1964.
June 2, 1943: Aliceville’s World War II prisoner-of-war camp receives its first contingent of captured German soldiers. By the end of the week, Aliceville housed 3,000 prisoners. Nearly 5,000 POWs eventually would be imprisoned in the facility, the largest of four such camps in Alabama.
June 3, 1898: Richmond Pearson Hobson of Greensboro becomes a naval hero when he sinks his own ship, the Merrimac, during the Spanish-American War. Hobson, aided by a crew of seven, sank the collier in an attempt to block the Spanish fleet in Cuba’s Santiago harbor. For this act of bravery, Hobson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1933.
June 5, 1956: During a mass meeting at Birmingham’s Sardis Baptist Church, Fred Shuttlesworth and other local black ministers establish the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). Founded in response to the State of Alabama’s recent ban on the NAACP, which lasted eight years, ACMHR was central to the civil rights movement in Birmingham.
June 9, 1943: The famed “Tuskegee Airmen” are involved in their first air battle with German fighter planes in the skies over North Africa. These flyers from the 99th Fighter Squadron were among those trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, the center for pilot training of African Americans during World War II.
June 11, 1901: Gov. William J. Samford dies while in office and is succeeded by the president of the Alabama Senate, William D. Jelks. The Constitutional Convention, then in session, would recreate the office of Lieutenant Governor in the 1901 Constitution. Originally created in the 1868 constitution, the office of Lieutenant Governor had been dropped from the 1875 version.
June 11, 1949: Country music legend Hank Williams debuts on Grand Ole Opry. He performs “Lovesick Blues” and “Mind Your Own Business.”
June 11, 1963: Robert Muckel, a 29-year-old white high school teacher from Nebraska, unintentionally becomes the first student to successfully integrate a public educational institution in Alabama. Shortly before Gov. George Wallace made his “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama, Muckel sat down for his first class at Alabama A&M College, an all-black institution. Attending a summer science institute, Muckel did not realize when he applied that A&M was a segregated school.
June 11, 1963: Gov. George C. Wallace makes his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” to block the admittance of African Americans to the University of Alabama. Vivian Malone and James Hood both registered for classes quietly away from the spotlight to become the first two black students to successfully enroll at the university.
June 11, 1963: Dr. James Hardy, a native of Shelby County, Alabama, and chief of surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, performs the world’s first human lung transplant. The patient lived for three weeks before dying of chronic kidney disease. The next year Hardy transplanted a chimpanzee’s heart into another patient, marking the first transplant of a heart into a human.
June 12, 1832: Alabama’s first railroad, the Tuscumbia Railway, opens, running the two miles from Tuscumbia Landing at the Tennessee River to Tuscumbia. The railway was the first phase of a planned railroad to Decatur, forty-three miles to the east. That railroad was needed in order for river traffic to avoid the dangerous and often unnavigable Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River.
June 12, 1933: Actor and singer Jim Nabors is born in Sylacauga. Nabors began acting while a student at the University of Alabama, and is best known for his Gomer Pyle character, who appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960 to 1964, and later on his own series, “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Nabors has also appeared in several feature films, but has concentrated his later career in music.
June 18, 1916: The National Guard’s 4th Alabama Infantry assembles in Montgomery in response to a call for troops from President Woodrow Wilson. The 4th Alabama, under the command of William P. Screws, was one of four state units dispatched to the Mexican border to guard American interests while Gen. John Pershing attempted to capture Mexican revolutionary and bandit Pancho Villa.
June 18, 1954: Albert Patterson, Democratic Party nominee for state attorney general, is assassinated in his hometown of Phenix City. State and local officials were implicated in the crime, but only Russell County Chief Deputy Albert Fuller was convicted. The murder drew national attention because of Patterson’s promise to rid Phenix City, called the “wickedest city in America,” of corruption and organized crime. Adding to the drama, John Patterson was elected attorney general in his father’s stead, and therefore had charge of the prosecutions in the case.
June 19, 1864: The CSS Alabama, captained by Mobile’s Raphael Semmes, is sunk at the end of a fierce naval engagement with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France. The Alabama had docked there for maintenance and repairs after 22 months of destroying northern commerce on the high seas during the Civil War.
June 21, 1865: President Andrew Johnson appoints Lewis Parsons provisional governor. Parsons, the grandson of Great Awakening leader Jonathan Edwards, was born in New York and moved to Talladega in 1840. Although a Unionist, Parsons followed moderate policies as he reorganized Alabama’s state government under Johnson’s reconstruction plan. His term ended in December 1865.
June 22, 1937: Alabama native Joe Louis defeats James J. Braddock at Chicago’s Comiskey Park to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion since Jack Johnson in 1908. Born near Lafayette as Joseph Louis Barrow, the “Brown Bomber” held the world heavyweight title until 1948.
June 24, 1896: Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute, becomes the first African American to be awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University. Born into slavery in Virginia, Washington moved to Alabama in 1881 to open Tuskegee Normal School. He soon gained fame as an educational leader among black Americans, a fact which Harvard recognized with a Master of Arts degree.
