Best known as the home of The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa is also the center of industry, commerce, healthcare, and education for the region commonly known as West Alabama. Tuscaloosa attracted international attention when Mercedes-Benz announced it would build its first automotive assembly plant in North America in Tuscaloosa County. Nevertheless, the University remains the dominant economic and cultural engine in the city.
From 1826 to 1846 Tuscaloosa was the capital of Alabama. During this period, in 1831, The University of Alabama was established. The town's population and economy grew rapidly until the departure of the capital to Montgomery caused a rapid decline in population. Establishment of the Bryce State Hospital for the Insane in Tuscaloosa in the 1850s helped restore the city's fortunes. During the Civil War following Alabama's secession from the Union, several thousand men from Tuscaloosa fought in the Confederate armies. During the last weeks of the War, a brigade of Union troops raiding the city burned the campus of The University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, too, suffered much damage from the battle and shared fully in the South's economic sufferings which followed the defeat. The construction of a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890s opened up an inexpensive link to the Gulf seaport of Mobile, stimulating especially the mining and metallurgical industries of the region. By the advent of the 20th Century, the growth of the University of Alabama and the mental health-care facilities in the city, along with strong national economy fueled a steady growth in Tuscaloosa which continued unabated for 100 years. Manufacturing plants of large firms such as Michelin and JVC located in town during the latter half of the 20th Century. However, it was the announcement of the addition of the Mercedes facility in 1993 that best personified the new era of economic prosperity for Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa is known as the Druid City because of its abundance of old oaks and hardwoods. This nickname was given during Civil War times.
Tuscaloosa is located at (33.206540, -87.534607).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Tuscaloosa has a total area of 66.7 square miles (172.8 km²), of which, 56.2 square miles (145.7 km²) of it is land and 10.5 square miles (27.1 km²) of it (15.68%) is water. Most of water within the city limits is in Lake Tuscaloosa, which is entirely in the city limits, and the Black Warrior River.
Tuscaloosa is situated on the Black Warrior River approximately 60 miles southwest of Birmingham. The city occupies a unique location of fall line of the Black Warrior River on the boundary between the Appalachian Highland and the Gulf Coastal Plain approximately 311 km (120 mi.) upriver from the river's confluence with the Tombigbee River in Demopolis. Consequently, the geography of the area around Tuscaloosa is quite diverse, being hilly and forested to the northeast and low-lying and marshy to the southwest.
The area experiences a typical Southern subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. The Gulf of Mexico heavily influences the climate by supplying the region with warm, moist air. During the fall, winter, and spring seasons, the interaction of this warm, moist air with cooler, drier air from the North along fronts create precipitation. These fronts usually move from west to east as they track along the jet stream. Notable exceptions occur during hurricane season where storms may move from due south to due north or even from east to west during land-falling hurricanes. The interaction between low- and high-pressure air masses is most pronounced during the severe weather seasons in the spring and fall. During the summer, the jet streams flows well to the north of the southeastern U.S., and most precipitation is consequently convectional, that is, caused by the warm surface heating the air above. Severe thunderstorms can bring damaging winds, large hail and occasionally tornadoes. A violent F4 tornado struck Tuscaloosa County in December 2000, killing eleven people. Tuscaloosa City was struck by an F2 Tornado in January 1997 which resulted in the death of one person.
| Average high|
| Average low|
|Average rainfall: inches/mm|| 5 /|
| 50.3 /|
Winter lasts from mid-December to late-February; temperatures range from the mid-20s to the mid-50s. On average, the low temperature falls at freezing or below about 50 days a year. While rain is abundant (an average 5.09 in. per month from Dec.-Feb.), measurable snowfall is rare; the average annual snowfall is about 0.6 inches. Spring usually lasts from late-February to mid-May; temperatures range from the mid-50s to the low-80s and monthly rainfall amounts average about 5.05 in. (128 mm) per month. Summers last from mid-May to mid-September; temperatures range from the upper-60s to the mid-90s, with temperatures above 100°F (37.8°C) not uncommon, and average rainfall dip slightly to 3.97 in. (101 mm) per month. Autumn, which spans from mid-September to early-December, tends to be similar to Spring terms of temperature and precipitation.
