Remember When: Alabama’s 1st governor, Andalusia’s 1st mayor

Published 2:02 pm Friday, September 27, 2019

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Since Alabamians are celebrating the Alabama Bicentennial in 2019, it seems appropriate to refresh our memory of and even learn about Alabama history. “Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee,” Julia Tutwiler wrote in her poem that made its lyrics to the state song.

William Wyatt Bibb was the first governor of the U. S. state of Alabama. He was born in Amelia County, Virginia in 1781 to Captain William Bibb, an officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and a member of the state legislature, the General Assembly of the newly independent Commonwealth of Virginia. Bibb’s middle name was his mother’s maiden name, Wyatt.

     Bibb senior moved with his family south to Georgia with a large number of Virginians who accompanied General George Mathews, hero of the Battle of Brandywine (Pennsylvania). Most of the followers were veterans like himself who with their families took advantage of the nation’s offer of land bounties for former soldiers. They established tobacco farms in the newly developing northeastern part of Georgia. The Bibbs are recorded as one of the earliest pioneer families in Elbert County.

Son William Bibb attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. After he received his M.D. degree in 1801, he returned to Georgia to begin practicing medicine in Petersburg. In 1803, he married Mary Freeman.

Bibb’s first political office was as a member of the

Georgia House of Representatives when he was elected in 1902 at the age of 21. He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the 9th U. S. Congress to fill a vacancy and was reelected four times until 1813. He was then elected by the state legislature to the U. S. Senate to fill another vacancy where he served until 1816.

The 5th President James Monroe appointed Bibb as the first governor of the newly formed Alabama Territory out of the larger previous Mississippi Territory in 1817. When Alabama became the 22nd state on December 14, 1819, Bibb was elected governor receiving 8,342 votes compared to his opponent Marmaduke Williams who received 7,140 votes.

Bibb’s primary duties were establishing the state government. Huntsville was the site of the constitutional convention. The capital was chosen to be the newly created town of Cahawba near Selma in 1820 on the Alabama frontier. In 1826, it moved to Tuscaloosa and finally to the central city of Montgomery in 1846 where a state capitol building was later begun.

During Bibb’s short tenure there were several accomplishments. The Alabama state militia was formed along with the beginnings of the state judicial system with the organization and appointments to the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Bibb remains one of only three individuals who served as governor of one state and a U. S. Senator from a different state.

In 1820, Bibb was thrown from his horse during a violent thunderstorm. He succumbed to his internal injuries at the age of 38 in Elmore County. His brother, Thomas Bibb, who was president of the state senate at the time completed the rest of his term.

Bibb is buried in Coosada, Alabama.  As first governor, his likeness appears on the Alabama Centennial half dollar which was minted in 1921. Bibb County, Alabama and Bibb County, Georgia are named for him.  He served from March 6, 1817                                                  to July 10, 1820.

Judge Edgar Thomas Albritton was Andalusia’s first elected mayor beginning in 1888. He was born July 27, 1857 in Goldsboro, North Carolina, the first of eight children of Jesse Tignor Albritton and Deborah Parrott Allen. He was educated at the Judge Strong Law School in Raleigh, North Carolina and set up law practice in Snow Hill, NC. He married Abselah Best Daniel in 1880, and they had two children William Harold Albritton and Elizabeth Natalie Albritton.

Following the death of his wife from typhoid fever in 1884 and the passing of his daughter Natalie in 1887, he boarded a train for Mobile to visit his brother with the intention of catching a ship to the Panama Canal Zone in search of a new life. The train stopped in Greenville to unload a circus. It was there that he struck up a conversation with Dempsey Powell, a Greenville attorney. He told Powell that he was quite despondent and wanted to relocate to “the ends of the earth.” His new friend replied, “I know just the place.”

So Edgar after the recommendation of Powell rented a wagon, homesteaded with his son, and relocated permanently to Andalusia establishing a law practice in Andalusia called “Powell and Albritton.”  It is believed that Powell never lived in Andalusia but practiced law with Edgar while maintaining his main practice in Greenville.

