Confederate War Hero, Congressman, Statesman
John Hollis Bankhead, lifelong resident of Alabama, was born in 1842 on his father's farm near Moscow in that part of Marion County which is now Lamar County. The modern town of Sulligent was built upon part of the Bankhead farm. He became a farmer, a legislator, a hero in the Confederacy and a member of both the House and Senate of the United States.
Reared upon his father's plantation in pioneer country, he supplemented his meager formal education by avid reading and contact with the issues and the world. He enlisted in the Confederate Army at age 19. He served from the beginning to the end of the conflict, participating heroically in many battles. As Captain he led the 16th Alabama Regiment in a successful charge at Chickamauga, where he was wounded. In spite of one useless arm, he saved the life of John Custer. After the close of the war he married Tallulah Brockman of Wetumpka.
Captain Bankhead served in the Alabama legislature in both houses. In 1880 Governor Rufus Cobb offered him the wardenship of the State penitentiary. Under his regime as head of the prison system, he initiated many reforms, among which was the establishment of the Boys Industrial School. This was later developed at Roebuck Springs, under the leadership of club women.
From 1887 to 1907, Bankhead served in the US Congress and was active in the establishment of the Library of Congress. He was instrumental in the development of waterways including the deepening of Mobile Bay. Lake Bankhead was named for him.
In 1907 he was elected to fill the vacancy in the US Senate left by the death of Sen. John T. Morgan. He concentrated his efforts on establishing a national system of highways and despite opposition, was successful. In appreciation, the grateful public named the transcontinental highway from the "Zero Stone" in Washington, DC the "Bankhead Highway." Senator Bankhead continued to work on the highway system at the request of President Roosevelt.
A dramatic moment in the life of Senator Bankhead took place at the 1912 Democratic Convention in Baltimore. Bankhead's son, William B. Bankhead, then a member of Congress, stepped to the platform and presented his father's name as Alabama's nominee for presidency of the United States.
Senator Bankhead died in Washington, DC on March 1, 1920, and is buried in the family plot in Jasper, Alabama.
John Hollis Bankhead was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1990.