The highest temperature to have been recorded at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport was 107.0°F (41.7°C) on July 29, 1952 & August 10, 2007, while the lowest recorded temperature was -1.0°F (-18.3°C) on January 21, 1985.
There were 31,381 households out of which 23.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.0% were married couples living together, 15.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.93. In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 24.5% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.9 males. The median income for a household in the city was $27,731, and the median income for a family was $41,753. Males had a median income of $31,614 versus $24,507 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,129. About 14.2% of families and 23.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.3% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.
The mayor administers the day-to-day operations of the city, including overseeing the various city departments, over whom he has hiring and firing power. The mayor also acts as ambassador of the city. The mayor sits in city council meetings and has a tie-breaking vote. The current Mayor of Tuscaloosa is Walter Maddox, who was elected to office in September 2005. Prior to Maddox, Alvin A. DuPont had served as mayor for 24 years.
The city council is a legislative body that considers policy and passes law. The council also passes the budget for mayoral approval. Any resolution passed by the council is binding law. The majority of work in the council is done by committee, a usually consisting of a chairman, two other council members, and relevant non-voting city employees.
|1||Bobby E. Howard||2005|
|3||Cynthia Lee Almond||2005|
|7||William Tinker, III||2005|
Tuscaloosa, as the largest county seat in western Alabama, serves a hub of state and federal government agencies. In addition to the customary offices associated with the county courthouse, namely two District Court Judges, six Circuit Court Judges, the District Attorney and the Public Defender, several Alabama state government agencies have regional offices in Tuscaloosa, such as the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Alabama State Troopers (the state police). Also, several federal agencies operate bureaus out of the Federal Courthouse in Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa is located partially in both the 6th and 7th Congressional Districts, which are represented by Spencer Bachus (R) and Artur Davis (D), respectively. In addition, Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby (R), is a resident of Tuscaloosa.
On the state level, the city is split among the 5th, 21st, and 24th Senate districts and 62nd, 63rd, and 70th House districts in the Alabama State Legislature.
Despite its image as a college town, Tuscaloosa boasts a diversified economy based on all sectors of manufacturing and service. 25% of the labor force in the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area is employed by the federal, state, and local government agencies. 16.7% is employed in manufacturing; 16.4% in retail trade and transportation; 11.6% in finance, information, and private enterprise; 10.3% in mining and construction; and 9.2% in hospitality. Education and healthcare account for only 7.2% of the area workforce with the remainder employed in other services.
The city's industrial base includes Elk Corporation of Alabama (Asphalt Shingles), Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, BF Goodrich Tire Manufacturing (a division of Michelin), JVC America, Phifer Incorporated, and the Gulf States Paper Corporation. Another significant contributor to Tuscaloosa's economy is the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., assembly plant located on a site in Tuscaloosa County located near Vance. The plant began assembling the Mercedes-Benz M-Class in 1997 and the R-Class Grand Sport Tourer in 2005 and just recently began production with the GL-Class. Plants that supply components to Mercedes-Benz also make their home in Tuscaloosa and add to the economic strength of the city. Health-care and education serve as the cornerstone of Tuscaloosa's service sector, which includes the University of Alabama, DCH Regional Medical Center, Bryce State Mental Hospital, the William D. Partlow Developmental Center, and the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.
The city is home to the region's two largest malls, University Mall and McFarland Mall, as a well as large array of retail outlets and a 16-screen movie theater.
Education is a vital component of the city as Tuscaloosa is home to several colleges and schools. The University of Alabama is the dominant institution of higher learning. Enrolling approximately 27,000 students, UA has been a part of Tuscaloosa's identity since it opened its doors in 1831. Stillman College, which opened in 1875, is a historically Black liberal arts college which enrolls approximately 1,200 students.