June 25, 1957: Macon County blacks kick off a boycott of white businesses at a mass meeting in Tuskegee attended by 3,000 people. The boycott was in response to a plan to protect white political power in Tuskegee by gerrymandering its city limits so that all but a few African Americans would reside outside the city. The boycott, which brought national attention to Tuskegee, was sustained for four years and met many of the goals of its originator, the Tuskegee Civic Association.
June 27, 1880: Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia. Having lost both sight and hearing by illness as a small child, Keller’s life story and activism inspired new attitudes toward those with handicaps.
June 28, 2007: Former governor Don Siegelman and ousted Healthsouth CEO Richard Scrushy are sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller to lengthy prison terms for their convictions on bribery, conspiracy and mail fraud. Siegelman is sentenced to seven years, four months in prison, three years on probation, restitution of $181,325, a $50,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. The judge sentenced Scrushy, the founder of HealthSouth Corp., to six years, 10 months in prison, three years of probation, 500 hours of community service, a $150,000 fine and $267,000 in restitution.
June 29, 1846: The 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment organizes in Mobile to fight in the Mexican War. Alabamians volunteered in large numbers to fight against Mexico when war came over the annexation of Texas, but only this single regiment, a battalion, and several independent companies actually were received into federal service from the state. During its eleven months of service, the 1st Alabama lost only one man in battle but 150 died from disease.
June 30, 1928: As mandated by the legislature, convict leasing ends in Alabama. While many southern states leased convicts to private industry as laborers, Alabama’s program, begun in 1846, lasted the longest, and for much of that time the notorious system was a key revenue source for the state.
July 1, 1915: Statewide prohibition goes into effect in Alabama, five years before nationwide prohibition. The sale and regulation of alcohol has often been a bitter issue in Alabama politics, and the 1915 ban was first vetoed by Gov. Charles Henderson, but the legislature overrode his veto. Despite prohibition, 386 illegal stills were seized in Alabama in 1915.
July 3, 1920: William Crawford Gorgas, U.S. Surgeon General, 1915-1918, and world-renowned expert on tropical diseases, dies in London while en route to South Africa. Gorgas was born in Mobile in 1854 and served as the Chief Sanitation Officer in Havana, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War and during the building of the Panama Canal, 1904-1914. In those tropical climates Gorgas saved hundreds of lives by successfully eliminating mosquito breeding grounds and thereby controlling the spread of yellow fever.
July 3, 1927: Grover C. Hall, Sr., editor of the Montgomery Advertiser, publishes the cornerstone editorial in a series of pieces that won him the 1928 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. The editorials, directed against the Ku Klux Klan, called for Alabama politicians and citizens to take a stand against Klan violence. Hall especially reprimanded Gov. Bibb Graves, a Klan member, urging him to take measures to end the countless floggings of white and black men and women across the state.
July 5, 1819: Alabama’s first constitutional convention is convened in Huntsville. Less than a month later the forty-four delegates, representing twenty-two counties, adopted what would become known as the Constitution of 1819, the first of six Alabama constitutions.
July 7, 1915: Author Margaret Walker is born in Birmingham. Walker is best known for her collections of poetry and her novel, Jubilee, which is based on her maternal grandmother’s memories of slavery. Walker taught for many years at Jackson State University in Mississippi and she died in 1998.
July 10, 1820: Alabama’s first governor, William Wyatt Bibb, dies as a result of injuries received in a riding accident. As specified in the 1819 constitution the president of the state senate automatically became the new governor. The new governor was Bibb’s younger brother, Thomas Bibb, who had represented Limestone County at the Constitutional Convention and in the state senate. Thomas did not stand for re-election, but later served again in the legislature and as director of the Huntsville Branch of the Bank of Alabama.
July 10, 1862: Forty men from the hill country of northwest Alabama sneak into Decatur to join the Union army, prompting Gen. Abel Streight to mount an expedition to the south to recruit more volunteers. With the help of an impassioned speech from fervent Unionist Christopher Sheats of Winston County, a center of anti-secessionist sentiment, Streight added another 150 Alabamians to his force.
July 10, 1864: Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau of the Union army begins his raid through Alabama at Decatur. Under orders from Gen. William T. Sherman, Rousseau’s 2,200 cavalrymen raided south more than 300 miles to the West Point and Montgomery Railroad in east Alabama. By July 20 they had destroyed more than thirty miles of track between Chehaw Station and Opelika, thereby aiding Sherman’s march on Atlanta by cutting a vital supply line to the city.
July 13, 1868: The Alabama legislature ratifies the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution, thereby meeting one of the requirements for readmission to the Union. In part, the amendment guaranteed that states could not abridge citizenship rights of “persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included freedmen.
July 14, 1948: At the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, half of the Alabama delegation walks out in protest of the party’s stand for civil rights. Three days later those delegates and other southerners formed the States’ Rights party, or “Dixiecrats,” at a convention in Birmingham, nominating Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president.
July 16, 1900: Harper Councill Trenholm, president of Alabama State College from 1925 to 1962, is born in Tuscumbia. A graduate of Morehouse College and the University of Chicago, Trenholm served as instructor and director of the college extension program before assuming the presidency. During his long tenure Alabama State graduated its first four-year college class in 1932, developed a model teacher in-service program that served African-American teachers statewide, and began the legendary Turkey Day Classic football rivalry between Alabama State and Tuskegee Institute.
