JCHA NEWSLETTER –APRIL 2014

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The U.S. Capitol

The U.S. Capitol, home away from home of several prominent Alabama political figures.


Alabamians With National Aspirations

—by: Jim Bennett, Secretary Of State


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hile gov. George Wallace ran for president four times, two other Alabamians made history by serving in the nation’s highest offices, Vice President William R. King (1853) and House Speaker William B. Bankhead (1936-1940).

U.S. Sen. John Sparkman was also the Democratic nominee for vice president in 1952 when he ran on the ticket with Adlai Stevenson. Gov. Wallace ran for President in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976.

William King served as a U.S. Senator from Alabama and as minister to France before being elected Vice President in 1852 on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce; King died six weeks of tuberculosis after taking the oath of office and is buried in Selma’s Live Oak Cemetery.

William King

Vice President William King.

King was the only vice president from Alabama and, as such, held the highest political office of any Alabamian in American history. King was a co-founder of and named Selma after the ossianic poem The Songs Of Selma. After his death, city officials and some of King’s family wanted to move his body to Selma. Other family members wanted his body to remain at Chestnut Hill, his Alabama plantation where it was first interred. In 1882, the Selma City Council appointed a committee to select a new plot for King’s body. After 29 years, his remains were removed from Chestnut Hill and reinterred in the city’s Live Oak Cemetery under an elaborate white marble mausoleum erected by the city.

King had somewhat of a scandalous relationship in Washington with President John Buchanan. The two men lived together in a boardinghouse for 10 years from 1834 until King’s departure to France in 1844. It drew fire from Andrew Jackson who called the pair "Nancy and Aunt Fancy."

Birmingham native Condoleezza Rice served as secretary of state from 2005–2009 in the George W. Bush administration and earlier as the president’s national security advisor.

Three Alabamians who served as associate justices of the U.S. Supreme court were former U.S. Sen. John McKinley (1837‑1852), Mobile Atty. John A. Campbell (1853-1861), and former U.S. Sen. Hugo L. Black (1937- 1971). Campbell resigned from the court in 1861, later becoming 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. He previously practiced law in Birmingham.

Once a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Black was the first of nine Franklin Roosevelt nominees to the court. The Hugo L. Black Federal Courthouse, home of the United States District Court Northern District of Alabama, is located in downtown Birmingham.

U.S. Senator Oscar W. Underwood was a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912 and 1924. He was admitted to the bar in 1884 and also practiced law in

Oscar W. Underwood button

Birmingham where he was elected to Congress from 1895‑96 and 1897‑1915 rising to chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Underwood first sought the Democratic nomination in 1912 and had some strength at the national convention among southern delegates but lost to Woodrow Wilson. At the convention that year in Baltimore, Wilson’s managers offered Underwood the vice-presidential nomination, which he declined.

The vote by delegates at the convention went through 103 ballots, the most in U.S. History. As the convention labored on, Alabama, as the first state alphabetically, cast its votes first. The delegation’s leader Gov. William W. Brandon reported the state’s unanimous vote tally each time without variation: "Alabama casts 24 votes for Oscar W. Underwood." Underwood became a symbol of the convention’s deadlock finally won by Wilson.

He sought the Democratic presidential nomination again in 1924, but his denunciation of the Ku Klux Klan—which alienated his southern colleagues—and his opposition to prohibition were largely responsible for his failure to win. The party’s support instead went to New York Gov. Al Smith.

Underwood later was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Washington Conference on Arms Limitations (1921–22) under the administration of Warren G. Harding and reportedly refused Harding’s offer of an appointment to the Supreme Court.

Wallace was perhaps Alabama’s best known political figure serving as Governor in 1963–67 and 1971–79, and elected to a fourth term in 1982. He was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1964; four years later, as the presidential nominee of the American Independent Party, he carried five states. While campaigning in Maryland’s Democratic presidential primary on May 15, 1972, he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down by a would-be assassin. In 1976, Wallace made his fourth and final unsuccessful bid for the presidency from a wheelchair.

Who will be the next Alabamian with high political aspirations? He or she could already be making some big plans. Wallace told me one time when it comes to running for office never say never.

