Mobile, Alabama

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Mobile, Alabama
Flag of Mobile, Alabama
Seal of Mobile, Alabama
Nickname: The Azalea City
Location of Mobile,  Alabama
Location in Alabama
County Mobile County
Mayor Sam Jones
 - Total
 - Water

412.9 km² (159.4 mi²)
107.6 km² (41.5 mi²) 26.05% 
 - City (2000)
 - Density
 - Metropolitan

Time zone Central (UTC –5)
WGS-84 (GPS)
 30.679523° N 88.103280° W
Official Website

Mobile (pronounced moh-BEEL) is a city located in Mobile County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 198,915.

Mobile is the center of Alabama's second-largest metropolitan area, which consists of Mobile and Baldwin Counties. Metropolitan Mobile has a population of 551,178. Its name is derived from the presence of the Mobile (Mauvile or Maubila) Indians in the area at the time of founding. (See Mobilian.) The city is the county seat of Mobile County. The city is the only saltwater port in Alabama.



The settlement, then called "Fort Louis de la Louisiana", was first established in 1702, at Twenty-seven Mile Bluff on the Mobile River, as the first capital of the French colony of Louisiana. Following a series of floods, the town was relocated downriver to its present location near the head of Mobile Bay in 1711 and named Fort Conde. The capital of Louisiana was moved to Biloxi in 1720 and to New Orleans in 1723 and Mobile was relegated to the role of frontier town and trading post.

Mobile and Mobile Bay from space, June 1991
Mobile and Mobile Bay from space, June 1991

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the French and Indian War. The treaty ceded Mobile to Great Britian and under British rule the colony flourished. The British renamed the city Fort Charoltte, after the English Queen, and reenergized the port. Major exports included timber, naval stores, indigo, hides, rice, pecans and cattle.

The immediate British enforcement of race codes threw the denizens of the French-derived culture into chaos. The French Creole world was noted for its laissez-faire attitude to racial matters and the stringent English codes chased many of Mobile's Creole residents westward into Louisiana. It also marked a slight cultural division point between Mobile and the rest of the French-founded coast.

The port town was captured by the Spanish in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War. The Spanish held Mobile until 1813 when it was captured by the American General Wilkinson; by then it was the second largest seaport on the Gulf Coast.

The Cotton Boom of the early 19th century brought an explosion of commerce to what had been a sleepy frontier town. By the 1850s, Mobile was one of the 4 busiest ports in the United States. The wealth created by this trade brought the city to a cultural high point. Mobile became well known throughout the country and the world.

In another note of differentiation between the somewhat cosmopolitan port and the hinterlands of predominantly Protestant Alabama, Mobile was declared an archdiocese of the Catholic Church in this same period. In 1830, the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church founded Spring Hill College, one of the oldest Catholic schools in the country.

In 1860, Clotilde, the last known ship to arrive in the Americas with a cargo of slaves, was abandoned by its captain near Mobile. A number of the slaves escaped and formed their own community on the banks of the Mobile River, which became known as Africatown. The inhabitants of this community retained their African customs and language well into the 20th century.

Mobile grew substantially in the period leading up to the American Civil War when it was heavily fortified by the Confederates. Union naval forces established a blockade under the command of Admiral David Farragut. The Confederates countered the blockade by constructing blockade-runners; fast, shallow-draft,low-slung ships that could either out-run or evade the blockaders, maintaining a trickle of trade in and out of Mobile. Also, the C.S.S. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel in combat, was built and tested in Mobile.

In August, 1864 Farraguts ships fought their way past the two forts (Gaines and Morgan) guarding the mouth of Mobile Bay and defeated a small force of Confederate gunboats and one ironclad, the C.S.S. Tennessee, in the famous "Battle of Mobile Bay". It is here that Farragut is alledged to have uttered his famous "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" quote. The city of Mobile later surrendered to the Union army in order to avoid destruction. Ironically, in May 1865, an ammunition depot explosion -- called the great Mobile magazine explosion -- killed some 300 people and destroyed a significant portion of the city.

After the war, the harbor was substantially improved and deepened, and ship-building became a notable industry. However, the city, once a world-famous cultural center, languished as a result of "Reconstruction" and the general economic decline of the South.

