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So Far The White House Has Eluded Alabama

—by: Jim Bennett

Alabama presidential candidates

rkansas, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee all have all been the home of presidents; Alabama, some wannabees.

It’s not that we haven’t tried. Gov. George Wallace ran four times (1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976), Sen. John Underwood ran in 1912, and U.S. Rep. William Bankhead toyed with the idea of running in 1944. Actually it is not hard to run for president. It’s winning that’s the tough part.

Oscar W. Underwood Button

Technically, you have to be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen and have resided in the US for at least 14 years to serve as president. The Federal Election Commission doesn’t confirm all those who file paperwork to declare their candidacy, however, and many people – almost 800 this election cycle – have submitted candidate forms including 11 from Alabama, four from Birmingham.

Not that they have any hopes of winning, it’s just the honor of the thing. There’s even some guy from Maryland running by the assumed name of Forrest Gump. The name of his campaign committee is "Stupid is as Stupid Does." That’s somehow appropriate.

There was a time when we had some serious contenders. In 1912, U.S. Rep. Oscar W. Underwood of Birmingham, the Senate’s majority leader, had his name placed in contention for president at the Democratic National Convention, where he received support of the Southern states through the 103rd ballot. The nomination was won by Woodrow Wilson, who offered Underwood the vice-presidential nomination but he declined. Wilson went on to capture the presidency with Underwood later serving as Majority Leader in the Senate.

House Speaker William Bankhead of Jasper explored the idea of running in 1940 but withdrew in favor of Franklin Roosevelt. He was actually in third place in the vice presidential balloting with 98 votes before withdrawing in favor of Harry S. Truman, who was elected Vice-President and succeeded to presidency in 1945.

Bankhead worked for the passage of various pieces of FDR’s New Deal legislation to benefit cotton farmers, including the Subsistence Homestead Act of 1933, the Cotton Control Act of 1934 and the parity payment amendments to the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938. In 1943, he sponsored legislation to exempt "substantially full time" farm workers from the draft during World War II.

Sen. John Sparkman of Huntsville was nominated for vice president in 1952 as Adlai Stevenson’s running mate but the Democratic ticket lost to Dwight Eisenhower and the Republicans. Eisenhower’s running mate was Richard Nixon. The 1943 Sparkman Act, which allowed women physicians to be commissioned as officers in the armed forces, was named for him. In 1949, Sparkman was instrumental in convincing the United States Department of the Army to transfer the missile development activities from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Redstone Arsenal.

An Alabamian was actually elected vice president in 1852, William Rufus King of Selma. A former senator and minister to France, he served with Franklin Pierce. King held the highest political office of any Alabamian in American history. He was the third vice-president to die in office serving for only 45 days. Earlier in his career, King was a delegate to the constitutional convention which organized the Alabama state government. Upon the admission of Alabama as the 22nd state in 1819, he was elected by the State Legislature as a Democratic-Republican to the U.S. Senate.

Three Alabamians have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The first was John McKinley (1838-1952) after being appointed by Martin Van Buren. The second was John Campbell (1853-1861), named by Franklin Pierce; the third, Hugo Black (1937-1971), who was appointed by Franklin Roosevelt.

Both McKinley and Black were members of the U.S. Senate, McKinley was from Huntsville, Black from Birmingham. Campbell, from Mobile, was a former state legislator. All three were prominent lawyers.

Campbell resigned from the court in 1861 to become assistant secretary of war for the Confederacy; Black, the fifth longest serving justice in U.S. history, is regarded as one of the court’s most eminent justices.

McKinley was a justice in 1841 when the court, in US vs Armistad, ruled that 49 slaves who had rebelled and gained control of the Spanish ship Armistad, were free because they had been unlawfully kidnapped and forced upon the ship. Further, the court held that such action was voided since American participation in the foreign slave trade had been forbidden 3o years earlier.

FDR at Sen. Bankhead’s Funeral, Jasper, 1944.

FDR at Sen. Bankhead’s Funeral, Jasper, 1944.

It was the most controversial slavery case prior to the Dred Scott decision, made when Campbell was on the court in 1857. The Dred Scott case held that slaves or freemen from Africa were not US citizens and could not sue in federal court. It also held that the US government did not have the power to prohibit slavery in its territories.

Despite being a one-time member of the Ku Klux Klan, Black was a part of the unanimous court decision declaring school racial segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. He was the first of nine FDR nominees to the court.

Sources: Birmingham News, May 27, 2016; Wikipedia, Rufus R. King, Oscar W. Underwood, John H. Bankhead II, John Sparkman.

The Birmingham Water Works built this tunnel in 1888 to convey water from the Cahaba River to downtown Birmingham. The incline, 2,126 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, was bored through Red Mountain near Lone Pine Gap. Brick arches were built to support the interior. It is closed to the public for safety reasons (BhamWiki).

The Birmingham Water Works built this tunnel in 1888 to convey water from the Cahaba River to downtown Birmingham. The incline, 2,126 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, was bored through Red Mountain near Lone Pine Gap. Brick arches were built to support the interior. It is closed to the public for safety reasons (BhamWiki).