Bama Mayo ad 1954

Birmingham News, February, 1954

 
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The Birmingham Athletic Club’s Last Years
Part 4

—by: Craig Allen — Last of a Series


H

erbert L. Cobbs was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. His adult lifetime involvement with his beloved Birmingham Athletic Club came to an end by his own hand on February 24, 1926. His legacy, most assuredly, will always be his devoted involvement with the BAC. Needless to say, perhaps the story of Herbert L. Cobbs would have been different if he had stayed a member of the Growlers and expended his energy toward the future of that club.

Birmingham Athletic Club ad

The ten-story building on 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street, described as the most modern clubhouse of its type in 1925, continued to operate under receivership by the remaining membership of the Birmingham Athletic Club. It was operated as a gymnasium facility and a hotel. The club itself deteriorated as various managers ran the building. There was an attempt to revive the BAC as a club in 1940, but plans quickly dissolved. A small group of former BAC members lived in the building as late as 1941.

The BAC facility at operated as the Birmingham Athletic Club Hotel until 1938. In advertisements for the facility, there was mentioned: 144 sleeping rooms, a swimming pool, Turkish baths, handball courts, and a tap room.

Club Hotel ad

Club Hotel 1939 City Directory


By 1939, the name of the facility was changed to the "Club Hotel." It was described as "the ideal combination of home and club life, for transient and residence guest at a reasonable rate."

The facility became the Dixie Carlton Hotel in 1940. The hotel held minimal social events and was overshadowed by Birmingham’s other more prestigious hotels.

Dixie Carlton Hotel Ad

Dixie Carlton Hotel 1941 City Directory


In 1948, the hotel was sold to the YWCA The hotel remains the YWCA to this day and continues to operate many years after the BAC’s departure.

The 20th Street North Property

The old 20th Street BAC building, sold to the Ku Klux Klan in 1925, and subsequently sold to the Y.M.C.A. in 1926, operated for many years as the Boys Department of the Y.M.C.A. The building was demolished in the fall of 1955 to make way for a parking lot and later for the AmSouth–Sonat Tower. The Southern Club, on the same block, was crippled by the Depression and the flight of the remaining downtown citizens to the residential suburbs. The Southern Club building became the Birmingham–Jefferson Department of Public Welfare. In later years, the building was the headquarters for the American Red Cross. Ultimately the Southern Club building met the same fate as the Birmingham Athletic Club Building, demolished to make way eventually for the AmSouth–Sonat Tower. The Y.M.C.A. building, which rested on the same block, was the final building to disappear from the early social center block of Birmingham. Work on the AmSouth–Sonat Tower began in 1968.

William B. (Billy) Cobbs, Herbert’s brother, died at the Veteran’s Hospital in Tuscaloosa in 1955, the same year the old 20th Street building was demolished. He had served in the Tank Corps in WWI.

It is most appropriate to be reminded of the comments of noted Historian Hill Ferguson as to the reasons why the BAC met its fate. He stated that the flight of prominent citizens of Birmingham to the suburbs clearly had a devastating blow to both the BAC and the Southern Club. At one time, the 5th Avenue District in Birmingham housed many of the most prominent members of Birmingham’s citizenry. Once the downtown population was gone, the fine old clubs had to compete with new venues, such as the Country Club of Birmingham, all closer to the areas in the suburbs where most had moved their residences. Hill Ferguson also noted with sadness that the financial problems brought on by various reasons finally managed to finish the BAC. The Athletic Club, as a body, was simply financially overextended.

Perhaps many of the factors related to the demise of the BAC were "out of the hands" of Herbert L. Cobbs, however, there is no doubt that the intense involvement which described his participation in the BAC led him to pay the ultimate price. Never married, his life was the Birmingham Athletic Club—or was it? On June 10, 1934, eight years after his death, Oak Hill Cemetery records show that a Miss Elsie Seymour visited his grave at Oak Hill.

She spent more than 2–1/2 hours at the site and remarked to Oak Hill personnel that she had been a special friend of Herbert Cobbs. After that day, she never returned to the grave site.

At the demolition of the old building on 20th Street, several interested parties were there to witness the removal of the original BAC corner stone. There was hope that perhaps some mementoes would be discovered but none were found. Among those present were Paschal Shook, Hill Ferguson and Sid B. Jones.

Bham Athletic Club 1955

The Birmingham Athletic Club, known in later years as
the Boys Department of The YMCA, is shown prior to
demolition in the fall of 1955.

