30 Famous People From Alabama Part Two

We continue our look at 30 of Alabama’s famous sons and daughters with entries six to 10 including a pioneer in the study of yellow fever and the “Father of the Blues”.

(This article was originally published at Socyberty.com on 29 December 2010.)

Dennis Edwards

Dennis Edwards was born in Birmingham, Alabama on 3 February 1943 and moved to Detroit, Michigan at the age of seven. He is a soul singer whose career has seen him sing with groups such as The Contours and The Temptations, replacing David Ruffin as lead singer in 1968. Edwards remained with The Temptations until he was fired by Otis Williams in 1977 but he rejoined in 1980. After being fired again in 1984, Edwards was part of The Temptations line-up again from 1987 to 1989. Following a 1990s legal battle over use of the name “The Temptations”, he currently tours with a group called “The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards”.

Louise Fletcher

Louise Fletcher by Alan Light

Louise Fletcher by Alan Light

Louise Fletcher is a television and film actress and was born in Birmingham, Alabama on 22 July 1934 to deaf parents. Her long career was interrupted for 11 years while she brought up her two sons. One of her first roles on returning to acting was the part of Nurse Ratched alongside Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for which she received BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Awards for Best Actress. Other credits have included roles in films such as The Karen Carpenter Story and The Stepford Husbands and Kai Winn Adami in the television science fiction series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Melvin Franklin

Melvin Franklin was the stage name of David Melvin English who found fame as the bass singer in The Temptations. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama on 12 October 1942 before moving to Detroit, Michigan at the age of nine. In 1960 he formed a singing group called The Elgins with Otis Williams and other friends. The following March the group were signed to Motown Records and changed their name to The Temptations. Franklin performed with the group until 1994 and died on 23 February 1995 in Los Angeles, California.

LaFayette Guild

Lafayette Guild

Lafayette Guild

LaFayette Guild was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1826. After graduating from Jefferson Medical College in 1848 he became Assistant Surgeon in the US Army in 1849. His observations of the limited effects of quarantine on diseases such as yellow fever were used to control an outbreak of that disease in 1856. After refusing to take the oath of allegiance in 1861, Guild joined the Confederate forces during the Civil War as Chief Surgeon and served until their surrender. After the war he continued his studies into yellow fever. He died on 4 July 1870 in San Francisco, California but was buried in Tuscaloosa.

W. C. Handy

W C Handy by Carl Van Vechten

W C Handy by Carl Van Vechten

William Christopher Handy was a blues musician and composer who was credited with transforming the blues from a regional folk style into a mainstream musical form and was often labelled the “Father of the Blues”. He was born in Florence, Alabama on 16 November 1873. His remarkable memory enabled him to transcribe music that he heard while travelling through the United States and he always documented the sources. A long career as a musician and band leader produced compositions such as Memphis Blues, Beale Street Blues and St. Louis Blues, a song that is still central to the jazz repertoire. A fall from a subway platform in 1943 left him blind and a stroke in 1955 confined him to a wheelchair. Handy died of bronchial pneumonia on 28 March 1958 in New York and over 25,000 people attended his funeral.

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