July 17, 1948: The Dixiecrat Convention assembles in Birmingham, with over 6,000 delegates from across the South in attendance. They selected Strom Thurmond as the presidential candidate for their States’ Rights Party. In the 1948 presidential election the Dixiecrats carried four states, including Alabama, where Democratic candidate Harry Truman’s name did not even appear on the ballot.
July 19, 1941: The first black pilots in the American military begin their primary flight training at Tuskegee Institute’s Moton Field. This first class of “Tuskegee Airmen”graduated the next March after transferring to Tuskegee Army Air Field to complete their training. The group saw its first action in World War II in 1943 as members of the segregated 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Corps.
July 20, 1799: Daniel Pratt, who was to become a significant industrialist in nineteenth-century Alabama, is born in Temple, New Hampshire. After arriving in Alabama in 1832 he founded the town of Prattville and established what would later become the largest cotton gin manufacturing plant in the world.
July 21, 1962: The federal district court in Montgomery rejects the Alabama legislature’s plan to reapportion itself, ordering it instead to implement the court’s plan. Although Alabama’s Constitution of 1901 mandated reapportionment every ten years, the state’s legislative districts had not been redrawn since 1901, with the result that less-populated districts came to dominate the legislature in violation of the principle of “one man/one vote.”
July 25, 1868: For the first time since 1861, Alabama’s two U.S. senators take their seats in Congress, thus signifying Alabama’s readmission to the Union. “Carpetbaggers” George E. Spencer and Willard Warner, both natives of northern states, served as Republicans.
July 26, 1914: Erskine Hawkins, famed jazz musician, is born in Birmingham. His band, the ‘Bama State Collegians, became the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra in the late 1930s after gaining a following in New York and winning a recording contract with RCA Victor. The band’s biggest hit was the immensely popular “Tuxedo Junction” (1940).
July 26, 1952: Alabama Senator John Sparkman is named the Democratic vice-presidential running mate with Adlai Stevenson. Sparkman was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama in 1936 and served in that body until 1946 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1979. The Democratic ticket lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.
July 27, 1813: The first engagment of the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814 takes place at Burnt Corn Creek in present-day Escambia County, Alabama. Creek leaders Peter McQueen and High Head Jim were returning from Pensacola, where they had secured supplies and arms from the Spanish and British, when they were attacked by American forces.
July 27, 1863: William Lowndes Yancey dies at his home near Montgomery at the age of 48. The main author of Alabama’s ordinance of secession, which removed Alabama from the Union, Yancey was one of the leading “fire-eaters” who influenced southern states to secede.
August 1, 1704: French colonists in Mobile welcome the “Pelican Girls,” twenty-three young women from France who had crossed the Atlantic aboard the Pelican. The ladies had been recruited to move to the young settlement, founded in 1702, in order to marry the male settlers and naturally increase Mobile’s population.
August 2, 1819: The first Alabama constitution is adopted, paving the way to statehood in December. Known today as the Constitution of 1819, to distinguish it from five subsequent constitutions, it was considered a model of democracy at the time. It granted, for example, suffrage to all adult white males without regard to property ownership or other qualifications.
August 3, 1936: Lawrence County native Jesse Owens wins his first gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Owens went on to win four gold medals in Berlin, but German leader Adolf Hitler snubbed the star athlete because he was black. Today visitors can learn more about Owens at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park and Museum in Oakville, Alabama.
August 5, 1864: The Battle of Mobile Bay begins. U.S. Admiral David Farragut, with a force of fourteen wooden ships, four ironclads, 2,700 men, and 197 guns, assaulted greatly outnumbered Confederate defenses guarding the approach to Mobile Bay. Farragut’s victory removed Mobile as a center of blockade-running and freed Union troops for service in Virginia.
August 5, 1917: Members of the Alabama National Guard Brigade, which had been federalized in 1916, are discharged from guard service so that they can be drafted into the regular army. Once drafted, the guardsmen were assigned to their former units, and one of these, the 4th Alabama, would become the 167th U.S. Infantry Regiment and serve with distinction in France during World War I as a part of the famed 42nd “Rainbow” Division.
August 7, 1882: Isaac “Honest Ike” Vincent is elected to an unprecedented third term as State Treasurer. Thanking the Democratic Convention that had nominated him two months earlier, Vincent promised that he would “endeavor in the future, as I have in the past, to guard and advance your interests as faithfully as I would my own.” January 31, 1883, Gov. Edward A. O’Neal reported to the Legislature that Treasurer Vincent had absconded from office and that state funds totaling more than $200,000 were missing.
August 7, 1946: Lt. Gen. Holland “Howlin’ Mad” Smith retires from the Marines after a forty-year career. A veteran of World Wars I and II, the Russell County native became known as “the father of amphibious warfare,” and was honored for his years of service by being retired as a full general.
