Every day of the year, something exciting, notable, or just downright strange has happened in Alabama history.
Scroll down and check out what happened this week.
April 17, 1912
Civil rights activist Jo Ann Robinson was born in Georgia. Robinson moved to Montgomery in 1949 to become an English professor at Alabama State College and was instrumental in implementing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Following the arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955, Robinson wrote and mimeographed thousands of flyers calling for a boycott of the city’s buses. Throughout the boycott, she served as president of the Women’s Political Council and an active member of the Montgomery Improvement Association, writing the organization’s weekly newsletter. Robinson published her memoir, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It, in 1987.
April 18, 1831
The University of Alabama opened as the state’s first public college with 4 faculty members and 94 students. The legislature established the school in 1820 and appointed a board of trustees, who selected the state’s capital, Tuscaloosa, as the university’s home. Designed by state architect William Nichols, the campus included 7 buildings: two faculty houses, two dormitories, the laboratory, the hotel (now Gorgas House), and the Rotunda. Slave labor sourced most of the materials for the buildings from university land, quarrying sandstone for bricks and cutting lumber from timber tracts. In 2016, the university boasted a total of 299 buildings and an enrollment of 37,665 students.
April 19, 1947
The Alabama Historical Association (AHA) was founded at Alabama College, now the University of Montevallo, by a group of professional and amateur historians. The group elected James Sulzby Jr., a real estate executive from Birmingham, president and formed a committee to develop a state historical journal and an annual formal meeting. The AHA’s published their first journal, The Alabama Review: A Quarterly Journal of Alabama History, later that year. In 1949, the organization created the state’s first historical marker program to commemorate important sites. Today, the AHA has approximately 900 members and continues to sponsor both the Alabama Review and the state’s historical marker program.
April 20, 1923
Mother Angelica, a Franciscan nun, was born Rita Antoinette Rizzo in Ohio. Mother Angelica joined the Order of Poor Clares in 1944, took her final solemn vows in 1953, and moved to Birmingham in 1962 to establish a religious community that would appeal to blacks during the civil rights movement. A down-to-earth teacher, she began hosting regular radio broadcasts in the 1970s and, in 1981, founded the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), where she hosted her internationally-successful program Mother Angelica Live. Mother Angelica received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award granted by Pope Benedict XV in 2009.
April 21, 1924
Ira Louvin, the older sibling of the Louvin Brothers country music duo, was born in Section, Alabama. Raised without electricity during the Great Depression, Ira and Charlie Louvin eventually created some of the most influential music of the 1950s in both gospel and secular music. The duo played mandolin and guitar respectively and helped popularize the vocal technique of close harmony in country music. Over their short sixteen-year career, the brothers released ten top-twenty Billboard hits and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. The Louvin Brothers were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
April 22, 1963
Governor Guy Hunt, the first Republican governor since the end of Reconstruction, was found guilty on ethics charges and removed from office. Convicted of using $200,000 from a 1987 inaugural fund, Hunt received a sentence of 1,000 hours of community service, a $211,000 fine, and 5 years’ probation. Maintaining his innocence by claiming that he used the money to repay an earlier campaign loan, the former governor eventually paid off the entirety of his fine with help from sympathetic Republicans and Democrats alike. In 1998, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles controversially pardoned Hunt on grounds of innocence and Hunt unsuccessfully campaigned for governor later that year.
April 23, 1901
A statewide referendum calling for a constitutional convention passed, eventually leading to the adoption of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama still used today. Meant primarily to disenfranchise black voters to ensure Democratic control of the state, the new constitution limited voter registration by requiring voters to pass literacy tests, be employed for at least one year, and meet stringent property qualifications. Not wanting to disenfranchise poor whites, however, the constitution provided exceptions if they could prove that they understood the US Constitution, served in a nineteenth-century American war, or were descended from a veteran. The 1901 constitution currently has more than 700 amendments and is easily the longest in the nation.