December 1954: local economy limps along; new sheriff announces changes

Posted 12/28/18

The Mountain Eagle readers were surely ready to see the old year go as they picked up their paper on Dec. 30, 1954.The death of William Allen Naramore, 70, on Dec. 21 had come as a shock to many. …

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December 1954: local economy limps along; new sheriff announces changes

Posted

The Mountain Eagle readers were surely ready to see the old year go as they picked up their paper on Dec. 30, 1954.

The death of William Allen Naramore, 70, on Dec. 21 had come as a shock to many. Naramore was known in the county as both an educator and a coal mine owner.

After graduating from Florence State Teachers College, Naramore had taught at schools in Boldo, Big Ridge and Union Chapel. 

He organized the Riverside Coal Company in 1918 and sold the operation in 1922. He followed that up with a series of successful mining operations.

After serving a four-year term on the county's Board of Equalization, he returned to teaching and mining in 1932. 

At the time of his death, he was again serving on the Board of Equalization.

The Eagle noted in a front page article that Naramore was one of several prominent citizens associated with the courthouse who had died in 1954.

Marvin Ferguson, a second member of the three-member Board of Equalization, had preceded Naramore in death. Others from the courthouse who had passed away in 1954 included Judge Malcolm Nettles, A.M. Waldrop and Meek Copeland.

It seems that there was also an undercurrent of fear in 1954 about the local economy, which the Eagle attempted to address with an editorial titled "From Where Prosperity Starts."

"It is true that the coal business of the county has declined to one-third of what it was at its peak, but the decline has been gradual, giving the people an opportunity to enter other lines of business. It is true that there has been some poverty-stricken people in the county as a result of coal mines being abandoned. It is true that families have been obliged to seek surplus food given away by the government," Eagle editors wrote.

However, the editorial pointed out several local businesses that were doing well.

Indian Head Mill in Cordova employed 600 people and reported a profit of $184,394 in 1954.

Gorgas Steam Plant was burning more than 3,000 tons of Walker County coal daily. A new unit was being constructed at a cost of $25,000,000. 

The Alabama Power Company's mine at Gorgas was producing a daily output of 4,500 tons of coal. Mines at Sipsey and Empire had gone back into operation in November. Large strip mines were also operating at Manchester and Townley.

The editorial also noted that more than $100,000 in Social Security checks and $100,000 in unemployment benefits were being distributed in the county each month. Similar figures were reported for retired miners, war veterans and teachers.

"There are some poverty-stricken people in the county, but Walker's economy is sound," Eagle editors assured readers.

The Eagle was also losing its publisher, Bill Jones, who said goodbye in one final "I.C. Walker" column. Curiously, Jones did not mention where he was going, only that it was a place where he hoped to continue serving the good people of Walker and the rest of the state.

Jones had taken a job in Congressman Carl Elliott's office in Washington D.C. Jones, Elliott and their wives had become friends in Jasper and would remain so for the rest of their lives. 

Jones was also friends with George Wallace, whom he had met in the 1940s when they were students at the University of Alabama. 

Jones became Wallace's press secretary when he was elected governor and was beside him during his infamous stand in the schoolhouse door.

When I interviewed him in 2013 on the occasion of Elliott's 100th birthday, it was clear that Jones had great respect for journalists. 

“Journalism is a great field, and it’s needed. People who are holding office need somebody to tell them to shut up and sit down,” he said.

On a more positive note, sheriff-elect Howard Turned announced that some changes were in store for the county's top law enforcement agency in 1955.

Deputies would be required to wear uniforms so that the people could easily identify them. Turner also believed that uniforms would help deputies feel more pride in serving the public.

In addition, he announced that patrol cars would be marked once he took office. An insignia would soon be painted on two new Fords that he had purchased to use in official duties.

The county had also agreed to install radios in the sheriff's vehicles. 

Turner, who was set to take office on Jan. 17, 1955, had named Blanton Bennett as his chief deputy.

Turner would serve as sheriff until 1963, when he was replaced by Bennett. He returned to the role in 1967 and served until 1971.


Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.