August 8, 1922: Hattie Hooker Wilkins of Selma becomes the first woman to win a seat in the Alabama legislature. One of three Alabama women to run for legislative office that year, Wilkins was the only successful candidate, beating out incumbent J. W. Green for a seat in the House of Representatives. Wilkins served only one term, choosing not to run for re-election in 1926.
August 9, 1814: The Treaty of Fort Jackson is finalized after warring Creeks, under the leadership of William Weatherford, aka Red Eagle, surrender to Gen. Andrew Jackson and cede their lands to the federal government. This event opened up half of the present state of Alabama to white settlement.
August 12, 1937: President Franklin Roosevelt appoints Alabama senator Hugo Black to the U.S. Supreme Court. Black’s nomination was soon confirmed by his Senate colleagues, but before he took his seat on the court that October he was compelled to address the nation by radio in order to respond to controversy about his membership in the Ku Klux Klan in the early 1920s. Black served on the court until 1971, retiring just a few days before his death.
August 12, 1959: An earthquake centered in Huntsville, and felt over a 25-mile radius, causes minor damage. Many Huntsville residents at first believed the shock was the result of an explosion or missile test at nearby Redstone Arsenal.
August 15, 1841: Julia Tutwiler is born in Tuscaloosa. Tutwiler, president of what later became the University of West Alabama, worked to secure the admittance of women to the University of Alabama, to reform Alabama’s prisons, and to expand educational opportunities for women.
August 17, 1870: Spanish-American War hero Richmond Pearson Hobson is born in Greensboro. Hobson later represented Alabama in the U.S. Congress and was active in the prohibition movement. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1933 for heroism during the Spanish-American War and became a Rear Admiral in 1934. Hobson died in 1937.
August 17, 1909: With a unanimous vote by the legislature, Alabama becomes the first state to ratify the 16th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When the amendment went into effect on February 25, 1913, it gave Congress the power to collect income taxes.
August 20, 1937: Dixie Bibb Graves takes her seat in the U.S. Senate to become Alabama’s first female senator. Only the fourth woman to serve as a U.S. senator, Graves had been appointed by her husband, Gov. Bibb Graves, to succeed Hugo Black, who had been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
August 20, 1965: Civil rights worker Jonathan Daniels, a white Episcopal seminary student from New Hampshire, is shot and killed in Lowndes County. Special deputy sheriff Tom Coleman, an ardent segregationist, admitted to the shooting, but was acquitted by an all-white jury six weeks later.
August 22, 1900: Confederate heroine Emma Sansom dies in Texas. In 1863 sixteen-year-old Sansom helped Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest cross Black Creek near Gadsden as he pursued Union forces led by Col. A.D. Streight. Later in 1863, Sansom was awarded a gold medal by the Alabama legislature for her actions.
August 23, 1864: The Battle of Mobile Bay ends with the Confederate surrender of Fort Morgan. Alabama had seized the fort from federal control in January 1861 and then turned it over to Confederate forces, which, until August 1864, used it to keep the U.S. Navy out of Mobile Bay, while letting blockade runners in.
August 25, 1956: During the ninth month of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the home of Montgomery minister and boycott activist Robert Graetz is bombed. A white West Virginian, Graetz pastored Trinity Lutheran Church, a black congregation. Graetz and his family were away from home when the dynamite blast occurred.
August 25, 1919: George C. Wallace is born in Clio. Four-time governor of Alabama, three-time candidate for U.S. president, George Wallace early in his career epitomized white resistance to Civil Rights demands in the 1960s. Almost killed by a would-be assassin in 1972, Wallace later recanted his segregationist views and was re-elected governor largely due to votes of African Americans.
August 30, 1813: Creek Indians attack Fort Mims in what is now Baldwin County, killing nearly 250 settlers gathered there for protection. The attack caused fear and hysteria among frontier settlers, who quickly raised militia companies to fight the Indians in the Creek War of 1813-1814.
August 30, 1908: Officials of the United Mine Workers (UMW) in Birmingham call off a bitter coal strike, prompting the Birmingham News to declare that the result would be “Prosperity in the Birmingham District.” Workers had walked out of the mines in early July to protest wage conditions, and almost two months of violence ensued. As many as 18,000 black and white workers had joined UMW, but resistance by employers, intervention by Gov. B. B. Comer, and public dissatisfaction broke the strike and debilitated UMW’s strength in Birmingham for years.
September 1, 1934: Following Alabama’s lead, a nationwide textile strike begins, with 15,000 Alabama workers among the 400,000 strikers nationwide. The Alabama strike, which had started in July, had survived threats of violence and even the brief abduction of strike leader John Dean. The largest walkout in Alabama and U.S. history at the time, the strike ended September 22 after mediation efforts by the Roosevelt administration.
September 2, 1935: Legislation requiring licenses for Alabama drivers and authorizing the creation of a State Highway Patrol is approved. Beginning in October, annually renewable licenses were issued to qualified drivers at least 16 years old. License fees were designated to fund the State Highway Patrol, which Gov. Bibb Graves established in December.
September 2, 1963: Gov. George Wallace postpones the opening of Tuskegee High School to prevent its integration. State troopers enforced the order, preventing the school from becoming Alabama’s first racially integrated public grade school. Wallace took similar action in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, but four Huntsville schools were integrated on September 9th.
