Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Media Attacks Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek, Alabama

Cemetery at Confederate Memorial Park
A number of outlets of the national media have leveled fairly partisan attacks on the Confederate Memorial Park in Mountain Creek (for an example see the HuffingtonPost).

The park preserves the site of the Alabama Old Soldiers Home for Confederate Veterans, which was opened in 1902 to provide a home and care for the state's thousands of aging Confederate veterans. Contrary to what is being said about the home on blogs and message boards today, it was NEVER operated by the Confederacy and the tax that supported it was NEVER a "Confederate tax."

Entrance to Confederate Memorial Park
The home was, however, a place where elderly and disabled veterans could go to live safely and receive care. It gave them a place where they could share stories and live with their friends and former brothers in arms in the last years of their lives. It was a show of mercy on the part of the people of Alabama and was funded by a tax that was part of the 1901 Alabama State Constitution.

A small portion of the proceeds of that tax are used today to preserve the grounds and maintain the two cemeteries there, where over 300 of the veterans who died at the home are buried today.

Museum at Confederate Memorial Park
Some, however, feel that no money should be used to care for the graves or preserve this unique historic site and are calling for its elimination from the state budget, even though the tax that cares for the grounds is part of the state constitution and has been for more than 100 years.

If you live in Alabama, I encourage you to call or write your local legislator to express your support for the park. If you live elsewhere, please write or call the Governor of Alabama to do the same. This is a blatant effort to stop caring for the graves of more than 300 Southern veterans, while still collecting and keeping the tax money intended for that purpose!

If you are passing up and down I-65 between Montgomery and Birmingham, I also encourage you to stop by for a visit of the grounds and the beautiful museum that interprets not Confederate history, but offers a balanced view of the War Between the States in Alabama. To learn more, please visit

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hank Williams Grave & Memorial - Montgomery, Alabama

Grave of Hank Williams
There is no denying that Hiram King Williams, known and loved by millions as Hank Williams, was one of the most influential figures in American musical history and one of the greatest country & western stars of all time.

He rests today at Oakwood Cemetery Annex in Montgomery, Alabama. Buried next to his wife Audrey, Williams is memorialized by a stone monument that includes a carved representation of his trademark hat and the words "Luke the Drifter." The latter was a well-known nickname for the talented songwriter and singer.

Hank Williams was born in Mount Olive, Alabama, in 1923 and tragically lived only to the age of 29. In his sadly short life, however, he created some of the greatest American songs ever written and recorded. His sound influenced not only country music, but the rock and roll movement as well. The latter style became a firm part of the American music scene just one year after Williams' death when Elvis Presley recorded "That's All Right (Mama)." The Hank Williams sound was a major factor in the emergence of the new music form and he has been inducted into both the country and rock halls of fame.

Having taken up guitar early in life, Hank Williams first received popular acclaim when he became a regular live performer on Montgomery's WSFA Radio in 1941. When World War II ended, he made his way to Nashville where his initial contract was for only two singles: "Honky Tonkin'" and "Never Again."

Trademark Hat in Stone
The success of these songs led to a contract with MGM Records and the release of the Top Five hit, "Move It On Over." In was in 1949 that Hank moved from regional stardom to super stardom with the release of "Lovesick Blues."

The recording exploded to Number One on the Billboard Country & Western Chart and remained there for a stunning 16 weeks. At the same time it broke into the Top 25 of the magazine's pop chart. And when Williams performed it at the Grand Ole Opry that same year, the audience reaction was so overwhelming that he returned to the stage for a remarkable six encores.

Other hits followed, including "Why Don't You Love Me," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Kaw-Liga," "Jambalaya," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Crazy Heart," "Honkytonk Blues" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." These and other Hank Williams songs remain standards of Country music to this day.

Ironically, the last song released before his death was "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive." He died on January 1, 1953, in the backseat of his Cadillac as he was riding to a show in West Virginia.

To learn more about the life and career of this remarkable man and to learn about his burial place and memorial in Montgomery, please visit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chattahoochee State Park - Home to an Unsurpassed Fishing Record!

Chattahoochee State Park
One of the prettiest spots in the southeast corner of Alabama, Chattahoochee State Park is located just south of Gordon.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the days of the Great Depression, the historic park is now managed by Houston County. Amenities include fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, bird and wildlife watching and swimming.

The park is located along the banks of historic Irwin's Mill Creek. The CCC built a dam of native stone to create a beautiful small lake around which most of the park's facilities are located. This lake holds a unique place in Alabama history, because it was here that the largest shell cracker (redear sunfish) ever caught in the state was landed.  It weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces and was caught by Jeff Lashley on May 5, 1962. The record has yet to be surpasssed.

Chattahoochee State Park
There is, of course, much more history to be appreciated in this very southeast corner of Alabama. Irwin's Mill Creek was a major center for Indian life dating back far into the prehistoric era. In historic times the Chisca (Yuchi) and Red Ground Creeks called this vicinity home and in 1818 a significant battle was fought just south of the park. Preliminary movements passed likely passed through the park itself.

One of the earliest settlements in the region was established along Irwin's Mill Creek in 1819 and a mill was built just downstream from the park prior to the cession of Florida from Spain to the United States in 1821. The mill dam still stands and creates the second lake just below the park's dam.

To learn more about the history of the park, please visit

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Old Columbia Jail - Civil War era jail in Columbia, Alabama

Old Columbia Jail
One of the oldest and most unique structures in the Wiregrass area of Southeast Alabama is the little wooden jail in the Chattahoochee River town of Columbia.

Believed to date from the early 1860s, the jail was standing when the War Between the States swept across Alabama and the nation. Columbia at that time was a thriving riverboat port that served as a receiving and shipping point for the commerce and people of a significant part of the Wiregrass area.

Iron Spikes in the Jail Door
Built of wood with iron spikes studded in its walls to help discourage escape attempts, the jail contained only two cells, with light and ventilation provided by windows and a single door. Modern for its time, it must have been an incredibly miserable place to be confined during the hot Alabama summers.

Remarkably, the little structure survived through the years and was restored as part of a local Bicentennial project. It is thought to be one of the oldest surviving wooden jails not only in Alabama, but in the entire Deep South.

To learn more, please visit