Pioneer, Planter, Statesman, Railroad Magnate
Through private enterprise, Walker Reynolds accomplished much for the State
of Alabama and its economy. Born in Warren County, Georgia in 1799, Reynolds
came to Alabama in 1832, purchasing land from the Creek Indians. With cotton
as his main product, he developed a 7,000 acre, self-sufficient plantation.
He became one of the wealthiest men in the State, using his wealth and influence
for the economic development of Alabama.
Walker Reynolds was among the original trustees of Howard College (Samford University) in 1841, a trustee of the Baptist Boy's School of Talladega, and was influential in the founding of Talladega College.
In 1832, Alabamians dreamed of a railroad connecting the State's two primary sources of water transportation, the Alabama and Tennessee Rivers. This south-north link would facilitate the transportation of cotton and other farm products to broader markets, while allowing access to rich Alabama mineral deposits, bringing much-needed revenue to the State. At the same time, Selma citizens planned a rail line from Selma to Gunter's Landing.
By 1849, Walker Reynolds, a successful planter and state legislator, was instrumental in passing an Act that rerouted the long-awaited Alabama and Tennessee Rivers Railroad through Talladega to Gunter's Landing. Reynolds was the railroad's chief financier, largest stock purchaser, and a leader in the actual construction of the railroad line.
During the Civil War, the ATRRR was the main conveyor of coal and iron for the Selma Arsenal and Navy Yard, and of troops and ammunition to the battlefields. During Reconstruction, the ATRRR was taken over by eastern capitalists and renamed the Selma Rome & Dalton Railroad. Eventually, the line reached Dalton, Georgia, thereby connecting Alabama to Washington and New Orleans and opening the State to wider opportunity.
Alabama's development would have been vastly different had there been no railroad at that time in history. The Selma Arsenal and Navy Yard, the Oxford Furnace, the Woodstock Iron Company, and the City of Anniston- all important sources of Alabama's economic development - developed because of that railroad.
Ethel Armes states in The Study of Coal and Iron in Alabama, "All the evidence goes to show that, whatever was done in the way of securing transportation facilities in early Alabama, was accomplished by the efforts of a few individuals at great personal sacrifice." Walker Reynolds was one of those individuals.
Walker Reynolds was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1992.