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"We assumed, after retirement, that one of us would continue working for money to supplement our income so that we could continue to live in the style we were accustomed. Then we found LaFayette..."

LaFayette : Fine old homes and buildings, and world famous people

Folks driving through LaFayette for the first time particularly those traveling north or south on Highway 431 are usually startled by the beauty of the old town.  This happened a few years ago to Jerry and Mac Bryant.  They were so impressed they turned their vehicle around and went back into the city.  They asked about a fine old four-column, two story white house; discovering that it was available, the couple from Texas promptly bought the over sized home and they have been here ever since.

   Jerry Bryant is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.  For years he flew heavy aircraft over a good portion of the world.  He and his wife operate a bed and breakfast at their place (now known as Maple Hill).  “(There is so much atmosphere here),” said Jerry.  “The place is just inviting comfortable and being from Texas , at least our part of it where the landscape can be bleak and barren well, we appreciate trees.”  LaFayette is a town of some 3,500; the county seat of Chambers (populations 37,000), the old city is tucked away in the foothills of central East Alabama and strangely and coincidentally, it is almost exactly halfway between two state capitals, Atlanta and Montgomery; LaFayette is some 98 miles from Atlanta and 95 miles from Montgomery .  LaFayette was founded in 1844 (some historians say 1843); the county was founded in 1832, 13 years after Alabama, mustering up the approximately 245,000 population needed to become a state, was founded in 1819 in Huntsville (the name “Washington” led on the first few ballots of that first state convention, but in a compromise, the musical Indian name “Alabama” was finally chosen). 

LaFayette’s wide streets and large ancient trees, and fine old houses and buildings, draw people to LaFayette tourist or casual traveler alike.  Those that stay around awhile discover some portions of the history of LaFayette and its environs and it is indeed a rich past.  For here was once the home of such diverse and famous people as Johnson Jones Hooper, Pat Garrett, United States Senators Thomas (Cotton Tom) Heflin and Claude Pepper, and of course Joe Louis.  Johnson Jones Hooper was the author of the “Silas Suggs” books that realistically showed the hard life and high humor of life on the Tallapoosa River of the American frontier in the early 1800.  Mark Twain based much of his “Life on the Mississippi ” and “Huckleberry Finn” stories on the almost identical adventures and circumstances of those experienced by Silas Suggs.  Pat Garrett, famed as the Lincoln County, New Mexico sheriff who killed Billy the Kid, was from LaFayette .  He rode west at age 17, seeking more room and more adventure.  In Pat Garrett’s will at the Chambers County courthouse in LaFayette there are provisions leaving his saddle and shotgun to a nephew in LaFayette.

  Heflin was a U.S. Congressman and Senator who was famous as one of America ’s premier orators.  He was the father of Mother’s Day (legislated in 1916; President Woodrow Wilson praised Heflin for this bill, introduced in the House of Representatives while Cotton Tom was a Congressman.  He was the first man from the Deep South to be invited to make the annual Gettysburg Address at the hallowed battlefield in Pennsylvania (the 50th anniversary held November 19, 1913.) and out on Buckalew Mountain here in LaFayette, Monrow (Mun) Barrow and his wife, Dorothy, were expecting another child.  Hew as to be a boy (born May 13, 1914), and he was named Joe Louis Barrow, and he would grow up to become the world’s heavyweight boxing champion.  In fact, Joe Louis, which was his ring name, ruled the world longer than any heavyweight in history 12 years from 1937 to 1949 finally retiring unbeaten, following 25 defenses of his title, far and away the most by any boxer in the premier division.  Claude pepper was born in the west Chambers County crossroads village of Dudleyville.  After graduating from the University of Alabama and becoming a lawyer, Pepper moved to Tallahassee in Florida .  Later, as a young U.S. Senator, he cast the deciding vote in the Senate that approved President Franklin Roosevelt’s Lend Lease Act (1949) that delivered to Great Britain some used American destroyers and a few other weapons.  Prime Minister Winston Churchill later said that without Lend-Lease the German war machine would have prevailed and Great Britain would have fallen.  Thus, LaFayette and Chambers County have seen giant strides forth from its diverse landscape.  Yet, the strength of this place has always been its workaday folks creative and ingenious in their own right and more on this next time.

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