The military buildup prior to and during World War II resulted in a massive increase in population. Shipyards were churning out vessels for the war effort and in 1938 the U.S. Army bought the municipal airport (Bates Field was relocated about 10 miles west of the city and is now known as Mobile Regional Airport) and there developed the Brookley Army Air Field, later, Brookley Air Force Base. Brookley quickly became the areas largest employer. In the mid 1960's the Air Force Base was closed due to a Department of Defence "base realignment" and the airport returned to the city. Today, it is known as Mobile Downtown Airport.

During the war, the phenomenal influx of workers created a huge housing shortage. Citizens rented out extra rooms and also converted porches, garages and even chicken coops into rentals. Several federal housing projects were quickly built to house the new maritime and Air Force workers. Several of these are still to be found, notably the community of Birdville.

By 1956, Mobile's square mileage had tripled to accommodate the growth. Brookley's closure in the mid-1960s sent economic tremors through the area which took many years to absorb.

Also, in the post-war period, the pulp and paper industry became a major industry in Mobile. Scott Paper and International Paper combined to have one the areas largest workforces. However; the demise of these industries within the last decade also hurt the local economy. Fortunately, during the last 15 years, the chemical, oil and gas, tourism, maritime and aerospace industries have expanded significantly and provided a much needed economic boost.

In 1964, the University of South Alabama opened its doors and its tremendous impact on the community and economy was deeply felt in a variety of sectors. The University operates several hospitals and has a noted Medical School.

Mobile's seafood industry rose to a position of note for a while, with Mobile Bay oysters acclaimed far and wide, but this waned almost to the point of extinction in the last quarter of the 20th century. A few shrimpers still hang on in the South Mobile County fishing village of Bayou La Batre, immortalized in the book and film Forrest Gump, but their future appears uncertain.

Four members of the Baseball Hall of Fame were born in Mobile: Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Satchel Paige and Ozzie Smith. Notable yearly activities that take place in Mobile include the Senior Bowl, Mardi Gras (the oldest in the country), the GMAC Bowl, the Azalea Trail Run, and the Junior Miss Pageant. In addition, the Mobile BayBears baseball team play in the Double A Southern League (baseball).

The eastern shore of Mobile Bay periodically experiences an unusual phenomenon called a Jubilee. A jubilee, which usually takes place in the wee hours of warm nights, describes a massive upsurge of sea life from the bottom of the bay. This phenomenon has also been observed in a similar bay in Japan and is believed to be caused by low oxygen levels in the water. This upsurge to the surface usually consists of crabs, shrimp, flounder and other sea delicacies. Needless to say, a jubilee, when first realized, is quickly spread by word of mouth along the coast, providing an impromptu fishing party in the middle of the night.

On 10 November 1993 the city formally twinned with the Japanese city of Ichihara, Chiba prefecture.

Mobile and its suburbs suffered considerable damage when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005. Most of the city survived relatively intact compared to New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, but the high winds and flooding destroyed homes in coastal areas and damaged some parts of the downtown area, and at least two people died in hurricane-related car accidents.

Geography and climate

Mobile is located at 30°40'46" North, 88°6'12" West (30.679523, -88.103280)1. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 412.9 km² (159.4 mi²). 305.4 km² (117.9 mi²) of it is land and 107.6 km² (41.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 26.05% water.

Mobile, as a central Gulf Coast city has a subtropical climate, which consists of mild, wet winters and hot, wet summers. Mobile is also very vulnerable to storm surge from hurricanes, which the area frequently experiences. The only major city more vulnerable to storm surge damage in the United States is New Orleans, Louisiana.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 198,915 people, 78 480 households, and 50 776 families residing in the city. The population density is 651.4/km² (1,687.1/mi²). There are 86 187 housing units at an average density of 282.2/km² (731.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 50.40% European American, 46.29% or African American, 0.24% Native American, 1.52% Asian American, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.53% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. 1.42% of the population are Hispanic American or Latino of any race.

There are 78 480 households out of which 30.9% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.1% are married couples living together, 19.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.3% are non-families. 30.2% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.46 and the average family size is 3.09.

In the city the population is spread out with 26.5% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 28.0% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 13.7% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 87.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 82.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $31,445, and the median income for a family is $39,752. Males have a median income of $31,629 versus $22,051 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,072. 21.2% of the population and 17.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.4% of those under the age of 18 and 14.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Law and government

The elected government of Mobile consists of a Mayor and a seven member City Council, which in theory operate on a weak Mayor/strong Council format. Municipal Elections are held every 4 years, and are non-partisan. The last elections were held on September 13, 2005.

