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Alabama Founders • Herbert James Lewis

E&H Bookblog

Alabama Founders • Herbert James Lewis

Easty Lambert-Brown

A biographical history of the forefathers who shaped the identity of Alabama politically, legally, economically, militarily, and geographically. 

While much has been written about the significant events in the history of early Alabama, there has been little information available about the people who participated in those events. In Alabama Founders: Fourteen Political and Military Leaders Who Shaped the State Herbert James Lewis provides an important examination of the lives of fourteen political and military leaders. These were the men who opened Alabama for settlement, secured Alabama's status as a territory in 1817 and as a state in 1819, and helped lay the foundation for the political and economic infrastructure of Alabama in its early years as a state. 

While well researched and thorough, this book does not purport to be a definitive history of Alabama's founding. Lewis has instead narrowed his focus to only those he believes to be key figures--in clearing the territory for settlement, serving in the territorial government, working to achieve statehood, playing a key role at the Constitutional Convention of 1819, or being elected to important offices in the first years of statehood. 

The founders who readied the Alabama Territory for statehood include Judge Harry Toulmin, Henry Hitchcock, and Reuben Saffold II. William Wyatt Bibb and his brother Thomas Bibb respectively served as the first two governors of the state, and Charles Tait, known as the "Patron of Alabama," shepherded Alabama's admission bill through the US Senate. Military figures who played roles in surveying and clearing the territory for further settlement and development include General John Coffee, Andrew Jackson's aide and land surveyor, and Samuel Dale, frontiersman and hero of the "Canoe Fight." Those who were instrumental to the outcome of the Constitutional Convention of 1819 and served the state well in its early days include John W. Walker, Clement Comer Clay, Gabriel Moore, Israel Pickens, and William Rufus King.

Herbert James Lewis is retired from the US Department of Justice and currently serves on the board of directors of the Alabama Historical Association. He is the author of Clearing the Thickets: A History of Antebellum Alabama and Lost Capitals of Alabama. He has also published articles in the Alabama Review and Alabama Heritage.

Review Quotes:
"The individuals Lewis discusses here were instrumental in laying a figurative foundation for the development of the state of Alabama. They are therefore people we should know. Alabama Founders is an outstanding introduction to their lives and times and promises to be a valuable reference source for anyone seeking to understand Alabama's beginnings." 
--Mike Bunn, director of operations at Historic Blakeley State Park in Baldwin County, Alabama, author of Civil War Eufaula, and coauthor of Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812

"Territorial and early statehood are topics that have long been neglected in favor of the more popular topics of Native Americans, the Civil War, and civil rights. Alabama Founders fills a need for scholarship that highlights this time period and the personalities who shaped it." 
--Clay Williams, sites administrator for the museums division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and coauthor of Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812