William Carlos Jemison, 1850-1901, Mayor of Tuscaloosa from 1880-1890



William Carlos Jemison, 1850-1901, Mayor of Tuscaloosa from 1880-1890




William Carlos ( "W.C.") Jemison (December 2, 1850 - March 28, 1901) was born in Tuscaloosa to William Henry Jemison and his wife Elizabeth Ann Patrick Jemison.

William Henry Jemison, a brother of Robert Jemison, was a wealthy planter who had several cotton plantations in Tuscaloosa County. When the Civil War began he served as a captain in the Confederate Army. After the war, he was hired as a professor of agriculture at what is now Auburn University before returning to Tuscaloosa to become the quartermaster at the University of Alabama.

Meanwhile, William Carlos attended the University of Alabama and in 1874 graduated from the recently created law department. He practiced law for a few years, during which he married a Mississippi girl, Eliska Leftwich. Subsequently he, along with others, organized the Allen and Jemison Hardware Company, which had its place of business on Greensboro Avenue. He also became a director and president of the Tuscaloosa Coal, Iron and Land Company in the 1880's.

Jemison served five terms as mayor of Tuscaloosa between 1880 and 1890. As mayor he promoted efforts to make the Warrior River more navigable, inaugurated a system of graded public schools, introduced water, electrical and waste disposal services, built a new city hall and filled a large eroded area near the river called the "Big Ditch" or Big Gully." His defeat for re-election in 1890 is said to have been caused in part by efforts by supporters of his young lawyer-opponent, Henry Bacon Foster, to force Jemison's black supporters to vote for Foster.

Jemison was very protective of his family as evidenced by an incident that occurred in 1898 involving his son, Allen. The son had enrolled at the University of Alabama that fall, and apparently was the victim of what the Atlanta Constitution called a "substantial 'bucking' by some of his fellow cadets" involving 100 licks with a paddle. When this hazing occurred on a second occasion, Jemison went to the University after midnight with a horsewhip and whipped the culprits until their night clothes were stained with blood.

At the time of his death in 1901, Jemison was the owner and editor of the Tuscaloosa Times newspaper.


Personal Collection of Jason Townsend


Tuscaloosa News




Jason Townsend (Description)






Tuscaloosa (AL)

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