Mayor: Sam Jones (2005-)

  • City Council District 1: Fred Richardson (1997-present)
  • City Council District 2: William Carroll (2005-present)
  • City Council District 3: Clinton Johnson (1985-present) (President 1993-2001)
  • City Council District 4: Ben Brooks (2001-present)
  • City Council District 5: Reggie Copeland (1985-present) (President 2001-)
  • City Council District 6: Connie Hudson (2001-present)
  • City Council District 7: Gina Gregory (2005-present)

Battle House project and downtown rebirth

Since 1852, the Battle House hotel has been a fixture of the Mobile landscape. Although the original hotel was destroyed in a fire in 1905, it was rebuilt and has remained a Mobile area landmark. It was the location of President Woodrow Wilson's famous speech in 1913 where he declared that the United States would never again fight in a foreign war of aggression. In 1974, the hotel went vacant, as much of downtown was doing at the time.

In 2001, the Mobile City Council approved a deal with the Retirement Systems of Alabama for a complete restoration of the historic hotel, as well as construction of the Battle House Tower, a 35 Story, 745 foot (227 m) tall skyscraper that will not only be the tallest building in Alabama, but also one of the ten tallest buildings on the Gulf Coast.

The Battle House Project is the crowning achievement of the "String of Pearls" initiative undertaken by the Dow administration, which has seen the construction of the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center, the Cruise Ship Terminal, the Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, and the complete rebirth of Dauphin Street, Mobile's historic commercial corridor.

Other projects in the works include a proposed high-rise condominium tower on Water Street in the heart of the downtown waterfront, as well as the construction of a historic Mardi Gras themed city park in downtown to celebrate the city's heritage as the original city of American Mardi Gras, the Mother of All Mystics, as well as a brand new state of the art federal courthouse. Mobile is rapidly developing into one of the South's hottest cities, and locals believe that the future will only be bright, based on the old Mobile saying of "As goes the Battle House, so goes Mobile"

Transport, education, and media

The city's airline's are served by Mobile Regional Airport, which also serves Pascagoula, Mississippi. Additionally, Mobile Downtown Airport serves corporate, private and cargo aircraft and is home to a major maintenance, overhaul and repair facility.

Mobile is served by WPMI (NBC), WKRG (CBS), and WALA (FOX) television stations. The largest paper in the region is the Mobile Register.

Public schools in Mobile are operated by the Mobile County Public School System. The State of Alabama operates the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, which boards advanced Alabama high school students. There is also a large number of privite institutions. Mobile is home to the University of South Alabama, Bishop State Community College, Spring Hill College and the University of Mobile.

Notable Mobilians


In 1995, Mobile received the All-America City Award.

Surrounding Suburbs


Mobile is mentioned in the following songs:

Several people migrated from Mobile to an area in Arizona which was then named "Mobile". It was founded in the early 1900s as an area for African-Americans to live and some of its early residents were sharecroppers from Mobile, Alabama.

Mobile elected its first black mayor, Sam Jones, in 2005.

External links

Flag of Alabama State of Alabama
Capital: Montgomery
Largest Metro: Birmingham-Hoover-Cullman Metropolitan Area
Regions: Greater Birmingham | Black Belt | Central Alabama | Lower Alabama | Mobile Bay | North Alabama | South Alabama
Largest cities: Birmingham | Huntsville | Mobile | Montgomery
Major cities: Anniston | Auburn | Decatur | Dothan | Florence | Gadsden | Hoover | Tuscaloosa
All cities: List of cities in Alabama
Counties: Autauga | Baldwin | Barbour | Bibb | Blount | Bullock | Butler | Calhoun | Chambers | Cherokee | Chilton | Choctaw | Clarke | Clay | Cleburne | Coffee | Colbert | Conecuh | Coosa | Covington | Crenshaw | Cullman | Dale | Dallas | DeKalb | Elmore | Escambia | Etowah | Fayette | Franklin | Geneva | Greene | Hale | Henry | Houston | Jackson | Jefferson | Lamar | Lauderdale | Lawrence | Lee | Limestone | Lowndes | Macon | Madison | Marengo | Marion | Marshall | Mobile | Monroe | Montgomery | Morgan | Perry | Pickens | Pike | Randolph | Russell | Shelby | St. Clair | Sumter | Talladega | Tallapoosa | Tuscaloosa | Walker | Washington | Wilcox | Winston
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