Long before the white man appeared in North America, Native Americans were making arrowheads out of the creamy white stone we know today as Alabama marble. In 1820 Dr. Edward Gantt, a physician who had accompanied Gen. Andrew Jackson through the Mississippi Territory in 1814, made the first recorded discovery of the marble. Even Gantt did not realize the extent of the deposit he had uncovered--400 feet deep, thirty-two miles long, one-and-a-half miles wide (and now the world's largest commercial deposit of madre cream marble). Nor did he know that he had located an outcropping of the purest white marble in the world.
On the successful third Selma to Montgomery March, Martin Luther King Jr. invited Rabbi Heschel to join him. In this famous photograph, King, center, walks with, on his left, Nobel Peace Prize-recipient Ralph Bunche, Rabbi Heschel, and Birmingham civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth. On King’s right is Ralph Abernathy. Future congressman John Lewis is on the far left. (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)
Martin Luther King Jr. was not at the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama. On March 7, 1965—the day that Alabama State Troopers and mounted sheriff’s deputies beat demonstrators in a cloud of tear gas—King was preaching at his church in Atlanta, Georgia. In the hurt and anger that followed, some in the ranks of the civil rights movement bitterly criticized King for his absence, and even after he rushed to the scene, things at first did not get any better.
On August 18, 1910, Birmingham looked like a deserted city. All business had closed down, as had many stores in Bessemer and Ensley. It was "Baseball Day," and everyone in town who had the price of a ticket had gone to the grand opening of Rickwood Field. "There has never been such a day in Birmingham or in any other city of the Southern league," wrote one excited newspaper reporter. Sixty additional street cars had been put in service to aid in moving the anticipated crowd of as many as ten thousand people.
When Guy Cobb died at the Tuberculosis Prison Hospital at Wetumpka, Alabama, in 1932, few marked his passing except perhaps the clerk who made the citation in volume nine, Record of State Convicts. Cobb's prison career, however, which included at least seven escapes, was anything but unremarkable, and the details of that career, along with those of hundreds of other convicts, are part of the Alabama Department of Corrections and Institutions records which have recently been made available to researchers at the Department of Archives and History.
The twenty-two-year-old Cobb was arrested in Anniston in May 1925 for the "strong-arm" robbery of T. T. Bagley, a local grocer. On the night of May 8, while awaiting trial in the Calhoun County jail, Cobb and four other inmates sawed through the bars of their cell window, scaled the tall fence surrounding the jail, and crawled through a large drain pipe to the rear of the Manhattan Hotel where they stole an automobile and made good their escape. The Anniston Star reported that "the minutest details of the escape had been carefully worked out. Care was taken to cut the telephone cord leading to the jail before their departure." Authorities later discovered that a second car had been stolen and determined that the men had separated, some headed for Birmingham and the others toward Atlanta.
The date was August 5, 1965. Wernher von Braun, the world's most famous rocket expert, stands on the roof of a ten-story building at NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and looks south coward the Tennessee River. Two miles away, sealed in a concrete bunker with sixteeninch-thick walls, a group of engineers peers through periscopes; meanwhile, other team members push buttons on the bunker's steel-gray consoles. As von Braun and the engineers watch, a continuous plume of flame biases from the base of a mammoth concrete structure several hundred yards from the bunker. Thunder roll. Smoke billows. For two and a half minutes hell unfolds. Alabama has become, as writer Bob Lionel lacer wrote, "the land of the Earth-shakers."
The sound and fury generated that day resulted from the test-firing of the first stage of the Saturn moon rocket. Throughout the 1960s, Huntsvillians would hear and feel that roar many times as ASA scientists aimed for the goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961-- "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth." Before the end of the decade, the goal would be reached, and on July 16, 1969, a mammoth rocket, standing taller than the Statue of Liberty, would leave the launch pad in Florida carrying three human beings toward the surface of the moon.
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