Alabama History in November

Excerpted from Alabama Department of Archives and History

November 1, 1865: Alexander Beaufort Meek, lawyer, poet, newspaper editor, and state legislator, dies at age 51. Meek was responsible for the passage of the Public School Act of 1854, the first statewide legislation to create a fund for public education and the position of state superintendent of education. Meek’s most famous poem, The Red Eagle, a lyrical epic about Creek chief William Weatherford, was published in 1855.

November 3, 1813: The Battle of Tallushatchee occurs in what is now Calhoun County. General John Coffee led the Tennessee volunteers, including Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Cherokee scouts John Ross and Sequoyah, as they attacked the Creek Indian village. The American forces killed all adult males (at least 186) and captured an additional 84 women and children. This was the first offensive as Andrew Jackson made his way south to Horseshoe Bend.

November 3, 1970: Fred Gray and Thomas Reed are elected to the state House of Representatives to become the first black Alabama legislators since Reconstruction. Both men won seats from the 31st House District, composed of Macon, Bullock, and Barbour counties.

November 5, 1867: The Alabama Constitutional Convention, consisting of delegates elected under U.S. Congress’s Radical Reconstruction plan, begins meeting in Montgomery. The 100 delegates, of which 96 were Republicans, including 18 African Americans, drafted a liberal document that was declared ratified the next year to become the Alabama Constitution of 1868.

November 10, 1972: Southern Airways Flight 49 is hijacked on a flight from Birmingham to Montgomery. Three armed men wanted by Detroit police demanded a $10 million ransom while diverting the plane from one airport to another in the United States, Canada, and Cuba, where the ordeal ended thirty hours after it began. The hijacking resulted in heightened security measures at American airports, including required use of metal detectors.

November 11, 1901: Alabama’s 1901 Constitution is ratified by statewide vote in an election fraught with corruption. Following the trend of other southern states in this period, Alabama used the constitution to effectively disfranchise blacks and poor whites. With hundreds of amendments, the 1901 Constitution carries the distinction of being twice as long as the constitution of any other state.

November 12, 1813: Sam Dale, Jeremiah Austill, and James Smith become frontier heroes in a Creek War episode on the Alabama River known as The Canoe Fight. From their canoe, paddled by a black man named Caesar, the three Americans engaged a large canoe carrying nine Creek warriors. As militiamen and Indians watched from opposite sides of the river, Dale, Austill, and Smith killed the nine warriors in hand-to-hand combat.

November 12-13, 1833: In a spectacle seen across the Southeast, a fantastic meteor shower causes this night to be known as “the night stars fell on Alabama.” The shower created such great excitement across the state that it became a part of Alabama folklore and for years was used to date events. A century later it inspired a song and book, and in 2002 the state put the phrase “Stars Fell on Alabama” on its license plates.

November 16, 1873: W. C. Handy is born in Florence, Alabama. Handy brought the sounds of African-American blues to mainstream culture when he composed a song in 1909 that became known as “The Memphis Blues.” Handy, known as “Father of the Blues,” had a long career that yielded many other blues hits, such as “Beale Street Blues” and “St. Louis Blues.” Handy died in 1958.

November 16, 1875: Alabama’s Constitution of 1875 is ratified. The “Bourbon” Democrats, having claimed to “redeem” the Alabama people from the Reconstruction rule of carpetbaggers and scalawags, wrote a new constitution to replace the one of 1868. It was a conservative document that gave the Democrats, and especially Black Belt planters, a firm grip on their recently reacquired control of state government.

November 20, 1826: Alabama’s legislature convenes in the new capital of Tuscaloosa for the first time. The capital had been moved there from Cahaba, the state’s first permanent capital. In 1846 the legislature voted to change the capital again, this time moving it to Montgomery.

November 21, 1818: Cahaba, located at the confluence of the Alabama and Cahaba Rivers, is designated by the territorial legislature as Alabama’s state capital. Huntsville would serve for a short time as the temporary capital. The selection of Cahaba was a victory for the Coosa/Alabama River contingent, which won-out over a Tennessee/Tombigbee Rivers alliance group that wanted to place the capital at Tuscaloosa. The power struggle would continue between the two sections of the state; in 1826 the capital was moved to Tuscaloosa, but in 1847 it was moved to the Alabama River at Montgomery.

November 22, 1989: Kathryn Thornton, a native of Montgomery and graduate of Auburn University, becomes the first woman to fly on a military space mission on the Space Shuttle Discovery. Thornton became the second woman to walk in space in 1992. Dr. Thornton retired from NASA in 1996 to join the faculty of the University of Virginia.

November 24, 1869: By joint resolution of the legislature, Alabama ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment guaranteed the right to vote to blacks, including former slaves.

November 24, 1874: George Smith Houston, a Democrat, is inaugurated governor, signaling the end of Reconstruction in Alabama. In addition to defeating the incumbent Republican governor, Democrats won control of the state legislature, leading them to claim “redemption” for Alabamians from the rule of “carpetbaggers” and “scalawags.” It would be more than 100 years before another Republican would be elected governor of Alabama.

November 29, 1902: The New York Medical Record publishes an account of Dr. Luther Leonidas Hill performing the first open heart surgery in the western hemisphere when he sutured a knife wound in a young boy’s heart. Dr. Hill was the father of Alabama politician and U.S. senator Lister Hill.

November 30, 1954: A meteorite weighing eight and one-half pounds crashes into Ann Hodges of Sylacauga as she rests on her living room couch. The event gave Hodges a severely bruised hip and instant celebrity status. The meteorite, the first one known to have caused injury to a human, is housed at the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa.