This Week in Alabama History Mar 6 – Mar 12

This Week in Alabama History Feb 27 – Mar 5
February 27, 2017
This Week in Alabama History Mar 13 – Mar 19
March 13, 2017

This Week in Alabama History Mar 6 – Mar 12

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.

Constable J. L. McGowan standing over the corpse of Railroad Bill. (Encyclopedia of Alabama, Public Domain.)

March 6, 1895

L&N Railroad employees attempted to apprehend a black outlaw named Railroad Bill as he slept near the tracks, but failed after he opened fire and escaped into the woods. The incident spurred a large-scale manhunt and a series of firefights that caused the deaths of both lawmen and misidentified suspects alike. While Railroad Bill’s true identity was never conclusively determined, the hunt ended on March 7, 1896 when lawmen gunned down a man identified as Bill McCoy in Atmore. Often portrayed as a “Robin Hood” character, Railroad Bill’s legacy continued through the years in a variety of cultural representations, including music, fiction, and theater.

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama, 2010. (The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress.)

March 7, 1965

Alabama state troopers and county law enforcement officials attacked approximately 600 unarmed activists as they marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Ordered to stop the march by Gov. George Wallace, state troopers deployed 40 canisters of tear gas, 12 cans of smoke, and 8 cans of nausea gas as they beat marchers with billy clubs, causing injuries that sent 56 of the marchers to hospitals. Televised images of the event, named Bloody Sunday, shocked viewers across the world and caused an outpouring of support that ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Theatrical release poster for The Breath of the Gods, a 1920 silent film based on a novel by Mary McNeil Fenollosa. (Universal Film Manufacturing Company, Wikimedia.)

March 8, 1865

Novelist and poet Mary McNeil Fenollosa was born in Wilcox County. Known for creating believable and complex characters and settings, Fenollosa released her first novel, Truth Dexter, in 1901 under her pseudonym, Sidney McCall. The novel received immediate critical and popular success. In total, Fenollosa published nine novels, leading to popular adaptations in film, theater, and opera. The wife of Asian culture scholar and art collector Ernest Fenollosa, Mary also completed her husband’s authoritative study, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art: An Outline History of East Asiatic Design, after his untimely death in 1908.

Henry B. Steagall, c. 1926-1937. (Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress.)

March 9, 1933

Congressman Henry B. Steagall used his position as chair of the Banking and Currency Committee to push through the Emergency Banking Act of 1933. Passed after less than hour of debate and no amendments, the act legalized a temporary national banking holiday and deterred additional bank runs during the Great Depression. Later that same year, Steagall co-sponsored the Glass-Steagall Act, which is often credited with reducing the number of bank closures. Steagall served fifteen consecutive terms in Congress and was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame in 2015.

Big City Skyline by Jimmy Lee Sudduth, c. 1988. Painted using paint, mud, and sand on plywood. (Smithsonian American Art Museum.)

March 10, 1910

Outsider artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth was born in Caines Ridge, near Fayette. A self-taught artist, Sudduth is best known for creating finger paintings out of mud and other natural pigments on a variety of salvaged surfaces such as plywood boards, doors, and roofing shingles. Sudduth spent almost his entire life in a modest house in Fayette, but his portraits and depictions of the rural South earned him international recognition. Sudduth won the 2005 Alabama Governor’s Arts Award and his paintings are on display in the permanent collections of the Fayette Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

William Moody's two sons at his WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2014. (Miguel Discart, Wikimedia.)

March 11, 2013

World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) held a tribute show on Raw for professional wrestling manager William Moody, who died six days earlier. A trained mortician and embalmer from Mobile, Moody is most famous for his work in the WWE as Paul Bearer—a cackling, ghostly character with white face makeup, a ceremonial urn, and the catchphrase “Ohhh yesss!” Often managing top wrestlers like Kane, Vader, and Mankind, Moody is most remembered for his time with the Undertaker, a 6’10”, 310-lb supernatural being nicknamed “the Deadman.” Moody was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.

Emblem of Air University, Air Education and Training Command of the United States Air Force. (United States Army Institute of Heraldry, Wikimedia.)

March 12, 1946

The War Department renamed the Army Air Forces School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery to Air University. First established as the Air Service School at Langley Field in Virginia, the War Department moved the school’s headquarters to Montgomery in 1928 at the urging of Alabama representative J. Lister Hill. The university serves as the US Air Force’s institution of higher learning and provides education in military subjects and doctrine to select members of all US military services and air forces of other countries. The university graduates more than 196,000 students annually through courses and programs varying in length from one week to one year.

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