Alabama has great symbols

Published 2:51 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

Have you ever given thought to our state symbols? Did you take note last year when there was a drive to change the state song, “Alabama,” to “Stars Fell on Alabama?”

When I attended Sayre Elementary School in the coal mining area of Jefferson County, my Alabama history teacher taught my classmates and me that the weed that marched across the fields and sides of the curvy, dusty roads our school bus bumped over every day was the Alabama state flower—the goldenrod. The legislature adopted it in 1927. Then in 1959, they pushed the prolific yellow wildflower out of the picture and replaced it with that beautiful flower, the camellia. I don’t know the story of how that came about, but I think it was a change for the better.

Again, I don’t know the background, but 40 years later, 1999, our lawmakers voted to designate a state wildflower. I doubt they even considered the goldenrod. The Oak-leaf Hydrangea took the honor. Can you identify it?

If you are an Alabama native and studied Alabama history during your school days, you probably remember that the Yellowhammer is our state bird. The legislature also took action on that in 1927. You might recall the story that Alabama was nicknamed the Yellowhammer State during the Civil War. The story goes that when a company of Alabama soldiers paraded in uniforms trimmed in yellow, it brought to mind the patch of yellow under the wings of the yellowhammer bird. That became an unofficial nickname for a time.

We’ve seen the slogan, “Heart of Dixie,” often enough on car tags and in other places. That popped up some time in the 1950s, but it isn’t Alabama’s official nickname. Neither is “The Cotton State” as it was called at times. My daughter tells me it still appears sometime in crossword puzzles. The truth is the legislature has never adopted a nickname for our beloved state.

The Great Seal is an impressive Alabama state symbol that depicts a state map showing major rivers. Then there is the beautiful state flag with the crimson cross of St. Andrew on a white field. The Alabama Coat of Arms is a shield with a bald eagle on each side that bears emblems of Spain, France, Great Britain, and the Confederacy, bound by the flag and shield of the United States. The crest is a model of the Baldine, a French ship that brought settlers to an area near what is now Mobile.

I found that the state mineral, hematite, or red iron ore, occurs along the length of Red Mountain which passes through eight counties. Builders used hematite in the casting of the statue of Vulcan, the largest cast-iron structure ever built. It stands atop Red Mountain in Birmingham.

Then there’s our state rock—marble. It is plentiful in 10 counties with millions of tons of it quarried through the years.

Alabama is a great state with great symbols and great people. Don’t you agree?