Additionally, Shelton State Community College, one of the largest in Alabama, is located in the city. The school enrolls 8,000 students from all backgrounds and income levels. The majority of Shelton State students are "traditional" students. They are usually either first-time college students earning associate degrees for transfer to four-year institutions after graduation, or UA and Stillman students enrolled in entry-level classes that they cannot or do not want to take at their home institutions.
The Tuscaloosa City School System serves the city. It is overseen by the Board of Education, which is composed of eight members elected by district and a chairman is elected by a citywide vote. The Board appoints a Superintendent to manage the day-to-day operations of the system. Operating with a $100 million budget, the system enrolls approximately 10,300 students. The system consists of 19 schools: 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 3 high schools; Paul W. Bryant High School, Central High School (Tuscaloosa, Alabama), and Northridge High School (Tuscaloosa, Alabama), and 2 specialty schools (the Tuscaloosa Center for Technology, a vocational school, and Oak Hill School for special needs students). In 2002, the system spent $6,313 per pupil, the 19th highest amount of the 120 school systems in the state.
Tuscaloosa is also served by three main private schools in the area: Tuscaloosa Academy, American Christian Academy, and Holy Spirit Catholic High School. There are also a few smaller private schools serving special church groups or special types of students: Open Door Christian School, The Capitol School, and Tuscaloosa Christian.
Eateries in Tuscaloosa range from the classy Cypress Inn to a wonderfully shabby steak house, Nick's in the Sticks. Downtown offers Italian cuisine at Cafe Venice or Depalma's; those seeking biscuits and grits can have their fill at the Waysider, a landmark filled with Crimson Tide paraphernalia, or across the river at Northport's City Cafe or Northport Diner. Slabs of ribs are available at various locations, including the Dreamland Drive-Inn Bar-B-Que. This world-famous icon has been featured in many magazines, newspapers and on ESPN. Their slogan proclaims, "There ain't nothing like 'em nowhere." There are numerous other less-famous BBQ locations — including Archibald's, Woodrow's, Bottomfeeders, Big Bad Wolves, and Foxfire.
The Tuscaloosa Public Library is a city/county agency with nearly 200,000 items on catalog. 46,857 registered patrons use the library on a regular basis — roughly 28 % of the population of the county. There are currently with three branches: the Main Branch on Jack Warner Parkway, the Weaver-Bolden Branch, and the Brown Branch in Taylorville.
Most of the museums in Tuscaloosa are found downtown or on the campus of the University. Downtown is the home of Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa and the Murphy African-American Museum. The Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Paul Bryant Museum are located on The University campus. The Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art is located in northern Tuscaloosa at Jack Warner's NorthRiver Yacht Club. Moundville Archaeological Park and the Jones Archaeological Museum are located 15 miles south of Tuscaloosa in Moundville.
Performance arts groups in Tuscaloosa include:
The Bama Theatre was one of the last movie palaces built in the South. At the time of its construction in 1938, it was the only air-conditioned building in Tuscaloosa. The theater was renovated as a performing arts center in 1976 and housed the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and Theatre Tuscaloosa troupe until those groups moved into their own facilities. Today, the Bama is home to the Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre Company in addition to showing foreign and independent films in its Cinema Nouveau series. It also hosts a Jewish Film Festival in the spring.
The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra currently resides at the Moody Music Building on The University of Alabama campus while Theatre Tuscaloosa makes its home at the Bean-Brown Theater at Shelton State Community College.
The Tuscaloosa Winds is a community and campus concert band composed of over 100 community members, university professors, university students, and other interested musicians. The band is sponsored by The University of Alabama and resides at the Moody Music Building.
Other performance facilities in Tuscaloosa include the Marian Gallaway Theatre (305-seat, proscenium theater), the Allen Bales Theatre (170-seat, studio theater), and Morgan Auditorium on the campus of The University of Alabama.
On the first Thursday of each month, the Tuscaloosa art galleries open their doors for "Art and Soul" — highlighting local artists. There is a shuttle service that runs between this event and Northport's "Art Night."
