News - from the past & the present

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Bessemer Super-highway almost had another name

If you have been a resident of Birmingham, Alabama for any length of time, then I’m sure you have heard of U. S. Highway 11 connecting the cities of Bessemer and Birmingham referred to as the Bessemer super-highway. The divided four-lane highway, was the first in the state, and it replaced a circuitous route through West End, Powderly and Lipscomb which was slowed by numerous railroad grade crossings.

exum-mayor-culpepper-ca-1910Mayor Culpepper Exum official portrait ca. 1910

Designed in the 1930s by Alabama State Highway Department engineers, the German Autobahn system was used as a model. Due to the shortage of funds prevailing during the Great Depression, the State set aside plans to build large interchanges that would allow for limited freeway access.

Did you know that on September 29, 1938, there was some discussion that part of the highway should be named the Exum Highway? Here is why according to this The Tuscaloosa News article from 1938.

September 29, 1938

The Tuscaloosa News

From Bessemer To Birmingham

Several weeks ago, it was suggested in Birmingham that the new super-highway now under construction in the Central Park area between Birmingham and Bessemer be named the Exum Highway in memory of Culpepper Exum. Mr. Exum, one of the most distinguished men in the history of the town, served Birmingham as mayor back 25 years ago, and it was a life-long dream of his to have the two towns connected by a highway worthy of the name.

Mayor Culpepper Exum had nothing named after him

Many of Birmingham’s other public leaders have had buildings, streets, parks, etc., named for them, but Mayor Exum has had none, and the suggestion was favorably received until the Central Park Cooperative Club came out against the idea. This club has had the removal of the parkway along the thoroughfare through the Central Park community as one of its chief objectives for years – this parkway being a death trap as well as a traffic nuisance, and becoming even more so with the routing of the new Bessemer road that way. The club argued that it was opposed to the naming of the highway after any individual and that even though it were to be named for an individual, there were several men in its own community who were more instrumental than Culpepper Exum in making the highway a possibility.

Area around Central Park was very dangerous

It’s none of our business here in Tuscaloosa what they finally decide to name the road, or even whether they decide to give a name at all, but we are deeply interested in this road, and we trust that it won’t be long before some decent highway communication between Bessemer and Birmingham is completed. The Bessemer end of the super-highway, put into service months ago, has been a blessing, but it has only served to accentuate the terror of that stretch through Central Park. With work already under-way on the Central Park project, things are looking brighter, and we hope that they won’t be too long with it. A highway by the name of Exum or any other name will be sweet, just as long as it’s a highway.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Settlement: Lost & Forgotten Stories is a collection of lost and forgotten stories of the first surveyors, traders, and early settlements of what would become the future state of Alabama.

Read about:

  • A Russian princess settling in early Alabama
  • How the early setters traveled to Alabama and the risks they took
  • A ruse that saved immigrants lives while traveling through Native American Territory
  • Alliances formed with the Native Americans
  • How an independent republic, separate from the United States was almost formed in Alabama

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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One comment

  1. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Bessemer Super Highway, hearing about it for years from my Mother and her family, and I have even ridden on it several times. It was considered great progress in it’s day.

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