Alabama History in December

Excerpted from Alabama Department of Archives and History

December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, is arrested for refusing to give up her seat for a boarding white passenger as required by Montgomery city ordinance. Her action prompted the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott and earned her a place in history as “mother of the civil rights movement.” Ms. Parks was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in August 2000.

December 2, 1865: Adhering to President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction plan, the Alabama legislature ratifies the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery in the United States, but with the caveat that such an action did “not confer upon Congress the power to legislate upon the political status of freedmen in this State.” The 1868 legislature, adhering to Congress’s more radical Reconstruction plan, would ratify the thirteenth amendment again, but without the qualifying statement.

December 5, 1919: Loraine Bedsole Bush becomes the first woman to head a state agency in Alabama when she is named director of the newly created Child Welfare Department. Long involved in state and national efforts to reform child labor laws, Bush was largely responsible for the establishment of the department.

December 5, 1935: The Alabama Highway Patrol, Alabama’s first statewide law enforcement agency, is created by Gov. Bibb Graves. The patrol originally consisted of 12 motorcycle officers. Today the Department of Public Safety has a staff of over 1,100 who are responsible for the highway patrol, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, driver’s license administration, and other support activities.

December 6, 1847: The Alabama legislature begins its first session in the new capital of Montgomery. The capitol building cost $75,000 to build and was paid for by the citizens of
Montgomery. It was destroyed by fire two years later.

December 9, 1873: The Colored Normal School at Huntsville is created by legislative act. Founded by ex-slave William Hooper Councill, the school educated black teachers for the public schools. It became a land-grant institution in 1891, eventually evolving into Alabama A&M University.

December 11, 1919: The boll weevil monument is dedicated in Enterprise. The monument honors the insect that killed cotton plants and forced local farmers to diversify by planting more profitable crops such as peanuts. Even though the monument was in appreciation of the boll weevil, the weevil statue was not added to the monument until 30 years later.

December 13-30, 1868: Thirty-eight of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties were created or established during the month of December beginning with Madison County on December 13, 1808, and ending with Chilton County on December 30, 1868.

December 14, 1819: Alabama becomes a state. The Alabama Territory had been created in 1817 when Mississippi became a state. By November 1818 the population had grown sufficiently to apply for statehood. The Alabama constitutional convention met in July 1819 and William Bibb was elected governor. In December President James Monroe signed the resolution admitting Alabama to the Union as the 22nd state.

December 14, 1849: On the thirtieth anniversary of Alabama statehood the capitol in Montgomery is destroyed by fire. The building had been erected only two years earlier, after Montgomery succeeded Tuscaloosa as the seat of state government. Construction of the new capitol was completed in 1851.

December 16, 1898: U.S. President William McKinley visits Tuskegee Institute at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, the school’s president. To Washington the visit signified that he had achieved his goal of “build[ing] up a school that would be of so much service to the country that the President of the United States would one day come to see it.”

December 19, 1871: The city of Birmingham
is incorporated by the state legislature. The act called for the governor to appoint the first mayor and eight aldermen and allowed the mayor to require all male inhabitants ages 18-45 to work five days each year on the streets and roadways of the city.

December 21, 1956: The Supreme Court ruling banning segregated seating on Montgomery’s public transit vehicles goes into effect. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were among the first people to board a fully integrated bus, ending the historic year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.

December 22, 1916: Charles Boswell, professional blind golfer, is born in Birmingham. After losing his vision fighting during World War II, Boswell learned to play golf, going on to win 17 national and 11 international blind golf tournaments. He received numerous honors along the way, including the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association award in 1957 and election to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1972.

December 23, 1813: In the midst of the Creek War, American forces defeat Creek warriors in the Battle of Holy Ground, a sacred town on the banks of the Alabama River believed by Creek prophets to be invincible. Although the Creeks suffered relatively few casualties, the defeat and the total destruction of the town dealt a great blow to their morale.

December 25, 1956: The home of Birmingham minister and civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth is bombed. Although the structure is severely damaged, Shuttlesworth emerges uninjured, to the amazement of the gathering crowd. Undaunted, and interpreting his survival as a sign of God’s favor, Shuttlesworth and other local activists proceed with plans to challenge Birmingham bus segregation the next day.

December 29, 1835: The Cherokee Indian Treaty Party signs the Treaty of New Echota, ceding their lands east of the Mississippi River to the U.S. government. The Cherokees were to receive five million dollars and land in the western Indian Territory. Alabama created the new counties of Cherokee, DeKalb, and Marshall from the ceded land and the Cherokees began their infamous “trail of tears.”