September 3, 1910: Boll weevils are first discovered on Alabama soil in Mobile County. The devastation the insect would cause to cotton throughout the South ultimately spurred agricultural diversification away from “King Cotton.”
September 4, 1951: Alabama lawmakers pass legislation requiring a new look for the state’s license plates. Beginning in October 1954, tags were to carry an image of a heart and the phrase, “Heart of Dixie,” a slogan that had been used for several years by the Alabama State Chamber of Commerce to promote the state.
September 5, 1925: Centreville reaches the highest ever recorded temperature in Alabama when thermometers hit 112°. The Labor Day weekend was a scorcher with cities and towns across the state recording several days of 100°+ temperatures.
September 8, 1960: NASA’s George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which grew out of the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, is dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Among many contributions to the U.S. space program, center director Wernher von Braun and his team developed the Saturn rockets that launched American astronauts to the moon in 1969.
September 12, 1913: Jesse Owens is born in Oakville, Alabama. Owens was one of the first U.S. athletes who combined talents as a sprinter, low hurdler, and broad jumper. In 1936, he won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics: in the100 meter, 200 meter, broad jump, and as a participant on the 400-meter relay team.
September 13, 1892: Three women pass entrance exams to earn admission to the junior class at Auburn, making the college the first in Alabama and the second in the Southeast to become coeducational. The young ladies, one of whom was the daughter of the Auburn president, were allowed on campus only when attending class.
September 13, 1939: The Alabama legislature outlaws open-range livestock grazing in Alabama, effective March 1, 1941, although counties are given the option of holding referendums on allowing cattle to range free within county boundaries. Closing of the range in Alabama began shortly after the Civil War, when fencing of livestock was required in certain agricultural districts, and various local-option measures followed in subsequent years. In 1951, the legislature, in what by then was largely a symbolic act, took away local option, thereby permanently closing the open range.
September 14, 1969: Talladega Speedway opens with its first running of the Talladega 500 which is won by Richard Brickhouse. Over 30 top drivers boycotted the first run saying the track was unsafe at high speeds. The facility cost $4 million dollars to build and attracted a crowd of 65,000 to the first major race. In April 2000, a crowd of 180,000 watched Jeff Gordon win the Diehard 500.
September 15, 1963: Four black girls are killed and 21 others are injured when a bomb explodes at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, a center for nearby civil rights demonstrations the previous spring. The girls, ranging between the ages of 11 and 14, were preparing for Youth Day activities when the Sunday morning explosion occurred. Three Klansmen accused of the bombing were convicted: one each in 1977, 2001, and 2002. A fourth suspect who died in 1994 was never put on trial.
September 15, 1964: The Rev. K. L. Buford and Dr. Stanley Hugh Smith become the first black elected officials in Alabama since Reconstruction when they win seats on the Tuskegee City Council. Buford, a civil rights leader, and Smith, a sociology professor at Tuskegee Institute, defeated white incumbents in a run-off election.
September 17, 1923: Hank Williams is born in Georgiana, Alabama. After his first appearance on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry in 1949, the singer-songwriter went on to become a country music legend despite his death in 1953 at age twenty-nine. His grave is located in Montgomery’s Oakwood Cemetery.
September 19, 1953: More than thirty years after it became law, the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gave women the right to vote, is ratified by the Alabama legislature. Although Alabama complied with the provisions of the amendment as soon as it went into effect in 1920, the 1953 legislature wanted “to record its approval of extending the right of suffrage to women.”
September 20-21, 1819: The first general election for governor, members of the U.S. Congress, legislators, court clerks, and sheriffs is held as specified by the Constitution of 1819. Held on the third Monday and following Tuesday of September, the voters elected William Wyatt Bibb as the state’s first governor.
September 24, 1864: Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest takes more than 1,400 Union soldiers prisoner when he tricks Col. Wallace Campbell into surrendering a fort on Coleman Hill near Athens. Forrest convinced Campbell that his force was three times its actual size and that resisting or waiting on reinforcements was pointless. Most of the Union troops were from the 110th U.S. Colored Infantry, which was made up of former slaves from northern Alabama and southern Tennessee.
September 25, 1867: The oldest newspaper in Alabama owned by a single family, The Southern Star, is first published in Dale County. Except for a few issues, the editor has always been a family member. Joseph H. Adams, the editor as of 2001, is of the fourth generation.
September 27, 1830: Representatives of the Choctaw Indians sign the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, thereby ceding to the United States all their land east of the Mississippi River, including parts of west Alabama. Not all Choctaws moved west, however, and descendants living in Alabama are recognized by the state as the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, who have their tribal office at McIntosh.
September 27, 1906: Following several days of heavy rains, a powerful hurricane wreaks havoc on the Gulf Coast, killing dozens in the Mobile area and causing millions of dollars in property damage. The editor of the Mobile Register called the hurricane “the greatest storm in the history of the city and by far the most damaging.”
September 30, 1865: Alabama’s Constitutional Convention of 1865 adjourns. Although the ninety-nine delegates repealed Alabama’s 1861 Ordinance of Secession and declared slavery illegal, they produced an essentially conservative document. Blacks were not given the right to vote, representation was based on the white population only, and the constitution was ratified without a vote by the people.
