Thursday, December 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Alabama

Today the great, southern state of Alabama celebrates its 187th birthday. It was on this date in 1819 that the state was admitted to the Union. The state has seen many historical events over the years. Alabama is the home for the beginning of the Civil Rights movement. And while that may seem like a low point in Alabama history, the state has moved on. Of the southern states, Alabama seems to be the most organized in the areas of education, industry, technology, commercialism, and government. It is evident to me every time I visit.

In the area of education, Alabama has the city of Tuscaloosa. Since 1831, the University of Alabama has been the pinnacle of education in the state. While other great school may be in Alabama, the University is the best by far. What is so great about Tuscaloosa is its location in the state. Situated near the middle of the state, it is the perfect place for an education hub. And not far from the seat of education in Alabama is the home of the state's industrial center, Birmingham.

Named for the English city, Birmingham is the industrial capital of the South. In many areas, there is not other place like Birmingham. The city is also near the center part of the state, which allows for easier access from all points. Founded in 1871, Birmingham became a bustling metropolis in the Reconstruction Era. It quickly grew into a major producer of iron and steel. This explains the city's unofficial mascot, the Roman god Vulcan. Far to the north, another Alabama city is associated with Roman gods for a different reason. This is the technology center of the state, Huntsville.

Founded in 1805, Huntsville is one of the oldest towns in Alabama. But through the workings of NASA, it has also become one of the most technologically advanced cities in the state. Huntsville is one of the bases of operations for NASA. Many test flights and early rocket tests were performed here. To this day, many of the workings of NASA still happen in Huntsville. This attraction to technology has made Huntsville grow by leaps and bounds. Many technology firms have offices here and NASA still holds its annual Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center.

One of the most important sites in Alabama is the city of Mobile. By far, it is the oldest city in the state, founded in 1702 as a French fort. Today, Mobile is one of the United States' key international ports. It is home to both a navy and air force base. For the state, Mobile is a great center for commercialism and transportation.

But you can't have a working state without a seat of government. And what a more fitting place than the smallest of all these places, Montgomery. Montgomery was once the home of the Alibamu Indians (where the state's name comes from). It became a frontier settlement in 1800. Montgomery's place near the center of the state makes it ideal for the seat of government. However, it was not the first capital by a long-shot. In fact, Montgomery is the last in a line of four other capitals including Huntsville and Birmingham. The location works. It is just far enough away from the other centers to keep everything organized, yet it is convenient from anywhere in the state.

Alabama is by far the most organized southern state. Like all the southern states, it has its problems with education and race relations. However, I think Alabama has made many big strides to move into the future. With all the resources contained in the state, it would not be a surprise to see Alabama as a major player in the US economy for years to come. Happy Birthday Alabama.

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