Alabama History in February
Excerpted from Alabama Department of Archives and History
February 1, 1839: The Alabama legislature abolishes imprisonmentfor debt, except in cases of fraud. This action continued amodification of English common law that had begun with the Mississippiand Alabama territorial governments. The constitutions of 1868, 1875, and 1901 would prohibit imprisonment of debtors even in cases of fraud.
February 1, 1956: Autherine Lucy of Birmingham becomes the firstAfrican American to enroll at the University of Alabama. Her stay atthe school ended abruptly, however, as she was suspended and thenexpelled amid campus unrest. Permanent integration of the universitywould be delayed until 1963, when two black students enrolled the dayof Gov. George Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door."
February 4, 1861: Delegates from six states that had recentlyseceded from the Union meet in Montgomery to establish the ConfederateStates of America. Four days later this provisional ConfederateCongress, comprising representatives of Alabama, Florida, Georgia,Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, organized the Confederacywith the adoption of a provisional constitution.
February 6, 1852: The Alabama Insane Hospital is established by the legislature. Built in Tuscaloosa, it received its first patient in 1861, with Dr. Peter Bryce as director. Applying modern methods, Bryce became renowned for humane treatment of his patients. Today, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation oversees multiple facilities and programs, including Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa.
February 7-13: Several Alabama counties established:
- February 7, 1818 Bibb and Shelby
- February 9, 1818 Dallas
- February 9, 1903 Houston
- February 12, 1850 Winston
- February 13, 1818 Conecuh and Marion
February 9, 1903: Alabama's last county, Houston County,is created by act of the legislature. Formed from parts of Dale,Geneva, and Henry counties in the extreme southeastern corner of thestate, it was named for former Gov. George S. Houston. The city of Dothan was made the county seat.
February 10, 1881: The Alabama legislature establishes Tuskegee Instituteas a "normal school for the education of colored teachers." The lawstipulated that no tuition be charged and that graduates agree to teachfor two years in Alabama schools. Booker T. Washingtonwas chosen as the first superintendent and arrived in Alabama in June1881. Washington's leadership would make Tuskegee one of the mostfamous and celebrated historic black colleges in the U.S.
February 13, 1866: On Fat Tuesday, Confederate veteran Joe Cainparades through the streets of federal-occupied Mobile dressed as aChickasaw Indian chief he dubbed "Slackabamorinico." The antics of"Chief Slac" marked the first public celebration of Mardi Gras in Mobilesince the start of the Civil War, and led to larger, more formalizedfestivities the next year. Joe Cain Day is observed annually in Mobileon the Sunday before Mardi Gras.
February 15, 1854: Alabama establishes a statewide public school system. The legislation, which provided funding for the system and created the position of state superintendent, cited the state's 1819 constitutionas the basis for a system of free schools in Alabama: "Schools and themeans of education shall forever be encouraged in this State."
February 15, 1965: Nat King Cole, "the man with the velvetvoice," dies in Santa Monica, California. Born the son of a Baptistminister in Montgomery in 1919, Cole sold over 50 million records andbecame the first African-American male with a weekly network televisionseries.
February 16, 1895: Alabama formally adopts a state flagfor the first time. The legislature dictated "a crimson cross of St.Andrew upon a field of white," which was the design submitted by JohnW. A. Sanford, Jr., who also sponsored the bill. This flag remainsAlabama's flag today.
February 16, 1968: The first-ever 911 callis placed in Haleyville. State Representative Rankin Fite made the callfom the mayor's office and it was answered at the police station byCongressman Tom Bevill. The system was put into operation within weeksof AT&T's announcement that it planned to establish 911 as anationwide emergency number. Alabama Telephone Company, in a successfulattempt to implement the number before AT&T, determined thatHaleyville's equipment could be quickly converted to accommodate anemergency system.
February 17, 1864: The H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine built in Mobile, becomes the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship. After torpedoing the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor the Hunley sank. It did not return to port until it was recovered in August 2000.
February 18, 1861: After being welcomed to Montgomery with great fanfare, Jefferson Davis is inauguratedas president of the Confederate States of America on the portico of theAlabama capitol. Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi, livedin Montgomery until April, when the Confederate government was movedfrom Montgomery to its new capital of Richmond, Virginia.
February 19, 1807: Former U.S. vice-president Aaron Burr is arrested in the Mississippi Territoryat McIntosh Bluff, Washington County, in present-day Alabama. Burr wasaccused of treason for attempting to form a new republic in thesouthwest. After spending several weeks in custody in Alabama, Burr wasreturned to Richmond, Virginia, for trial.Burr was acquitted of the charges, but quickly left the country toavoid other charges relating to the murder of Alexander Hamilton duringan 1804 duel.
February 22, 1893: The first Alabama/Auburn football gameis played in Birmingham's Lakeview Park before a crowd of 5,000spectators. Auburn won this first match-up 32-22. The rivalry continueduntil 1907 when games were stopped, with the renewal of the series notcoming until 1948.
February 26, 1965: Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young black man, dieseight days after being shot by a state trooper during civil rightsprotests in Marion. His death gave immediate impetus to the decision ofcivil rights organizers to lead a march from nearby Selma to the statecapital in support of voting rights for black Alabamians. The historic Selma-to-Montgomery March took place the next month.
February 28, 1887: Alabama passes its first child labor law,fixing age limits and restricting work hours for certain types oflabor. The legislation, which also protected women workers, wasrepealed in the 1890s, but efforts of reformers like Rev. Edgar GardnerMurphy of Montgomery resulted in new child labor laws during the firsttwo decades of the 20th century.