Early Mayors of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
(Partial transcription of a history of Tuscaloosa written by an older resident, Ben A. Green, in 1931 who was the managing editor of The Tuscaloosa News July 31, 1949)
Attorneys appealed for their names
The first eight mayors of the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama are unknown. William R. Bolling, mayor in 1828, is the first known leader of the local municipal government, according to the list prepared by Wood and Wood, city attorneys, in their Code for 1885. The attorneys appealed for aid in extending their list but to no avail. It is likely that older settler here at even that date might have recalled the first mayor.
Dr. John Owen is the second mayor on their list but his date of reign is not known, although certainly after 1828. William R. Smith, then but 23 years old, became mayor in 1837 but this prolific writer and amazing personality fails to mention his mayoralty in the intriguing first volume of his “Reminiscences.” Possibly the estimable later judge, senator, editor and University president intended to dwell at length upon it in his second volume which death, unfortunately, cut short of publication.
It was Judge Smith who in 1850 predicted that one-half a million would be residing in Tuscaloosa County within the next hundred years. Another skip in the mayor’s records appears after Judge Smith’s chairmanship with Robert S. Inge the next known figure, mayor in either 1839, 40, or 41.
Blair Thrice Mayor
The two-year term became effective in 1842 with election of D. Henry Robinson who was followed by Robert Blair, early builder and mayor for seven years. Mr. Blair possessed the unusual record of being mayor in 1844-48 again in 1859-61 and once again in 1872, twenty-eight years after his original incumbency. He was no relation to Frank G. Blair, later mayor and civic leader.
With the identity of her original rulers in anonymity, it is not strange that records fail to show activities of the early municipal governments. It is quite probable that the smallness of the town unit and the fact that Tuscaloosa was the center of county and state politics and business, reduced functions and prestige of the mayor and his board to a minimum.
No City Hall Building
There was no city hall building for the first 60 years, but the mayor’s office and those for the city tax assessor-collector-clerk were situated on the second floor of the municipal market house which stood for years on the site now occupied by the city hall. Prior to construction of the market, the mayor’s regular place of business provided his office.
A one-man police department was maintained for the first half-century of the city’s history, the marshal elected by popular vote being the only member. On one occasion Mayor W. R. Smith is said to have threatened to “call out the police department” to quell a disturbance at the state capitol where legislators were staging one of their many wrangles.
Seven-Man Board Retained
However, the board of “seven householders” remained the system of government here for more than 90 years, being superseded only when the City Commission form became effective in 1911. The seven quite naturally became a mayor and six aldermen, all of them elected from the town at-large, until 1873 when a new charter cut the city into six wards.
ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Immigrants: Lost & Forgotten Stories includes some lost & forgotten stories of their experiences such as:
- The Birth of Twickenham
- Captain Slick – Fact or Fiction
- Vine & Olive Company
- The Death of Stooka
- President Monroe’s Surprise Visit To Huntsville