A heart for service paved the way for Annie Wheeler to become the "Angel of Santiago." But before her fame, Annie Wheeler made a name for herself throughout Lawrence County for her adventurousness and devotion to family. However, her most endearing quality was her hopeful spirit, the one that led her around the world.
"Big Mama" Thornton & "Hound Dog"
Elvis Presley may have made "Hound Dog" a household name, but the origins of the song are rooted deep in Alabama.
"Hound Dog" belonged originally to a rhythm and blues singer, named Willie Mae Thornton, who, at the time of Elvis's recording, was making her living on what Black entertainers called "The Chitlin' Circuit." She had a big voice and suitably imperious manners, all of which had given rise to a nickname that had quickly supplanted her given name. On her rendition of "Hound Dog," released as a 78 rpm record, she was billed as "Big Mama" Thornton.
"Big Mama's" version of "Hound Dog," recorded for Peacock Records on a hot August day in 1952 in Los Angeles, was the crowning achievement in the career of a singer who left her mark on rock and blues history. "Hound Dog" quickly climbed to No. 1 on the 1953 all-Black rhythm and blues charts and became a 500,000-plus seller. It also became by far the biggest success in Willie Mae Thornton's career.
Thanks to a big decision made by a small but committed group of state historians decades ago, a drive down an Alabama highway has become an education in our past. At its first meeting in 1948, the Alabama Historical Association (AHA) embarked on a plan to commemorate historic sites in the state with roadside markers. Today, a sign labeled “Ellicott’s Stone” on Highway 43 north of Mobile marks the path to the stone laid by surveyor Andrew Ellicott in 1799 to identify the U.S. border with Spain. In downtown Huntsville, a marker at the site of “The Big Spring” tells the story of the city’s birth. Every year there are new treats for the traveler. After sixty years and some seven hundred historical markers, this program continues to be a vital part of the AHA’s efforts to promote interest in and the study of Alabama’s past.
The Path to the Schoolhouse Door
In early 1962, while campaigning for governor, George C. Wallace vowed to stand in schoolhouse doors to block federally mandated school desegregation. By October, following the violence accompanying desegregation at Ole Miss, the University of Alabama clearly was next.
In 1870 a Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania settled in Selma, Alabama. By profession he was a jeweler, but by avocation he was a photographer. His name was Silas Orlando Trippe, and it is because of his hobby that we know him today.
From the Vault
Read complete classic articles and departments featured in Alabama Heritage magazine in the past 35 years of publishing. You'll find in-depth features along with quirky and fun departments that cover the people, places, and events that make our state great!