The University of Alabama also currently fields championship–caliber teams in men's baseball, men's and women's basketball, women's gymnastics, and women's softball. These teams play in athletics facilities on the University campus, including Bryant-Denny Stadium (capacity of 92,000+), Coleman Coliseum (formerly Memorial Coliseum), Sewell-Thomas Baseball Stadium, Alabama Softball Complex, and the Ol' Colony Golf Complex.
Stillman College fields teams in football, basketball, and other sports. In the past decade, Stillman has gone through a renaissance of renovations, including a new football stadium.
Shelton State fields men's and women's basketball, baseball, and softball teams, each with on-campus facilities.
Tuscaloosa is the 234th largest radio market in the nation. In January 2007, of the top-ten-rated radio stations, two were urban, three were country, two were contemporary, and one each was gospel, oldies, and talk radio.
Tuscaloosa serves as home base to Alabama Public Radio, the state's largest public radio network. APR's main studios are housed at the University of Alabama, and the flagship signal, WUAL-FM, originates from a transmitter south of town. WUAL serves Tuscaloosa, portions of the Birmingham metro area and several counties of west-central Alabama.
The Tuscaloosa News is the major daily newspaper serving the city. The Tuscaloosa News also publishes Tuscaloosa Magazine. Its offices are located west of downtown on a bluff overlooking the Black Warrior River. The Planet Weekly is an alternative weekly newspapers while The Crimson White is the independent, student-run newspaper of the University of Alabama. Several other smaller magazines and newsletters are published and distributed locally, such as Destination Tuscaloosa magazine.
DCH Regional Medical Center is the main medical facility in Tuscaloosa. Operated by the publicly-controlled DCH Healthcare Authority, the 610-bed hospital opened in 1916 as the Druid City Infirmary. The emergency department at DCH operates a trauma center (it is not certified as an official trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, however) that serves all of west central Alabama and is one of the busiest in the state. The DCH Healthcare authority also operates Northport Medical Center in neighboring Northport.
Tuscaloosa is connected to other parts of the country and the world via air, rail, road and sea. The city lies at the intersection of several highway-grade roadways, including three federal highways (US 11, US 43, and US 82), three Alabama state highways (AL 69, AL 215, and AL 216) and two duplexed (conjoined) Interstates (I-20 and I-59). Interstate 359 spurs off from I-20/I-59 and heads northward, ending just shy of the Black Warrior River in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa is served by the Tuscaloosa Transit Authority which operates the Tuscaloosa Trolley System. The Tuscaloosa Trolley provides transportation with four fixed routes that operate Monday through Friday from 5:00AM to 6:00PM. The trolley's paint job is an illusion; it is a El Dorado Transmark RE bus, painted to look like a trolley.
The Tuscaloosa Regional Airport, on the north side of the Black Warrior River west of downtown Northport, is equipped with two lighted runways (6499' and 4001') and provides full facilities for the general aviation which the airport mainly serves. The airport also supports private jetcraft, but passengers of commercial aircraft from Tuscaloosa embark at either the Birmingham International Airport, located 53 miles away on the east side of downtown Birmingham, or the much larger Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, located 210 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia.
Amtrak's Crescent line connects Tuscaloosa by rail to major cities along the east coast from New York to New Orleans. The Amtrak station is situated at 2105 Greensboro Avenue, one mile south of downtown. Norfolk Southern provide freight service to the area. Kansas City Southern sold this line to Watco in July 2005 but still operates freight trains in the area along with the Alabama Southern Railway.
Barge traffic routinely transports goods along the Black Warrior River from Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to the Alabama State Docks at Mobile, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Via the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the city is connected to the Ohio River valley.
A song inspired by the city called "Flaggin' the Train to Tuscaloosa", written by Mack David and composed by Raymond Scott, is featured in the soundtrack of Alfred Hitchcock's film The Trouble with Harry.
Townes Van Zandt mentions Tuscaloosa in his song, "Waitin' Around to Die".
An off-Broadway musical revue titled, Tuscaloosa's Calling Me... But I'm Not Going, premiered 1 December 1975 and ran for 452 performances.
Tuscaloosa is also referenced in the film "Sweet Home Alabama."
Arts and Culture|
|Food and Dining|