The July 1, 1954, edition of The Phenix-Girard Journal stirred excitement in Phenix City when it published and announced the final 22 cities in the competition for All-America Cities, selected by the National Municipal League in conjunction with Look Magazine. Phenix City was named from a competition between 137 total municipalities which sought the honor. Once the city made it to the final 22, community leaders were selected to attend the National Conference on Government to make a presentation on the accomplishments of Phenix City to rid itself of the reputation it had prior to the assassination of Albert L. Patterson on June 18, 1954 – barely a year before. The Jury of national leaders cut the number from 22 to 11 that would receive the award. The efforts of the community leaders is widely known by those who enter the State of Alabama where Phenix City proudly displays the signs telling of the honor it received later in 1955. The following is the article which appeared in The Phenix-Girard Journal:
Phenix City Is Selected Honor Town Finalist
Phenix City today received national recognition as one of the 22 finalist in the All-America Cities Award contest, an honor for which the Alabama city was nominated by The Ledger.
The runoff spot was announced by Dr. George H. Gallup, President of the National Municipal League which sponsors the annual competition in conjunction with Look Magazine.
The contest is conducted to honor communities that have done an outstanding job of solving local civic or governmental problems through “intelligent, concerted citizen action,” in the words of Dr. Gallup. This is its seventh year.
Community leaders hailed the award as an outstanding accolade for the former wide - open town. Mayor Clyde M. Knowles pointed out the city has made “tremendous progress” in the past year, and Leonard Coulter, city commissioner, suggested the honor will have great influence in convincing the nation that the “bad of the past has been stamped out. . .”
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Manton S. Eddy, president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, extended “heartiest congratulations” on the part of Phenix City’s sister city in Georgia.
The All - America award was sought for Phenix City by The Ledger for the courageous battle fought by its citizens to rid the community of criminal-political gangsterism whose rule culminated with the murder of Albert L. Patterson, attorney general - nominee of Alabama, June 18, 1954. The reform forces now proclaim that the city is “pure and crime-free, with government restored to the people.”
The League is a 61-year-old non-partisan, non-profit organization founded by Theodore Roosevelt, Louis D. Brandeis and others to raise the standards of local government.
The All-America Cities jury, of which Dr. Gallop is foreman, will hear presentations of the accomplishments of each of the finalists at the National Conference on Government in Seattle, July 25 and 26. The distinguished jury, after hearing all the evidence and following thorough investigation, will select the 11 winners from the 22 finalists. Names of the winners will be announced at the end of the year.
Dr. Gallup said: “This year the All-America Cities Awards competition has stirred more enthusiasm than ever before. An. unprecedented 137 communities ranging in size from Philadelphia, the nation’s third largest metropolis, to Brownstown, Indiana, with a population of only 2,000, entered the contest. This compares with 116 in 1954.
“In addition, the achievements of many of the entrants were on a remarkably high level. Communities across the nation love shown extraordinary courage, perseverance, and imagination in curing a wide variety of local ills.
“Anyone who thinks that American citizens are apathetic about their civic responsibilities need only examine the record of the candidates for All-America Cities Awards, particularly those of the finalists. He will quickly see how mistaken he is.”
A Screening Committee of experts chose the 22 finalists from the 137 entries. Richard S. Childs, chairman of the executive committee and former president of the National Municipal League, was chairman of the committee. Other members were Mrs. Edith P. Welty, former mayor, Yonkers, New York and Charlton F. Chute, Assistant Director of Public Administration.
In addition to Dr. Gallop, who is director of the American Institute of Public Opinion, the following are members of the All - America Cities jury:
John R. Cage, former mayor, Kansas City; Ewart W. Goodwin, former president, San Diego Chamber of Commerce; Thomas Graham, president. The Bankers Bond Co., Louisville, Kentucky; Mrs. Ruby C. Grant, president, Washington Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs; Jack Kroll, director, Political Action Committee, CIO.
Also Harry J. Krusz, manager of Internal Affairs, Chamber of Commerce of the United States; Mrs. Carol E. Miller, recording secretary, General Federation of Women’s Clubs; Vernon C. Myers, publisher, Look Magazine: James M. Osborn, research associate, Yale University; Mrs. Ralph W. Rasmussen, League of Women Voters, Portland, Oregon; Dr. Henry Schmitz, president. University of Washington.
The other finalists are:
Riverside, Calif.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Savannah, Ga.; Bloomington, Elmwood Park and Joliet. Ill.; Brownstown and Seymour, Ind.; Dubuque, Io.; Lake Charles, La.; Medford, Mass.; Port Huron and Ypsilanti, Mich.; St. Paul, Minn.. Grand Island. Neb.; Cambridge and Sidney, O.; Reading, Pa.; Aiken, S. C.; El Campo, Tex.; and Bellevue, Wash.
Here are comments from community leaders on the selection:
Dr. Clyde M. Knowles, mayor of Phenix City: “I am personally pleased. . . . I feel that we’ve made tremendous progress in the past 12 months.”
Otis W. Taff, president of the Phenix City - Russell County Chamber of Commerce: “It’s an honor for Phenix City to be named. We are on the uptrend and things look mighty good for us. We hope to do big things in the next year or so.”
Leonard Coulter, Phenix City commissioner: “We greatly appreciate the efforts of The Columbus Ledger in trying to obtain this outstanding award for Phenix City. If we are successful in presenting our achievements in such manner that we receive this recognition, it will probably have more influence than any other one thing in convincing the rest of the nation that the bad of the past has been stamped out and our people are determined to have the kind of town of which we will all be proud.”
Lamar Murphy, Russell County sheriff: “It’s just one of the many things that point to the bright future I see for Phenix City. We’ll get that future as long as everybody cooperates the way they are now.”
Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County.