September 30, 1893: Julia Tutwiler persuades the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama to try a qualified form of co-education. A faculty committee agreed to “admit young women of not less than 18 years of age, of good character and antecedents, who are able to stand the necessary examinations: for entrance to the sophomore class or higher.” A required proviso was that “suitable homes and protection” be provided. In the fall of 1893, two women students entered the university.
September 30, 1945: Aliceville Camp, a prisoner-of-war camp in Pickens County for members of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Africa Korps, is deactivated. The camp was activated in December 1942 and eventually held 5,000 prisoners. Other German war prisoners were held in Alabama at camps in Opelika, Fort McClellan, and Fort Rucker.
October 1-4, 1867: For the first time in Alabama history, African Americans vote in a statewide election. About 70,000 black men, the majority of voters in the election, called for a constitutional convention and elected an overwhelmingly Republican set of convention delegates, including 18 blacks. That convention produced Alabama’s fourth constitution.
October 4, 1858: Dr. Joseph Henry Johnson founds the Alabama School for the Deaf in Talladega, enrolling his younger brother as the first student. The school evolved into the state-supported Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, which annually serves thousands with a variety of programs.
October 4, 1937: Hugo Black, a native of Clay County, takes his seat as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Black studied law at the University of Alabama, served in World War I, and represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate from 1927 until 1937, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin Roosevelt. Black served on the court until his death in1971.
October 7, 1763: In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, Britain’s King George III establishes the colonies of East and West Florida by royal proclamation. West Florida’s northern boundary was set at the 31st parallel, which today forms most of Alabama’s boundary with Florida.
October 8, 1890: “Rube” Burrow is killed after escaping from jail in Linden, Alabama. A native of Lamar County, Burrow robbed his first train in 1886 and by 1890 was the most wanted outlaw in the South.
October 8, 1896: George Washington Carver arrives in Macon County to direct Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural school. Born a slave in Missouri during the Civil War, Carver was studying in Iowa when school president Booker T. Washington invited him to Alabama. He remained at Tuskegee until his death in 1943, and although he dedicated much of his work to helping black farmers in the South, Carver’s international fame came from his innovative uses of peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other southern products.
October 9, 1908: Two-term Alabama governor James “Big Jim” Folsom is born in Coffee County. Folsom, known for farm-to-market road paving and other programs to benefit Alabama’s common folk, served as governor from 1947-1951 and 1955-1959.
October 12, 1896: The Alabama Girls’ Industrial School opens its doors as the first state-supported industrial and technical school devoted to training girls to make a living. The school later became known as Alabama College, and is now the University of Montevallo.
October 16, 1917: Serving aboard the USS Cassin, Alabamian Kelley Ingram becomes the first American serviceman killed in action during World War I. In 1918 the Navy named a destroyer after Ingram, marking the first time an enlisted man had a ship named in his honor. Congress later awarded Ingram the Medal of Honor and the city of Birmingham named Ingram Park after the Pratt City hero.
October 18, 1540: The largest Indian battle in North America occurs at the village of Mabila (or Mauvila) between Hernando de Soto’s Spaniards and Chief Tuscaloosa’s (or Tascaluza’s) warriors. Accounts vary, but most agree that the Indian village and most of its more than 2,000 inhabitants were destroyed. The exact location of this battle has eluded researchers for centuries.
October 18, 1916: A strong earthquake occurs around 4 p.m. in an unnamed fault east of Birmingham, with the epicenter near Easonville in St. Clair County. The earthquake caused buildings to sway in downtown Birmingham and tied up all phone lines in the city with 25,000 calls recorded at the main exchange in the hour following the quake. Two additional weaker tremors were reported that evening.
October 20, 1832: Representatives of the Chickasaw Indians sign the Treaty of Pontotoc, thereby ceding “all the land which they own on the east side of the Mississippi river” to the United States. That land included a portion of northwest Alabama.
October 22, 1821: The steamboat Harriet reaches Montgomery after ten days of travel from Mobile. This was the first successful attempt to navigate so far north on the Alabama River and opened river trade between Montgomery and Mobile.
October 25, 1819: In anticipation of achieving statehood, Alabama’s first state legislature assembles at Huntsville, the temporary capital. The General Assembly, as it was called, was composed of nineteen senators and forty-seven representatives from Alabama’s nineteen counties. Thomas Bibb of Limestone County was elected President of the Senate, while James Dellet of Monroe County was elected Speaker of the House.
October 25, 1941: Groundbreaking ceremonies are held in Huntsville for the U.S. Army’s Redstone Ordnance Plant. Renamed Redstone Arsenal in 1943, the installation produced conventional artillery ordnance during World War II, but in 1949 became the Army’s missile and rocket development center. Led by German scientist Wernher von Braun, Redstone developed the rocket system that propelled the first U.S. satellite into space.
October 28, 1819: The Alabama legislature elects William Rufus King and John W. Walker as Alabama’s first United States senators. King served several terms in the Senate and in 1852 was elected U.S. Vice President. Walker, who had been president of the Alabama constitutional convention of 1819, served in the Senate until 1822, when he resigned. The terms of both senators officially began December 14, 1819, the day Alabama became the 22nd state.
