The year 2016 marked the 100-year anniversary of the University of Alabama’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Since its inception, the mission of the ROTC has been to produce officers for the uniformed services. The ROTC was established on June 3, 1916, when Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed the National Defense Act into law, establishing both junior (high school) and senior (college or university) versions of the organization. The law allowed the president, through the War Department, to establish senior ROTC at state universities and other institutions required to provide military training as part of the 1862 Land Grant Act. The Act further authorized standard, prescribed courses of military training, requiring universities to devote at least three hours per week per academic year. The first ROTC units appeared in the autumn of 1916 at forty-six schools with a combined enrollment of approximately forty thousand students. Though the University of Alabama (UA) was not a land grant institution, by 1916 its Corps of Cadets had already existed for almost fifty-six years when the first ROTC units started appearing at other institutions.
On February 9, 2000, Thomas E. Corts, president of Samford University, delivered a speech before the Downtown Rotary Club of Birmingham entitled “How Long, Alabama? O How Long?” Dr. Corts’ presentation, which was widely reported, dealt with the political and economic problems the state of Alabama suffers because of its outmoded and cumbersome constitution, the fundamental document that gives shape to state government. Corts did not mince words. “For almost one hundred years,” he noted, “it has been acknowledged that our state constitution was poorly conceived, poorly written, composed largely with Reconstruction in mind .... Writers of the Constitution of 1901 worked from wrong motives that led them to wrong conclusions and we have been paying a price ever since.”
Vietnam. The name, the country, the war crept into the consciousness of most Alabamians after August 7, 1964, carried there through nightly visits with broadcast journalists Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, or Peter Jennings. American military involvement escalated with the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution by Congress on that date and continued through April 30, 1975, when the president of South Vietnam surrendered Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army. Though US military combat soldiers left Vietnam in March 1973, military advisors and marines remained for another two years. The year 2016 marks the second year of events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of America’s and Alabama’s involvement in the Vietnam War, part of an extended commemoration that will continue through April 2025.
The autumn clouds spit icicles of rain as I parked the truck near Vance, Alabama. My guide was a Google Earth aerial photograph of a mysterious place called Eight Acre Rock. I’ve got to be close, but where’s this huge boulder? Young pines formed an impenetrable mass in front of me, each one wrapped securely to its neighbor by stickers and briers. A deer trail offered a crude opening and, to follow it, I bent low to mimic my four-legged cousins. Fifty painful feet later, I looked up to see a broad opening in the canopy, and crawled toward it.
Alabama’s legislature voted to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment on September 8, 1953, thirty-three years after ratification by three-fourths of the states gave women in the United States the right to vote. During debate in the US Congress in 1919, the amendment faced strong opposition in Alabama. Senators Oscar W. Underwood and John H. Bankhead argued that control of voting rights should belong to the states. Anti-suffrage organizations, including the Alabama Woman’s Anti-Ratification League, campaigned against ratification. On September 22, 1919, the Alabama legislature passed a joint resolution rejecting the amendment. Despite this opposition to suffrage, some Alabama women claimed a place in politics by running for public office long before the state endorsed their participation at the polls.
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