Senator Jeff Sessions

Famous Alabamians

Portaits of Famous Alabamians

Alabama has a rich history of lasting contributions to the fields of science, literature, and the arts, as well as to civil rights and sports. Here you will find just a small sampling of information on a few of our most cherished cultural figures.

Rosa Parks

famous_alabamians_rosaparksRosa Parks, born in Tuskegee, was a renowned civil rights leader whose moral courage served as a powerful catalyst in the fight for racial equality. She will forever be remembered for her bravery in the face of racial segregation and for proudly refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery. Parks was the impetus for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ended with the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregated buses as unconstitutional. Her strength, dignity, and leadership helped to lift the spirit of the nation and inspire others to action. Rosa Parks has earned a multitude of honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

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Willie Mays


Willie Mays was born in Jefferson County and spent much of his childhood in the steel-mill town of Fairfield. Mays was a legendary baseball player with the Birmingham Black Barons before signing to play with the New York Giants.  A beloved star for the Giants franchise in both New York and San Francisco, Mays is affectionately known as the “Say Hey Kid” and is widely regarded as the greatest center fielder in Major League Baseball history.   Demonstrating his extraordinary talent, Mays made one of the most thrilling plays the game has seen with his over-the-shoulder catch in the 1954 World Series—a catch so incredible that NBC announcer Jack Brickhouse declared that it had to be an “optical illusion.” Mays was a 24-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, two-time National League MVP, and is a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Hank Williams


Hank Williams was born in Butler County and is recognized as one of the most popular and influential country music artists ever to hold a microphone. At an early age, Williams drew much of his musical talent and style from a street performer, Rufus Payne, who acted as Williams’ instructor. Williams’ family moved from Butler County to Montgomery and his career quickly escalated with the success of his twice-weekly WSFA radio show and popular band, the Drifting Cowboys. Though Williams’ struggle with alcohol and substance abuse claimed him at a young age, his pioneering country career, haunting melodies, and sincere performances live on to this day. Hank Williams is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Williams had 11 chart topping singles and his mournful, personal style led him to be awarded a posthumous award from the Pulitzer Board in 2010.

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Nat King Cole


Born in Montgomery, Nat King Cole was an immensely popular singer and musician that left a lasting impact on both American music and civil rights. His iconic voice and skillful phrasing imbued classic American standards such as “Mona Lisa,” “Unforgettable,” and “The Christmas Song” with timeless appeal.  Nat King Cole also hosted the “Nat King Cole Show” on NBC—the first network television show hosted by an African-American. His lasting social and musical legacy continues to enrich and deepen American music and culture.  Nat King Cole is a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in Muscle Shoals, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in Birmingham, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

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Hank Aaron


Hank Aaron is a Mobile native and member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  Aaron began his career with the Mobile Blacks Bears and would become a civil rights icon, embarking on an inspiring, storied and record-setting career with the Milwaukee, and later Atlanta, Braves.  Hank Aaron’s march to the all-time career home-run record captured the attention of the whole nation.  He retired not only as the all-time career home-run leader but also continues to hold the record for the most total bases (6,856), extra base hits (1,477), and RBI’s (2,297).  He also holds the record for most All-Star Team selections—a remarkable 25 in total—and was awarded three career Gold Gloves for his play in right field. Today the home field of the minor league Mobile Bay Bears is named Hank Aaron Stadium.

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Helen Keller

Portrait of Helen Keller

Helen Keller is an international inspiration for her women’s suffrage campaigns and courage in the face of adversity. Born in Tuscumbia, Helen Keller suffered a severe illness at the age of 19 months, causing her to lose both her sight and hearing ability. Despite this tragedy at an early age, Helen Keller grew to become one of history’s most widely admired figures. Keller’s steely determination allowed her to learn braille, the manual alphabet, and the typewriter, as well as to speak and converse with teachers and peers. Keller graduated with honors from Radcliffe College and gained renown for her courageous speeches and writings. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and posthumously featured on the Alabama state quarter, the only coin nationally to feature braille. The Helen Keller festival is held yearly in Tuscumbia and her birthplace, Ivy Green, is a National Historic Landmark.

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