October 30, 1979: In a run-off, Richard Arrington is elected as the first black mayor of Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. Arrington served in that post for nearly twenty years, until his resignation in July 1999.
October 31, 1954: Martin Luther King Jr. of Atlanta is installed as minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. A little more than a year later, on the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he was named president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a role which made him a national civil rights figure.
November 1, 1865: Alexander Beaufort Meek, lawyer, poet, newspaper editor, and state legislator, dies at age 51. Meek was responsible for the passage of the Public School Act of 1854, the first statewide legislation to create a fund for public education and the position of state superintendent of education. Meek’s most famous poem, The Red Eagle, a lyrical epic about Creek chief William Weatherford, was published in 1855.
November 3, 1813: The Battle of Tallushatchee occurs in what is now Calhoun County. General John Coffee led the Tennessee volunteers, including Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Cherokee scouts John Ross and Sequoyah, as they attacked the Creek Indian village. The American forces killed all adult males (at least 186) and captured an additional 84 women and children. This was the first offensive as Andrew Jackson made his way south to Horseshoe Bend.
November 3, 1970: Fred Gray and Thomas Reed are elected to the state House of Representatives to become the first black Alabama legislators since Reconstruction. Both men won seats from the 31st House District, composed of Macon, Bullock, and Barbour counties.
November 5, 1867: The Alabama Constitutional Convention, consisting of delegates elected under U.S. Congress’s Radical Reconstruction plan, begins meeting in Montgomery. The 100 delegates, of which 96 were Republicans, including 18 African Americans, drafted a liberal document that was declared ratified the next year to become the Alabama Constitution of 1868.
November 10, 1972: Southern Airways Flight 49 is hijacked on a flight from Birmingham to Montgomery. Three armed men wanted by Detroit police demanded a $10 million ransom while diverting the plane from one airport to another in the United States, Canada, and Cuba, where the ordeal ended thirty hours after it began. The hijacking resulted in heightened security measures at American airports, including required use of metal detectors.
November 11, 1901: Alabama’s 1901 Constitution is ratified by statewide vote in an election fraught with corruption. Following the trend of other southern states in this period, Alabama used the constitution to effectively disfranchise blacks and poor whites. With hundreds of amendments, the 1901 Constitution carries the distinction of being twice as long as the constitution of any other state.
November 12, 1813: Sam Dale, Jeremiah Austill, and James Smith become frontier heroes in a Creek War episode on the Alabama River known as The Canoe Fight. From their canoe, paddled by a black man named Caesar, the three Americans engaged a large canoe carrying nine Creek warriors. As militiamen and Indians watched from opposite sides of the river, Dale, Austill, and Smith killed the nine warriors in hand-to-hand combat.
November 12-13, 1833: In a spectacle seen across the Southeast, a fantastic meteor shower causes this night to be known as “the night stars fell on Alabama.” The shower created such great excitement across the state that it became a part of Alabama folklore and for years was used to date events. A century later it inspired a song and book, and in 2002 the state put the phrase “Stars Fell on Alabama” on its license plates.
November 16, 1873: W. C. Handy is born in Florence, Alabama. Handy brought the sounds of African-American blues to mainstream culture when he composed a song in 1909 that became known as “The Memphis Blues.” Handy, known as “Father of the Blues,” had a long career that yielded many other blues hits, such as “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues.” Handy died in 1958.
November 16, 1875: Alabama’s Constitution of 1875 is ratified. The “Bourbon” Democrats, having claimed to “redeem” the Alabama people from the Reconstruction rule of carpetbaggers and scalawags, wrote a new constitution to replace the one of 1868. It was a conservative document that gave the Democrats, and especially Black Belt planters, a firm grip on their recently reacquired control of state government.
November 20, 1826: Alabama’s legislature convenes in the new capital of Tuscaloosa for the first time. The capital had been moved there from Cahaba, the state’s first permanent capital. In 1846 the legislature voted to change the capital again, this time moving it to Montgomery.
November 21, 1818: Cahaba, located at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, is designated by the territorial legislature as Alabama’s state capital. Huntsville would serve for a short time as the temporary capital. The selection of Cahaba was a victory for the Coosa/Alabama River contingent, which won-out over a Tennessee/Tombigbee Rivers alliance group that wanted to place the capital at Tuscaloosa. The power struggle would continue between the two sections of the state; in 1826 the capital was moved to Tuscaloosa, but in 1847 it was moved to the Alabama River at Montgomery.
November 22, 1989: Kathryn Thornton, a native of Montgomery and graduate of Auburn University, becomes the first woman to fly on a military space mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery. Thornton became the second woman to walk in space in 1992. Dr. Thornton retired from NASA in 1996 to join the faculty of the University of Virginia.
November 24, 1869: By joint resolution of the legislature, Alabama ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment guaranteed the right to vote to blacks, including former slaves.
