Days Gone By - stories from the past

Fifty years ago the little town of Haleyville, Alabama was in the national spotlight!

On February 16, 1968, the first 9-1-1 emergency telephone system in the nation went into service in Haleyville.

The town decided to institute an emergency number when the local phone company, the small independent company, Alabama Telephone Company, switched to an automatic system and many services were lost. Since it was a small company, the local telephone operators had always handled emergency calls. The town officials were concerned about who would handle them within the automated system.

Congress called for action in 1958

In 1958, Congress had called for a separate national emergency number and the number 911 was chosen because those digits were not being used in any telephone exchange and probably would not be used for some time in the future. Disagreements immediately arose across the country over whether calls should go to hospitals, police stations or fire stations.

While the rest of the country was arguing over the matter, Haleyville officials took matters into their own hands and decided on the police station.

The first call made on Feb. 16, 1968

Two lines to the police station were set aside for incoming calls and a red phone was installed in the dispatcher’s office to receive calls. Then officials realized that they forgot about pay phones so the next day, pay phones were modified so 911 calls could be made without the need for coins.

The first call was made by Rankin Fite, the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives at 2 p. m. on February 16, 1968, to Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill. Immediately afterward, they celebrated with coffee and doughnuts.

The second system was installed a few weeks later in Nome, Alaska.

The old rotary dial red phone is on display at the new city hall.

911 Celebration in Haleyville

On June 1, 2018, to June 2, 2018, Haleyville will celebrate this 50th anniversary with a 911 Festival. The event has been held annually on the first weekend of June. There are no admission fees. Check the Haleyville Chamber of Commerce website for more details on the festival.

The old City Hall building where the red phone was located has been torn down and replaced with a CVW. However, there is a sign outside of the CVS that commemorates the occasion.


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Volume I – IV: Four Volumes in One


About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Marjorie Nuckols Lowrance, please show this to Paul.

  2. Donna, this is my hometown and the residents of Haleyville are very proud of this heritage.

  3. Wow, didn’t know it was that long ago.

  4. Charles L Yell this is interesting isn’t it

  5. I didn’t know this.

  6. Colored reflectors on the roads did too. Blue reflectors for fire hydrant, Daphne fire dept.

  7. Funny thing, I worked for the Phone Company years ago and there was the story of how it became officially nine-one-one rather than nine-eleven. Supposedly a man had a heart attack and died because his wife couldn’t find the eleven on the phone dial.

  8. Was this before we got electricity? Lol….kewl fact!!!

  9. Can’t be true! Alabama is 48th or 49th in everything! Except new jobs being created !

  10. There’s my red phone–I use to have a red wall phone in the kitchen wherever we lived-I still like red!!

    1. I was noticing the red phone,love it,l still like the red too !

    1. Yes! There used to be huge sign on the side of the road as you drove into a Haleyville that said it was the home of 911. A friend of mine from Tuscumia has a daughter that participated in the Miss 911 contest a few weeks ago and came in second place.

  11. We have went real far real fast

  12. Look, the Bar Phone

  13. My dad worked for the Alabama Telephone Company for over 30 years. This story is absolutely true. I just wish it had told the names of the men who worked after hours and in secret to make the installations. They all worked for my dad.

  14. You couldn’t get through because people were on a party-line. You had to scream at them to get off, because it was an emergency, and then the nosy witches wanted to know why. Unless, you were bless to own a private line.

  15. WVTM (NBC) just reported, “The very first 911 call was made here in central Alabama.” But Haleyville is in Northwest Alabama.

  16. I have a red phone just like this! I don,t used it but it still works !

  17. That phone sat in the trunk of R.L. Shirley’s car for a long time.

    1. All us telephone people have old phones stashed somewhere! LOL

    2. these are the only phones that work when the power gos off [push button]and cell towers go down==land lines forever==phone booths too

  18. When I became city manager in 1990 they gave me an old army surplus desk in the police dept side of City Hall. I found it in the bottom drawer and asked if it was the Batphone. That’s when I found out about the first 911 call.

  19. Hope the phone makes it to the Smithsonian in DC at some point for an extended visit. Great US history!

  20. I didn’t know this.

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