 
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Charles Colcock Jones Carpenter
Sixth Episcopal Bishop of Alabama 1899–1969

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ishop Charles Colcock Jones Carpenter is known as one of the most memorable citizens of Jefferson County, not only because he was rector of the Episcopal Church of the Advent from 1936–1938 and then bishop of the Diocese of Alabama from 1938–1968, but also because his personality, accomplishments, and family history.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, he was named for his great grandfather, the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, 1804–1863, to whom the Presbyterian Church gave the designation, "The Apostle to the Negro Slave." He devoted his ministry to the slaves of Liberty County, Georgia where they met in more than half a dozen plantation congregations and numbered well over 1000. Much is known today about him and his family because Robert Manson Myers edited a book in 1972, The Children of Pride, that consists solely of some of their letters written just before and during the Civil War that cover almost 1,500 printed pages! This stirred a great interest in the Jones family, and many other books have been written about them. Dwelling Place, published by Erskine Clarke in 2005, not only gives many more details about the Jones family but also about the individual slaves of Liberty County to whom Charles Colcock Jones was pastor.

Bishop Carpenter’s mother, Ruth Berrien Jones Carpenter, lived her first years on a Georgia plantation during the Civil War. His father, the Rev. Samuel Barstow Carpenter, had an entirely different upbringing in Detroit where he lived until he was ordained an Episcopal minister.

Thus, on his father’s side he was only one generation away from industrial Detroit, and on his mother’s side he was only one generation from Georgia plantation society and slavery.

His father died in Augusta, Georgia when he was 12, leaving him with two much older sisters and his mother. Three years later he was sent to a prep school in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. His mother, carrying on a family tradition, wrote to him frequently for the rest of her life. More than a thousand of these letters tell us today many details of the family’s life between 1915 and 1931. They tell us of her unusual passion that her son successfully follow in his father’s footsteps, much about the First World War and about the beginning of the Great Depression. They also tell us of the condition of the former slaves in the early part of the 20th century, some of whom she had known as a child while they were still in slavery.

We also find in these letters that when Charlie Carpenter left home for school at age 15 he was considered too fragile for sports. His sisters, in particular, urged him through letters to do whatever it takes to strengthen himself. Two years later he won the heavyweight boxing championship at Lawrenceville, and four years after that he was the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Champion in the unlimited weight division while the captain of the wrestling team at Princeton University. It was probably these athletic victories that helped give him the enormous optimism and confidence that he had the rest of his life and his lack of fear when confronting the Ku Klux Klan.

At age 29, he was rector of the largest Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Georgia, St. John’s, Savannah, and at 35 he missed being elected bishop of Georgia by one vote. A year later he came to the largest Episcopal Church in Alabama, the Church of the Advent in Birmingham. Two years after that, at age 38, he was the youngest Episcopal bishop in the United States.

During the civil rights campaign, he was well known in Birmingham and of the whole state. His office on 20th street came to be the place where people could safely have integrated meetings. After the accord was made in May of 1963 between the civil rights leaders and Birmingham officials he was chosen to be chairman of the integrated Group Relations Committee that was charged with continuing the progress in government relations. But here is a fact that is very interesting historically, but which, even today, very few people know.

Bishop Carpenter

Bishop Carpenter as chancellor at Sewanee, the University of the South.


When Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttlesworth, Andy Young, Wyatt T. Walker and the other organizers of "Campaign C" met in Georgia to plan the civil rights campaign for Birmingham, they met at Dorchester about two miles from the Midway Church in Liberty County, Georgia. The Midway Church was one of the central locations for the ministry of the Rev. Charles Colcock Jones, the great grandfather of the Rt. Rev. Charles Colcock Jones Carpenter, who was the Episcopal Bishop of Alabama at the time of the campaign. One hundred years earlier, the "Apostle to the Negro Slaves," not knowing how to free all those slaves in a hostile Georgia environment had spent his years as a Presbyterian Minister teaching them about Christianity. Soon after his death in 1863 and after the end of the Civil War, a school had been started nearby at Dorchester to teach those same slaves to read and write, something that had been against the law before the war. Then toward the end of 1962 the black civil rights leaders met there, and the foundation of their plans was the very Christianity that Jones had taught the slaves 100 years earlier. He was not able to free them, but he gave them this gift of the Gospel.

That is one of those fascinating connections in history. The two men, one in Midway, Georgia, and the other his grandson in Birmingham 100 years later. Both having the same name and both playing key roles in events that swirled around the progress of African Americans.

Fascinating, but chances are you never heard about it.

Kilgores Washer Sale ad 1941

Birmingham News, January, 1941

 
 

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