Sweet Home Alabama

Many readers aren’t aware that fiction writers do research for their books, sometimes more than authors of nonfiction.

I was raised in Montgomery, Alabama, where my forthcoming Southern Gothic novel, SWEET BYE AND BYE, takes place in 1945. But I didn’t rely only on my memory to weave historical facts throughout the book. I researched the state that had been my home until I went to grad school at Florida State, then to Minneapolis, London, Italy and New York.

Some of my research never made it into the book, except through sense memory, and I don’t want to leave it on the cutting room floor. Here are fun facts about Alabama. They include a cast of characters whose names you’ll recognize. Enjoy.

FUN FACTS ABOUT ALABAMA by Anne Randolph, author of SWEET BYE AND BYE, a Southern Gothic novel set in Montgomery, Alabama 1945 www.AnneRandolph.com/blog

• The first Open Heart Surgery took place in Montgomery, Alabama in 1902. The patient lived to tell the tale.

• The world’s first Electric Trolley in the US began in Montgomery in 1886.
• Alabama workers in Huntsville, Rocket Capital of the World, built the first rocket to put a man on the moon.

• Two classical singers from Montgomery sang at the Metropolitan Opera: Nell Rankin and my brother, James Atherton, who at one time was an accompanist when Fanny Flagg became a finalist in the Miss Alabama pageant.

• The first deaf Miss America 1995 grew up in Alabama. Also born in Alabama: Nat King Cole, plus Hank Williams, the Boxer Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and novelist Anne Randolph.

• Tony Tennille of Captain and Tennille, hit singer in the 1970s, was from Montgomery, Alabama. Her father owned Tennille’s Furniture Store.

• The musical group Alabama has a Museum in Fort Payne.

• The Wright Brothers flew airplanes in Montgomery at the site of Maxwell Air Force Base—my great-uncle, W.C. Thomas, Chief Justice of Alabama Supreme Court, once flew with them.

• Maxwell Air Force Base has more brass at the Air War College than the Pentagon.

• In order to be buried at the Coon Dog Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama,dogcem a dog must have a proven track record for hunting raccoons. dog

• Alabama was the fourth state to secede from the Union in 1861, but the north east county of Winston, known as the Free State of Winston, seceded from Alabama during the Civil War.

• Montgomery was the First Capital of the Confederacy. The Little Whitecapital House was the home of Jefferson Davis, the first Confederate President.

• The Confederate flag was designed in Alabama in 1861 and was flown over the Alabama State Capital until 1993.

• Presidential candidate, Governor George C. Wallace served four terms as Alabama governor. His second wife taught me to water ski at Girl Scout Camp.

• My grandfather, Judge Jonathan Render Thomas was head of the Alabama Supreme Court when Martin Luther King, Jr. preached at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church across from the Supreme Court building in Montgomery.

• The Selma Civil Rights March started in Prattville across the Edmund Pettis Bridge which was named for one of my relatives. Also Prattville was named for a great-uncle.

rosa• In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger which prompted Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

• The bus shed at Court Square at the foot of Market Street-now Dexter Avenue in Montgomery was once a slave auction block.

• The famous command, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” was uttered during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864.

• The Blue Moon Inn, the Green Lantern, and the Sahara Restaurant were popular places to eat.

• The First United Methodist Church of Montgomery, now in Cloverdale Park since 1932, began in 1829 downtown as the Court Street Methodist Church, the oldest church in Montgomery.

• Enterprise, Alabama displays the only Boll Weevil Monument that honorsboll the role this insect played in changing Alabama crops from cotton to the peanut. Booker T. Washington explored uses of the peanut at the all black Tuskegee Institute from 1881 to his death in 1915.

These are my fun facts. If you write fiction, or non-fiction, share a Comment below and tell me something about where your book takes place. You can also follow me on Facebook where I share writing tips and inspiration for authors. Join my mailing list if you want me to give you a heads-up as soon as my novel, SWEET BYE AND BYE is for sale.

Another book of mine, “Stories Gathered at the Kitchen Table: A Collection of Women’s Memoirs” is available at www.Amazon.com or at www.AnneRandolph.com/book


  • Yours, Anne, will certainly be an interesting tale — what with the vast array of tidbits you can weave in, using the information you shared above with us.
    Writer Paige Lambert introduced me to the concept of Deep Mapping which
    was popularized by William Least Heat-Moon in his boook PrairyErth: A deep Map, where one immerses oneself in the the whole history of a place from prehistoric times on forward…

    I believe that fiction that takes place in an actual physical place is much richer for the reader when history is well intergrated into the story. I recently read Mrs. Poe
    by Lyn Cullen which took place in NYC, which was based heavily on fact about
    the main character and Edgar Allen Poe himself, and therefore wasn’t fiction but
    in the class of Historicl Fiction. Ms. Cullen apparently did major research about the times and the development of New York City peaking my curiosity and therefore leading me to The New York Historical Soceity this past October; a knock ojt of a museum.

    Anne, I look forward to reading your book: Sweet Home Alabama when it comes out.

    CarolynDecember 16, 2014
  • Congratulations! Can’t wait to read your novel.

    DrewJanuary 6, 2015
  • Anne,

    I love this blog post! You captured the dynamic tension between innovation and tradition unveiling the distance between wisdom and ignorance. This enlightened piece is a snapshot of Alabama’s beauty and turbulent history. Thank you for sharing.

    KatherineMay 15, 2015
  • What a great read with some very interesting facts. I too have written about my childhood in Ireland during the forties.It is amazing how much research is needed to corroborate one’s memories. I would agree that fiction authors, in order to be true to their story have to cover a great deal of research, otherwise the stories will not come across as genuine. Thank you for your thoughts.


    Barbara HamiltonMay 19, 2015

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