PIVOTAL MOMENTS: Howard exhibit at IAC shows Alabama’s history

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2019

“Mike Howard: Pivotal Moments in Alabama History” opens at Troy University’s International Arts Center on Tuesday.

And, it’s a “don’t miss” exhibit for those who appreciate art, those who are interested in Alabama history and even those who don’t and aren’t.

Howard’s exhibit depicts significant moment’s in Alabama history, marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Rosa Parks seated on a Montgomery city bus and the assassination of Alabama Attorney General Albert Patterson in Phenix City.

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The Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing and Rosa Parks taking a front seat on a city bus after a tiring day at work are familiar scenarios. But what about Albert Patterson? Who was he and what was his assassination all about?

Mike Howard’s exhibit is endorsed by the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and does what the commission envisions that other bicentennial events will do, encourage the interest of Alabamians in their state’s history.

Carrie Jaxon, curator for the IAC, said the Albert Patterson’s story is not one that is well-known or often told. Howard’s exhibit will help change that.

“Phenix City holds a history that many are unaware took place,” Jaxon said. “A neighbor to Columbus and Fort Benning, Phenix City served as a hub of gambling, prostitution and corrupt government officials during the 1950s. A reputation of being a ‘sin city’ called the attention of the soldiers of Fort Benning, leading to a number of beatings and deaths associated with drinking and muggings in the city.”

Jaxon said locals were also caught up in the web of gambling addiction and mafia activities that kept the city afloat.

“Secretary of War Henry Stimson, called Phenix City ‘the wickedest city in America,’” she said.

Despite the rampaging crime that infiltrated the streets of Phenix City and the compromised corrupt local government, state and federal officials took a hands-off approach, calling it a local matter.

“Albert Patterson was elected attorney general in 1954 on a platform of reforming the rife corruption in Phenix City, exposing the inner workings of the local mafia. Shortly after his election he was gunned down in his car after leaving his Phenix City office one evening,” Jaxon said. “A month after the assassination the governor of Alabama sent the National Guard in to enforce martial law, exposing all gambling joints and brothels, prosecuting around six hundred people in the process.”

Federal officials found more than two hundred skeletons of Phenix City mafia victims in the Chattahoochee river during the cleanup. Ultimately, Chief Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller was convicted in the murder of Albert Patterson.

John Patterson, Albert Patterson’s son, went on to serve as attorney general and later governor, beating George C. Wallace in his race.

Jaxon said Mike Howard tells the story of Phenix City and the murder of Albert Patterson on canvas and in dramatic fashion. His exhibit, “Pivotal Moments in Alabama History” is one not to be missed.