10 Fascinating January Dates in Alabama History
1. January 16, 1830: Alabama’s first railroad constructed.
The State Legislature grants a charter to the Tuscumbia Railroad Company to begin construction of a rail line. The first tracks were built over approximately two miles, from Tuscumbia 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.
2. January 19, 1830: The University of North Alabama is chartered.
Initially chartered by the Alabama Legislature as LaGrange College in Franklin County; eventually changes its name to the University of North Alabama. The college opened its doors to students on January 11, 1830 before the charter was actually completed.
3. January 31, 1902: A star is born.
Tallulah Bankhead – star of stage, screen, and radio from the 1930s until her death in 1968 – is born in Huntsville. The daughter of U.S. Congressman William B. Bankhead, Tallulah was known for her flamboyant lifestyle and throaty voice. Some of her best-known roles included Regina Giddens in the play The Little Foxes (1939) and Connie Porter in the Alfred Hitchcock film Lifeboat (1944). She was also considered to play the part of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind (1939). She was said to have an almost cult-like fan following among fans in London.
4. January 1, 1926: Crimson Tide football takes the national stage.
The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football beat the Washington Huskies 20-19 in the Rose Bowl. This was the first Rose Bowl appearance for Alabama and the first time a southern football team was invited to play in a national bowl game. The Crimson Tide was an underdog in the game, commonly referred to as “the game that changed the south”.
5. January 12, 1951: Alabama’s first high court female judge is seated.
Annie Lola Price of Cullman became the first woman to serve on the Alabama Court of Appeals when she was appointed by Gov. Jim Folsom. The appointment was especially significant because, at the time, state law prevented women from serving on juries. When the position came up for election the next year, Price was elected to the three-person court and served the state as an appeals judge until her death in 1972.
6. January 1, 1953: A music legend dies.
Legendary singer-songwriter Hank Williams died at the age of 29 in the back seat of his Cadillac while traveling to a show in West Virginia. More than 20,000 people attend 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 Achievement Award in 1985. The car in which he died, and which Hank Williams Jr. drove when he was a high school student, is on display at the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery.
7. January 9, 1965: The “Mighty A” becomes a museum.
The battleship USS Alabama was dedicated and opened in Mobile Bay as a World War II memorial. Commissioned in August 1942, the USS 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. which raised more than $1,000,000 in donations. Most of the donations were made by school children, who collected and donated their change. Since her dedication, the USS Alabama has become a primary Mobile tourist attraction, and one of the largest tourist attractions in the state.
8. January 30, 1966: Alabama’s coldest day is recorded.
Alabama experienced its coldest recorded temperature, estimated to be -27 degrees, at New Market in Madison County. The average low temperature for the area in January is about 29°.
9. January 16, 1967: Alabama’s first female governor is elected.
Lurleen Wallace was inaugurated as Alabama’s 46th governor before a crowd of more than 150,000 people at the State House in Montgomery. She was Alabama’s first female governor and only the third nationwide. Wallace succeeded her husband, George C. Wallace, who was barred by law at the time from serving consecutive terms. She died of cancer on May 7, 1968, and is the only female governor in U.S history to die in office. Alabama would not see another female governor until 2017 when Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey took office following the mid-term resignation of Gov. Robert Bentley.
10. January 23, 1983: A Football Legend Dies
A little less than a month after recording his 323rd collegiate win, legendary Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant passes away in Tuscaloosa. During 25 years of coaching the Crimson Tide, Bryant won 6 national championships and 13 conference championships. People throughout the state mourned “Bears” passing regardless of football loyalty.
Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil’s new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.