Introduction to Montgomery, Alabama
The city of Montgomery is the capital of the state of Alabama and also the county seat of Montgomery County. Montgomery sits in the central part of the state, about 90 miles south of Birmingham and 170 miles northeast of Mobile. The city is serviced by several major thoroughfares. Interstates I-65 and I-85 intersect in the city, and U.S. Routes 31, 80, 82, 231 and 331 are also located within the city boundaries. Nearby communities include Pratville (to the north), Selma (to the west), Hayneville (to the southwest), and Tuskeegee (to the east).
Once the capital of the Confederacy, Montgomery in its later years evolved into a key center of the Civil Rights Movement. Founded in 1819 and incorporated in 1837, Montgomery derived its name from that of Major Lemuel Putnam Montgomery, who was the first man killed in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. The city was selected as Alabama's state capital in 1846, a few years before the onset of the Civil War, during which Alabama would be among the first southern states to secede from the Union. The Alabama State Capitol Building in Montgomery served as headquarters for the Confederacy and was the site of the inauguration of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Although escaping major physical damage from the Civil War, Montgomery suffered from the destruction of Alabama's infrastructure after the war. The city's rebuilding effort was aided by industrial growth in the textile and agriculture industries, and the city was soon able to boast the first electric streetcar in the country and also the nation's first flight school. Orville and Wilbur Wright established the Wright Flying School in 1910, from which they conducted their first night flights on the site that is now Maxwell Air Force Base. In 1955, Montgomery again made history when Rosa Parks became a civil rights heroine when she was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. The reaction to this incident led to the 382-day Montgomery Bus Boycott which finally forced the city to desegregate its transit system. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., then pastor of the Dexter Street Baptist Church and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, led the famous Civil Rights March for Justice from Selma to Montgomery. In more recent years, Montgomery has benefited from a revitalization effort and today stands as a prosperous and progressive state capital and one of the largest livestock markets and dairy centers in the southeast.
Montgomery was the part-time home of country music pioneer Hank Williams. The legendary singer-songwriter is buried in the city. Montgomery is also home to Alabama State University (ASU).
Montgomery Arts and Recreation
The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, the oldest fine arts museum in the state, was founded in 1930 and today houses an impressive collection of American paintings, Southern regional art, Old Master prints, and decorative arts. The museum is also home to a large array of temporary exhibitions and educational programs conducted throughout the year. Another premier attraction in Montgomery is the Montgomery Zoo. Originally established in 1920, the zoo underwent a major expansion in 1989 encompassing over 48 acres and 700 different species of animals. Located on the zoo grounds is the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum, a 28,000 square-foot natural history museum dedicated to wildlife conservation. The museum includes one of the nation's finest collections of professionally presented North American wildlife in displays allowing views from all sides. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city is DeSoto Caverns Park, housing one of the oldest recorded caves in the United States and caverns that can be explored and enjoyed by kids of all ages. Also, Montgomery is home to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Other notable locales and events in Montgomery include the following:
- The State Capitol: Built in 1850
- First White House of the Confederacy
- Dexter Avenue United Methodist Church
- Blount Cultural Park
- Fun Zone Skate Center of Montgomery, Inc.
- Jubilee City Fest
- Alabama Highland Games
- Alabama National Fair
- Glenn Miller Annual Concert
- Montgomery Holiday Lights Festival at the Zoo
- Southeastern Livestock Rodeo
- Thanksgiving Day Parade and Turkey Classic
- Montgomery Christmas Parade
Although there are no major league pro sports teams in Alabama, Montgomery is home to a minor league professional baseball team. The Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League, who play in the city's Riverwalk Stadium, are the Minor League Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Fans of collegiate sports can take in some NCAA Division I action played by Alabama State's Hornets. The University's sports teams participate in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Less than an hour away in nearby Auburn are the Auburn University Tigers, whose football games constitute major fall events in that city.
Montgomery Higher Education
The handful of colleges and universities in Montgomery include Alabama State University, Auburn University at Montgomery, and South University. These institutions offer a wide range of educational programs such as MBAs, MSNs, and Physical Therapist Assistant Programs.