This Week in Alabama History Apr 3 – Apr 9

This Week in Alabama History Mar 27 – Apr 2
March 27, 2017
This Week in Alabama History Apr 10 – Apr 16
April 10, 2017

This Week in Alabama History Apr 3 – Apr 9

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.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, one month before daughter Scottie’s birth, September 1921. (Minnesota Historical Society, Kenneth Melvin Wright, Wikimedia.)

April 3, 1920

Montgomery native Zelda Sayre married novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald in New York. Often the inspiration for characters and themes in her husband’s work, Zelda soon became a symbol of the free-wheeling “flapper” lifestyle and the Jazz Age. An author and artist in her own right, she produced more than two dozen short stories and articles and published her only novel, Save Me the Waltz, in 1932. Her artwork is often displayed at museums across the country. Zelda was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1992 and her life is portrayed in the 2017 TV series Z: The Beginning of Everything.

Bunker Tower at Cheaha State Park, 2015. (Fredlyfish4, Wikimedia.)

April 4, 1936

Colonel Page S. Bunker, director of Alabama State Parks, led ceremonies for the dedication of Bunker Tower on Mount Cheaha in Cleburne County. Built out of native stone, the lookout tower was one of many projects completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Alabama between 1933-1942. The CCC employed 66,837 men in the state during the Great Depression and built 1,800 miles of road, 490 bridges, and 180 buildings in addition to soil and natural resource conservation efforts. Bunker Tower was added to Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1989 and, in 2015, a bronze statue was added in tribute to the men of the CCC.

The Alabama School of Fine Arts, 2017. (Alabama NewsCenter.)

April 5, 1993

The Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) became the first state-supported residential and commuter secondary school in the nation designed for gifted students. Created in 1971 in Birmingham, the school provides tuition-free education to a diverse group of students from across the state in specialty programs of creative writing, dance, mathematics and science, music, theatre, and visual arts. ASFA offers no athletics or clubs, but students have earned national distinction in arts and academic competitions, testing, and acceptance to universities. Notable alumni include Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, and actress Laverne Cox, best known for her role on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

Viola Liuzzo. (Penny Liuzzo Herrington, Encyclopedia of Alabama.)

April 6, 1965

State officials indicted four Klansmen for the murder of activist Viola Gregg Liuzzo on March 25. A thirty-nine-year-old white housewife and mother of five from Detroit, Liuzzo was gunned down by the Klansman while ferrying protestors during the Selma to Montgomery March. Despite testimonies by one of the Klansmen, Gary Thomas Rowe, as a paid FBI informant, Alabama juries cleared the remaining three men, who were then convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison by federal juries. In 1978, federal officials indicted Rowe for first-degree murder after new evidence surfaced that he shot Liuzzo, but the court dismissed the case based on his immunity. Liuzzo’s name is inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery.

William R. D. King, 1853. From the "Frontispiece from “Obituary Addresses on the Occasion of the Death of the Hon. William R. King." (US Government Printing Office, Wikimedia.)

April 7, 1786

Vice President William Rufus King was born in North Carolina. King moved to the Alabama Territory in 1818 and established a plantation in Dallas County called Chestnut Hill. While in Alabama, King became a leader in the community that he named Selma, helped draft the state constitution, and was elected to the US Senate, where he served five consecutive terms. After serving as minister to France in 1844, he returned to the Senate and served as president pro-tempore, earning the vice-presidential nomination under Franklin Pierce in the 1852 election. Pierce and King won the election and King was sworn in to office on March 24, 1853 before dying of tuberculosis six weeks later.

Headline in the Birmingham News describing the Banner Mine Tragedy. (Alabama Department of Archives and History, Encyclopedia of Alabama.)

April 8, 1911

An explosion killed 128 miners at the Pratt Consolidated Coal Company’s Banner Coal Mine near Littleton. While the exact cause of the explosion is unknown, it’s likely that a spark ignited gases that killed 7 men and knocked out a ventilation fan, suffocating the remaining 121. Of the total killed, 125 of the men were convicts leased to the mine, of which all but 5 were black. Approximately a third of the prisoners were serving sentences of 20 days or fewer. The disaster was the largest loss of life in Alabama mining history and led to the passage of a mine safety bill on April 18, but did little to address the problem of the convict lease system.

Confederate line of works at Blakely, AL. (Julius Bien & Co. ; Asmussen, Charles W. ; French, Samuel G., U.S. War Department, David Rumsey, Wikimedia.)

April 9, 1865

Approximately 16,000 Union troops, including 5,000 former slaves and free blacks, attacked 3,500 Confederate forces at the Battle of Fort Blakeley in the last major battle of the Civil War. Fort Blakeley represented the last Confederate fortification near Mobile after the fall of Spanish Fort the day prior. After laying siege to the fort for more than a week, the Union attack on April 9 overwhelmed the fort, capturing it in under thirty minutes. Unbeknownst to both sides, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia only hours earlier, effectively ending the war. The mayor of Mobile surrendered the city to Union forces on April 12.

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