Efforts are underway to add the abandoned Finley Avenue Roundhouse to the List of Imperiled Places. It once was an important part of the Southern Railroad in Birmingham.

Efforts are underway to add the abandoned Finley Avenue Roundhouse to the List of Imperiled Places.
It once was an important part of the Southern Railroad in Birmingham.

Magic City Rotary Trail New Historic Attraction

—by: Tom Badham


hari Marquette is a remarkable young man; a home-schooled amateur historian and classical pianist who is all of 17 years old. According to his father, Khari has always been fascinated by trains, starting as a young child with "Thomas the Tank Engine". Among other railroad sites he has explored include the Oak Mountain railroad tunnel near Leeds where John Henry and the steam drill reportedly had their famous contest. In searching the internet he came across stories about of the Findley Avenue Roundhouse, located off 26th Street North adjacent to the Finley Avenue Farmers Market.

The roundhouse was built by the Southern Railroad as part of its new switching yard next to the ACIPCO plant in 1915-16. It was named for William Wilson Findley, the president of Southern at that time; later Finley Avenue was named for him. When the railroad no longer needed it in 1952, the roundhouse and property was sold to Shaw Warehouse and converted into a food cold storage facility. Marquette discovered that the roundhouse had been abandoned and back taxes were owed on the property. Discovering that it was not included on the Alabama Historical Commission’s Endangered Historical Sites List, he decided to try to get it listed.

He started a Facebook site called "Save The Finley Roundhouse" to bring attention to the structure. He also discovered that the brick switching yard control house and the engine machine shop buildings were still standing near the roundhouse. His goal and dream is to get the roundhouse restored and turn it into an asset to the Findley Avenue neighborhood. If it weren’t for railroads, Birmingham would never have been founded. Yet, there is not one historical monument, park or museum dedicated to them.

Khari Marquette

Khari Marquette

The roundhouse and area around it could be turned into an attraction which could greatly benefit the city and the local community. Look at what Sloss Furnace did with just one casting shed. It is now a popular venue for many concerts and other events.

On April 30th he gave a presentation to the Mid-South Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society at the Leeds Station House about the Roundhouse, its condition and what efforts are needed to save it, which efforts have been endorsed by the Jefferson County Historical Association and the Birmingham History Museum.


2016 Dues Running Behind


reasurer Harry Bradford says dues have fallen behind schedule and urges all who have not paid for 2016 to please do so. Only about 105 of the 300 members are current.

"We have not had a good response so far," he said. "If you don’t get your newsletter it’s because you haven’t paid your dues."

Bradford said dues payments are running behind what they were last year at this time. A dues notice and envelope were included in the last edition.

  • Single memberships $20
  • Couples $30
  • Sponsors $100
  • Patron $250
  • Benefactor $500

Contributions are tax deductible

Please mail your dues to:
Harry Bradford, Treasurer,
Jefferson County Historical Association,
P.O. Box 130285, Birmingham, AL 35213-0285.
Be sure to put your name, address and phone number on your check.


Leeds Soldier Won Congressional Medal of Honor
for Defense of Korea’s "Bunker Hill"


lford L. McLaughlin, one of 32 Alabamians to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, probably had no idea what he was in for when he enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1944.

Master Sgt. Alford L. McLaughlin

Master Sgt.
Alford L. McLaughlin

While he served in the occupational forces in Japan after World War II, it was the Korean Conflict where he earned the nation’s highest decoration for valor by his two-machine gun defense at one of the outposts in the "Bunker Hill" area of Korea on the night of September 4-5, 1952.

As a private first class in Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, lst Marine Division, McLaughlin fired two machine guns alternately, notwithstanding his painful wounds and blistered hands, until the weapons became too hot to hold. He continued firing with a carbine and threw hand grenades until some 200 Chinese soldiers lay dead or wounded in front of him.

Sgt. Jack Show Ad 1966

Birmingham News, June, 1966.

In addition to being awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony by President Eisenhower October 27, 1953, PFC McLaughlin was awarded a Purple Heart for bring wounded during that action. He was also awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received August 16, 1952 in the same sector. He became the 33rd Marine to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty in the Korean War.

Following redeployment, he served as a military policeman at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, until July 1953, when he was assigned as a mortar unit leader with the 4th Marine Corps Reserve Rifle Company at Rome, Georgia. He was later assigned to the 10th Marines, Camp Lejeune, and retired from the Marine Corps in 1972 as a master sergeant.

McLaughlin died on January 14, 1977 and was buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery, in Leeds. He was 48.

Leeds is also the hometown of two other Medal of Honor recipients, World War II recipients William Lawley, Jr. and Henry E. "Red" Erwin.

Sources: Al.com, May 31, 2016; Wikipedia:
Alfred L. McLaughlin; Congressional Medal of Honor citation.

Congressional Medal of Honor

Congressional Medal of Honor




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