Alabama History in June
Excerpted from Alabama Department of Archives and History
June 1, 1956: The NAACP is barred from operating in Alabama. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones issued the order at the request of Attorney General John Patterson, who argued that the NAACP was not properly registered in the state. Jones also fined the organization $100,000 and ordered it to turn over its records and membership lists to the state. The ban lasted until October 1964.
June 2, 1943: Aliceville’s World War II prisoner-of-war camp receives its first contingent of captured German soldiers. By the end of the week, Aliceville housed 3,000 prisoners. Nearly 5,000 POWs eventually would be imprisoned in the facility, the largest of four such camps in Alabama.
June 3, 1898: Richmond Pearson Hobson of Greensboro becomes a naval hero when he sinks his own ship, the Merrimac, during the Spanish-American War. Hobson, aided by a crew of seven, sank the collier in an attempt to block the Spanish fleet in Cuba’s Santiago harbor. For this act of bravery, Hobson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1933.
June 5, 1956: During a mass meeting at Birmingham’s Sardis Baptist Church, Fred Shuttlesworth and other local black ministers establish the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). Founded in response to the State of Alabama’s recent ban on the NAACP, which lasted eight years, ACMHR was central to the civil rights movement in Birmingham.
June 9, 1943: The famed “Tuskegee Airmen” are involved in their first air battle with German fighter planes in the skies over North Africa. These flyers from the 99th Fighter Squadron were among those trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field, the center for pilot training of African Americans during World War II.
June 11, 1901: Gov. William J. Samford dies while in office and is succeeded by the president of the Alabama Senate, William D. Jelks. The Constitutional Convention, then in session, would recreate the office of Lieutenant Governor in the 1901 Constitution. Originally created in the 1868 constitution, the office of Lieutenant Governor had been dropped from the 1875 version.
June 11, 1963: Robert Muckel, a 29-year-old white high school teacher from Nebraska, unintentionally becomes the first student to successfully integrate a public educational institution in Alabama. Shortly before Gov. George Wallace made his “stand in the schoolhouse door” at the University of Alabama, Muckel sat down for his first class at Alabama A&M College, an all-black institution. Attending a summer science institute, Muckel did not realize when he applied that A&M was a segregated school.
June 11, 1963: Gov. George C. Wallace makes his infamous “stand in the schoolhouse door” to block the admittance of African Americans to the University of Alabama. Vivian Malone and James Hood both registered for classes quietly away from the spotlight to become the first two black students to successfully enroll at the university.
June 11, 1963: Dr. James Hardy, a native of Shelby County, Alabama, and chief of surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, performs the world’s first human lung transplant. The patient lived for three weeks before dying of chronic kidney disease. The next year Hardy transplanted a chimpanzee’s heart into another patient, marking the first transplant of a heart into a human.
June 12, 1832: Alabama’s first railroad, the Tuscumbia Railway, opens, running the two miles from Tuscumbia Landing at the Tennessee River to Tuscumbia. The railway was the first phase of a planned railroad to Decatur, forty-three miles to the east. That railroad was needed in order for river traffic to avoid the dangerous and often unnavigable Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River.
June 12, 1933: Actor and singer Jim Nabors is born in Sylacauga. Nabors began acting while a student at the University of Alabama, and is best known for his Gomer Pyle character, who appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” from 1960 to 1964, and later on his own series, “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Nabors has also appeared in several feature films, but has concentrated his later career in music.
June 18, 1916: The National Guard’s 4th Alabama Infantry assembles in Montgomery in response to a call for troops from President Woodrow Wilson. The 4th Alabama, under the command of William P. Screws, was one of four state units dispatched to the Mexican border to guard American interests while Gen. John Pershing attempted to capture Mexican revolutionary and bandit Pancho Villa.
June 18, 1954: Albert Patterson, Democratic Party nominee for state attorney general, is assassinated in his hometown of Phenix City. State and local officials were implicated in the crime, but only Russell County Chief Deputy Albert Fuller was convicted. The murder drew national attention because of Patterson’s promise to rid Phenix City, called the “wickedest city in America,” of corruption and organized crime. Adding to the drama, John Patterson was elected attorney general in his father’s stead, and therefore had charge of the prosecutions in the case.
June 19, 1864: The CSS Alabama, captained by Mobile’s Raphael Semmes, is sunk at the end of a fierce naval engagement with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France. The Alabama had docked there for maintenance and repairs after 22 months of destroying northern commerce on the high seas during the Civil War.
June 21, 1865: President Andrew Johnson appoints Lewis Parsons provisional governor. Parsons, the grandson of Great Awakening leader Jonathan Edwards, was born in New York and moved to Talladega in 1840. Although a Unionist, Parsons followed moderate policies as he reorganized Alabama’s state government under Johnson’s reconstruction plan. His term ended in December 1865.
June 22, 1937: Alabama native Joe Louis defeats James J. Braddock at Chicago’s Comiskey Park to become the first black heavyweight boxing champion since Jack Johnson in 1908. Born near Lafayette as Joseph Louis Barrow, the “Brown Bomber” held the world heavyweight title until 1948.
June 24, 1896: Booker T. Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute, becomes the first African American to be awarded an honorary degree by Harvard University. Born into slavery in Virginia, Washington moved to Alabama in 1881 to open Tuskegee Normal School. He soon gained fame as an educational leader among black Americans, a fact which Harvard recognized with a Master of Arts degree.
June 25, 1957: Macon County blacks kick off a boycott of white businesses at a mass meeting in Tuskegee attended by 3,000 people. The boycott was in response to a plan to protect white political power in Tuskegee by gerrymandering its city limits so that all but a few African Americans would reside outside the city. The boycott, which brought national attention to Tuskegee, was sustained for four years and met many of the goals of its originator, the Tuskegee Civic Association.
June 27, 1880: Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia. Having lost both sight and hearing by illness as a small child, Keller’s life story and activism inspired new attitudes toward those with handicaps.
June 29, 1846: The 1st Alabama Infantry Regiment organizes in Mobile to fight in the Mexican War. Alabamians volunteered in large numbers to fight against Mexico when war came over the annexation of Texas, but only this single regiment, a battalion, and several independent companies actually were received into federal service from the state. During its eleven months of service, the 1st Alabama lost only one man in battle but 150 died from disease.
June 30, 1928: As mandated by the legislature, convict leasing ends in Alabama. While many southern states leased convicts to private industry as laborers, Alabama’s program, begun in 1846, lasted the longest, and for much of that time the notorious system was a key revenue source for the state.