In 1889 Ed Albritton married his second wife Eddie Marie Allen. The Covington Crescent reported on October 26, 1889,Edgar T. Albritton reached Andalusia on Friday evening last with his bride. On Sunday the 13th last, Esquire Albritton accompanied by his ‘best man’ handsome Henry Law left for Demopolis, Ala. where he was united in marriage to Miss Eddie Allen, a beautiful and accomplished young lady on Thursday, the 17th last. The numerous friends of the ‘Squire’ tender hearty congratulations and wishes for him and his charming bride a happy and prosperous married life.”

Sadly Albritton’s wife died in 1908. They had no children. He married his third wife Mary Leah Norman in 1909. Three children were born to this union – Edgar Thomas, Mary Leah, and John Norman. While being driven home from a short stay in Florida Town, Edgar or Ed T. died quietly in his sleep in 1925 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery with his second and third wives.

By this time, son William Harold by his first wife Abselah, had joined Ed T. in practicing law in the firm Powell, Albritton, and Albritton. Ed Sr.’s law practice had grown to service much of south Alabama and northwest Florida. William Harold’s home had been built on Albritton Road on property now owned by the Lucy Doyle Brady estate. It is said that only a well and a flower pit still survive on the acreage for a fire consumed the home in around 1938. Dr. Bill Albritton and his wife Betty currently live in a new home they built on Albritton Road on the portion of Edgar Thomas’ homestead that he gave to William Harold and on the lot where Bill’s parents’ home was located and where he grew up. Dr. Albritton is now retired after having worked in an illustrious and extensive career in the medical field in Canada and Florida.

It is remembered and recorded in the Covington Spring Fair program of 1947 that old minutes of the City of Andalusia show that B. H. Lewis and J. F. Thomas were designated as early mayors but never functioned as such since the town of Andalusia was never a legally municipal corporation until 1887 when the majority of the qualified electors favored incorporating Andalusia under the laws of the State of Alabama. So Ed T. Albritton is considered to be Andalusia’s first official mayor, and he served in that position from 1888-1899.

Several of Ed T.’s siblings moved to Andalusia. His sister Jesse taught school in Covington County. Between his brother’s and son’s children, there were 20 children, and as living descendant Dr. Bill Albritton stated recently, “Each has their own story.”

Before Edgar Sr.’s death in 1925, his son William Harold Albritton, Sr., had joined him in practice in 1903, but unfortunately, he died of pneumonia four years after his father. Edgar’s grandsons, Bob, Bill, and Marvin continued in the firm’s practice as well as great grandson Harold, III and great great grandsons Harold IV and Tom. All of these Albrittons have made and are still making extraordinary contributions as practicing attorneys serving as city and corporation attorneys, court judges, legal commissioners, and local and state bar presidents.

In 2010 Edgar Thomas Albritton, Sr. was elected posthumously into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame established to spotlight significant contributions lawyers have made to the state throughout history. Albritton established Alabama’s oldest law firm which extended at that time into the fifth Albritton generation located in Andalusia.

It was interesting recently on a tour of the Covington County Courthouse with the Grand Jury for this writer to admire a collection of oak barrister book cabinets from the old Albritton law firm which vintage pieces are now housed in the Law Library at the Covington County Courthouse.

Another twist or two – Can anyone even begin to guess how many old court records through the years stored in the courthouse basement archives are Albritton Law Firm cases? It occurred to this pondering writer that Edgar T. Albritton was on the scene as a practicing attorney when the 1896 courthouse in the middle of the square was built and in 1918 when the present courthouse was built!

The October 23, 1896 edition of The Covington Times (Editor W.P. Howell) reported “Esquire Albritton visited the capitol city this week on professional business.”

It is always inspiring to look back in Covington County history to uncover stories of the past. Much of this information for Remember When can be attributed to Dr. Bill Albritton’s family history, former Editor Michele Gerlach’s articles, Dr. Bill Hansford’s 2015 book “Andalusia, Alabama,” and the old newspaper editions of long ago.

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at