January 6, 1899
The Alabama History Commission was founded with Thomas M. Owen as the chairman. In a show of Southern patriotism and pride for state’s past, the Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill 49-1 immediately before unveiling the Confederate Monument at the State Capitol. As chairman of the commission, Owen prepared a 447-page report on the condition of historical materials in the state that recommended the creation of an independent, state-supported agency to officially house the state’s historical records. Owen later drafted the bill to create the Alabama Department of Archives and History, which passed the Legislature nearly unanimously in 1901, and served as the agency’s first director until his death in 1920.
Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.
Thomas M. Owen (1866-1920) was a lawyer who began collecting the history of Alabama as a young man. He revived the Alabama Historical Society in 1898, and in 1901 founded the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Owen was a charter member of the Alabama Library Association and served as its first president. He wrote the first comprehensive history of Alabama, the four-volume History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History)
Thomas M. Owen in the basement of the Alabama capitol in Montgomery, ca. 1910. The Alabama Department of Archives and History, which Owen founded, was housed in the cloak room from 1901 until 1903, when it was moved to a new wing of the capitol building. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History)
The research room of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery was completed in 2005. Contents include state and local government records, Alabama newspapers, census materials, and military records. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, photo courtesy of Ann Webb)
For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.