William Henry Jemison House, 1005 17th Avenue

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William Henry Jemison House, 1005 17th Avenue


Houses and Homes


This house was built about 1840 by William Henry Jemison, the younger brother of Senator Robert Jemison. It is also called the Jemison-Brandon-Waugh House.

This was the first house in Tuscaloosa which departed from the prevalent "Greek Revival" building style. Building details such as bay windows, wall dormers, steeply pitched gables with decorative sawn wood barge boards and quatrefoil patterned iron balcony railings were radical departures from the prevailing style.

Just as William Henry Jemison's house was different from most of those around him, so was his life filled with variety . He was a planter, captain in the Confederate army, member of the Alabama House of Representatives, a teacher of agriculture at Auburn and quartermaster at the University of Alabama 1873-82.

Of the nine children born to him and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Patrick, two had an important impact on Tuscaloosa. William Carlos Jemison was editor of the "Tuscaloosa Times" and mayor of Tuscaloosa for six years, in which time he inaugurated the system of graded public schools.

Another son, Robert IV, affected Tuscaloosa by what he didn't do here but did for another. He left Tuscaloosa after a public meeting in which he pleaded with the city fathers and citizens of our city to band together to promote and finance plans to make Tuscaloosa one of the largest industrial cities in the south. The people were satisfied with the status quo. They rejected the proposal and Jemison moved to the then small village of Birmingham where he and a few other farsighted men built it into the bustling "Magic City."

After the Civil War, William Henry Jemison sold his Gothic home to General Sterling Alexander Martin Wood. The General named the house and grounds "Woodlawn" because the property stretched from 10th to 11th Street and 16th Avenue to Queen City Avenue. A larger tree-lined drive led from Queen City Avenue to the house.

Shortly after the turn of the century, "Woodlawn" was bought by Harry Z. Smith for his wife, Mary Oliver, and their seven children. Smith had previously been in charge of sales for the American Thread Company and in this capacity had to travel constantly. Wishing to stay closer to home, he moved to Tuscaloosa and bought the Tuscaloosa Heading Mill, located near the A.G.S. Railroad station. This company manufactured the tops or "heads" for wooden barrels from pine cut from their own extensive forest lands at "Smith's Spur" near Duncanville.

Mr. Smith died in 1913 after being pinned beneath a wagon which was tipped over by an unruly rearing horse. After his death, the Smiths moved to a house on University Boulevard. The Kappa Alpha fraternity occupied "Woodlawn."

The most prominent occupant of "Woodlawn" was Tuscaloosa's own Gov. W. W. Brandon. He bought the house after he married Ms. Elizabeth Andrews Nabors, a widow with two children. These step-daughters are best remembered in Tuscaloosa as Mrs. James F. Alston and Mrs. A.L. Tyson.

William Woodward Brandon's political and judicial career first began in 1891 when he was elected clerk of the city of Tuscaloosa and a Justice of the Peace. He was also state legislator, state auditor and Probate Judge of Tuscaloosa County for 21 years. His military career was just as illustrious. He was a captain of the Warrior Guards, a major in the Spanish-American War and adjutant-general of Alabama from 1899 to 1901.

He was known throughout Alabama as "Plain Bill" and a friend of all the people when he ran for and was elected governor in 1923. To reinforce this image, his inauguration parade was led by the old grey mule which he had driven as a conductor on the Tuscaloosa Street Railway Company, later called the "Dummy Line" when it was converted to steam. His term as governor was known for its financial economy of operation, the establishment of the state docks at Mobile, and for the first law school in the state and one of the first in the nation to provide for old age assistance other than alms houses.

During the last of a warm political campaign in 1928, he experienced a paralytic stroke which weakened him and caused a permanent lameness. Despite this handicap he continued as probate judge, Sunday School superintendent and chairman of the Board of Stewarts of the Methodist church until his death on Dec. 7, 1933.

(Adapted from "Home Shows Grand Style" by Marie Ball, Tuscaloosa News, Dec. 7, 1980)


Betty Slowe


Betty Slowe


Sept. 24, 2013


Betty Slowe (Description)






Tuscaloosa (AL)

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