November 24, 1874: George Smith Houston, a Democrat, is inaugurated governor, signaling the end of Reconstruction in Alabama. In addition to defeating the incumbent Republican governor, Democrats won control of the state legislature, leading them to claim “redemption” for Alabamians from the rule of “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags.” It would be more than 100 years before another Republican would be elected governor of Alabama.
November 29, 1902: The New York Medical Record publishes an account of Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performing the first open heart surgery in the western hemisphere when he sutured a knife wound in a young boy’s heart. Dr. Hill was the father of Alabama politician and U.S. senator Lister Hill.
November 30, 1954: A meteorite weighing eight and one-half pounds crashes into Ann Hodges of Sylacauga as she rests on her living room couch. The event gave Hodges a severely bruised hip and instant celebrity status. The meteorite, the first one known to have caused injury to a human, is housed at the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.
December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, is arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a boarding white passenger as required by Montgomery city ordinance. Her action prompted the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott and earned her a place in history as “mother of the civil rights movement.” Ms. Parks was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in August 2000.
December 2, 1865: Adhering to President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan, the Alabama legislature ratifies the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery in the United States, but with the caveat that such an action did “not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the political status of freedmen in this State.” The 1868 legislature, adhering to Congress’s more radical Reconstruction plan, would ratify the thirteenth amendment again, but without the qualifying statement.
December 5, 1919: Loraine Bedsole Bush becomes the first woman to head a state agency in Alabama when she is named director of the newly created Child Welfare Department. Long involved in state and national efforts to reform child labor laws, Bush was largely responsible for the establishment of the department.
December 5, 1935: The Alabama Highway Patrol, Alabama’s first statewide law enforcement agency, is created by Gov. Bibb Graves. The patrol originally consisted of 12 motorcycle officers. Today the Department of Public Safety has a staff of over 1,100 who are responsible for the highway patrol, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, driver’s license administration, and other support activities.
December 6, 1847: The Alabama legislature begins its first session in the new capital of Montgomery. The capitol building cost $75,000 to build and was paid for by the citizens of Montgomery. It was destroyed by fire two years later.
December 9, 1873: The Colored Normal School at Huntsville is created by legislative act. Founded by ex-slave William Hooper Councill, the school educated black teachers for the public schools. It became a land-grant institution in 1891, eventually evolving into Alabama A&M University.
December 11, 1919: The boll weevil monument is dedicated in Enterprise. The monument honors the insect that killed cotton plants and forced local farmers to diversify by planting more profitable crops such as peanuts. Even though the monument was in appreciation of the boll weevil, the weevil statue was not added to the monument until 30 years later.
December 13-30, 1868: Thirty-eight of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties were created or established during the month of December beginning with Madison County on December 13, 1808, and ending with Chilton County on December 30, 1868.
December 14, 1819: Alabama becomes a state. The Alabama Territory had been created in 1817 when Mississippi became a state. By November 1818 the population had grown sufficiently to apply for statehood. The Alabama constitutional convention met in July 1819 and William Bibb was elected governor. In December President James Monroe signed the resolution admitting Alabama to the Union as the 22nd state.
December 14, 1849: On the thirtieth anniversary of Alabama statehood the capitol in Montgomery is destroyed by fire. The building had been erected only two years earlier, after Montgomery succeeded Tuscaloosa as the seat of state government. Construction of the new capitol was completed in 1851.
December 16, 1898: U.S. President William McKinley visits Tuskegee Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, the school’s president. To Washington the visit signified that he had achieved his goal of “build[ing] up a school that would be of so much service to the country that the President of the United States would one day come to see it.”
December 19, 1871: The city of Birmingham is incorporated by the state legislature. The act called for the governor to appoint the first mayor and eight aldermen and allowed the mayor to require all male inhabitants ages 18-45 to work five days each year on the streets and roadways of the city.
December 21, 1956: The Supreme Court ruling banning segregated seating on Montgomery’s public transit vehicles goes into effect. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were among the first people to board a fully integrated bus, ending the historic year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.
December 22, 1916: Charles Boswell, professional blind golfer, is born in Birmingham. After losing his vision fighting during World War II, Boswell learned to play golf, going on to win 17 national and 11 international blind golf tournaments. He received numerous honors along the way, including the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association award in 1957 and election to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.
December 23, 1813: In the midst of the Creek War, American forces defeat Creek warriors in the Battle of Holy Ground, a sacred town on the banks of the Alabama River believed by Creek prophets to be invincible. Although the Creeks suffered relatively few casualties, the defeat and the total destruction of the town dealt a great blow to their morale.
December 25, 1956: The home of Birmingham minister and civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth is bombed. Although the structure is severely damaged, Shuttlesworth emerges uninjured, to the amazement of the gathering crowd. Undaunted, and interpreting his survival as a sign of God’s favor, Shuttlesworth and other local activists proceed with plans to challenge Birmingham bus segregation the next day.
December 26, 1868: Geneval County Alabama established.
December 29, 1835: The Cherokee Indian Treaty Party signs the Treaty of New Echota, ceding their lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government. The Cherokees were to receive five million dollars and land in the western Indian Territory. Alabama created the new counties of Cherokee, DeKalb, and Marshall from the ceded land and the Cherokees began their infamous “trail of tears.”