30 Famous People From Alabama Part Four

The second half of our 30 famous people from Alabama list starts with entries 16 to 20 and includes a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and a civil rights campaigner.

(This article was originally published at Socyberty.com on 30 December 2010.)

Harper Lee

Harper Lee by Eric Draper

Harper Lee by Eric Draper

Harper Lee is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer best known for her 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”. She was born Nelle Harper Lee on 28 April 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama and was a childhood friend of Truman Capote. Lee attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where she studied law and contributed to the student newspaper and magazine. After dropping her studies in favour of concentrating on writing, she worked as an airline ticket agent for several years before her first and only novel became an instant success in 1960. She has received many honorary degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but has published little since “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis by Finneye

Carl Lewis by Finneye

Carl Lewis was born Frederick Carlton Lewis in Birmingham, Alabama on 1 July 1961. He is an athlete who has competed in both track and field events with a large collection of World Championship and Olympic medals, many of them gold. He has set world records in the long jump, 100m, 4x100m relay and 4x200m relay. At the 1984 Olympics he matched Jesse Owens’ achievement of winning four gold medals in one Games with success in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump. The International Olympic Committee voted him “Sportsman of the Century”.

Joe Louis

Joe Louis by Carl Van Vechten

Joe Louis by Carl Van Vechten

Joe Louis was the world heavyweight boxing champion between 1937 and 1949, defending his title a record 25 times. He was born Joseph Louis Barrow in La Fayette, Alabama on 13 May 1914, the seventh of eight children. Louis began his professional career in 1934, winning all 12 of his fights that year. He first took the title from James Braddock in 1937 and held it until he retired. During World War II, Louis served as a private but never saw combat. His last professional fight, after a brief comeback from retirement, was against Rocky Marciano in October 1951. Louis died from a heart attack on 12 April 1981 in Nevada and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens

James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens was born on 12 September 1913 in Oakville, Alabama, the seventh of eleven children. The family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when Owens was nine and he first came to public attention in 1933 when he equalled the world record in the 100 yard dash at the National High School Championship in Chicago. In 1935 he broke three world records and equalled a fourth in just 45 minutes. At the Berlin Olympics in 1936, Owens won gold medals in the 100m, long jump, 200m and 4x100m relay, a feat that would not be equalled until 1984 by Carl Lewis (see above). After the Olympics his amateur status was withdrawn when he decided to pursue commercial sponsorship offers. Owens died on 31 March 1980 in Tuscon, Arizona from smoking related lung cancer.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on 4 February 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She married Raymond Parks in 1932. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and in 1943 Rosa joined him in the Montgomery chapter and began her civil rights work. As the only woman in the chapter, she became secretary to its president. Then, in 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a full bus when asked to do so by the driver. She was arrested and found guilty on charges of disorderly conduct at her trial. Her case, however, sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and the slow rise in national awareness of the civil rights movement, although it cost Parks her department store job. Rosa Parks died on 24 October 2005 in Detroit, Michigan.

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