Bessemer, Alabama

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Location in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama
Location in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama
Coordinates: 33°23′28″N 86°57′23″W / 33.39111°N 86.95639°W / 33.39111; -86.95639
Country United States
State Alabama
County Jefferson
 • Total 40.8 sq mi (105.6 km2)
 • Land 40.7 sq mi (105.4 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.2 km2)
Elevation 509 ft (155 m)
Population (2013)[1]
 • Total 27,053
 • Density 727.3/sq mi (281/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 35020-35023
Area code(s) 205
FIPS code 01-05980
GNIS feature ID 0113977

Bessemer is a city southwest of Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama, United States eight miles (13 km) west of Hoover. The population was 27,456 at the 2010 Census.[2]


The town was founded in the postbellum era by the Bessemer Land and Improvement Company, owned by coal magnate Henry F. DeBardeleben, after he had inherited Daniel Pratt's investments.[3]


Bessemer is located at 33°23′29″N 86°57′24″W / 33.39139°N 86.95667°W / 33.39139; -86.95667 (33.391343, -86.956569),[4] about 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Birmingham, a little north of the center of the state.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 40.8 square miles (106 km2), of which 40.7 square miles (105 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.17%) is water.

Bessemer is situated in the midst of the iron ore and limestone district of Alabama, in the southern part of Jones Valley (about 3 miles (4.8 km) wide).[5] Iron ore was mined on the hills on the city's southeast side, coal was (and still is) mined to the north and west, and limestone deposits were also nearby. All three ingredients were necessary for steelmaking, which led to the area becoming a major steel center from about 1890 through the twentieth century. Steel is no longer made within the city limits, but is still manufactured in the neighboring city of Fairfield.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Bessemer has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. [6]

Climate data for Bessemer, Alabama
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 13
Average low °C (°F) −1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 142
Source: Weatherbase [7]


Bessemer uses the mayorcity council form of government. The council has seven members, elected from single-member districts. As of 2013 Kenneth Gulley is mayor, a position elected at-large.[8] A satellite Jefferson County courthouse is located in downtown Bessemer. This practice hails from the special county government district known as the "Bessemer Cutoff", established in the middle of the 20th century when Bessemer was a major city in its own right and there were thoughts to divide this part of the county to set up a separate county government. The "Cutoff" had a separate series of Alabama license plates, with a different numeric prefix than the rest of the county. Bessemer's status in that respect has largely been supplanted by other Birmingham suburbs such as Hoover, but Bessemer retains its own branch courthouse to this day. The term "Bessemer Cutoff" remains in everyday usage by area residents.

The United States Postal Service operates the Bessemer Post Office.[9]

The state Alabama Department of Corrections operates the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, a prison for men, in unincorporated Jefferson County, Alabama, near Bessemer. The prison includes one of the two Alabama death rows for men.[10]


In 1900 Bessemer ranked eighth in population in the state, second in amount of capital invested in manufacturing, and fourth in the value of its manufactured product for the year. By 1911 ore mining, iron smelting and the manufacture of iron and coke were the chief industries of Bessemer; truck farming was also an important industry. Both blacks and whites from rural areas were attracted to the city for its work opportunities. Gradually African Americans moved into industrial jobs and were part of integrated unions; such jobs enabled working-class families to enjoy middle-class incomes.

Today, ore mining has ended as supplies were exhausted. Manufacturing remains a factor, with the U.S. Pipe and Foundry ductile pipe plant on the city's north side. On May 9, 2007, U.S. Pipe announced that it would be building a new $45-million foundry near the current plant. The site was selected, among other reasons, for the space which would be available for potential future expansions. U.S. Pipe is the largest domestic producer of Ductile Iron pipe in sizes 4 inch through 64 inch.

The city was once home to a large railroad car manufacturing factory operated by Pullman Standard for many decades and later Trinity Industries. With railroad restructuring and other manufacturing moving offshore, this plant ceased most production in the 1990s. Other industries have relocated to this facility.

The decline of mining and exodus of the steelmaking and railcar manufacturing industries resulted in the city facing an economic crisis in the early to mid-1980s; the percentage of unemployed workers reached into the mid 30s. Since that time the city, through the efforts of the Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bessemer Industrial Development Board, has been successful in diversifying its economy and is recognized for its business growth.


As with most cities and counties in Alabama, the tax structure (lack of state income tax) has made Bessemer to be heavily dependent on sales taxes from retail stores. This is generally considered a regressive tax. In recent years, the city has benefited from new retail developments in the area of the Academy Drive interchange with I-20/I-59, as well as Watermark Place, an outlet mall near Alabama Adventure. In 2008, Colonial Promenade Tannehill, a new mixed-used retail development, opened at the Exit 1 interchange with Interstate 459. Notable tenants include a Publix supermarket, Target, Hibbett Sporting Goods, JC Penney, Bama Fever, and a 14-screen movie theatre.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 4,544
1900 6,358 39.9%
1910 10,864 70.9%
1920 18,674 71.9%
1930 20,721 11.0%
1940 22,826 10.2%
1950 28,445 24.6%
1960 32,681 14.9%
1970 33,428 2.3%
1980 31,729 −5.1%
1990 33,497 5.6%
2000 29,672 −11.4%
2010 27,456 −7.5%
Est. 2014 26,949 −1.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
2013 Estimate[12]

As of the 2013 American Community Survey, there were 27,336 people residing in the city. 72.0% were African American, 24.0% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.2% Asian, 0.1% from some other race and 0.4% from two or more races. 3.2% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the census of 2000, there were 29,672 people, 11,537 households, and 7,868 families residing in the city. The population density was 729.0 people per square mile (281.5/km2). There were 12,790 housing units at an average density of 314.2 per square mile (121.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 69.55% Black or African American, 28.93% White, 0.28% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.30% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 1.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,537 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.6% were married couples living together, 29.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.8% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.12.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.8% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 26.1% from 25 to 44, 21.1% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 82.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,066, and the median income for a family was $28,230. Males had a median income of $29,413 versus $21,552 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,232. About 24.2% of families and 27.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.8% of those under age 18 and 24.7% of those age 65 or over.

  • White 6,669
  • Black 19,546
  • Hispanic 1,113
  • Non-Hispanic 26,136
  • White Non-Hispanic 6,482
  • American Indian and Alaska Native 88
  • Asian 53
  • Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0
  • Other 858
  • Two or More Races 242
  • [13]


In 1911, the town was served by five railroad lines: Alabama Great Southern (Queen & Crescent route), the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, the Kansas City, Memphis & Birmingham (St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad system), the Birmingham Southern Railroad, and the Atlanta, Birmingham & Atlantic railways. By 2006, these companies had consolidated to CSX Transportation, which has lines to Birmingham and Brookwood; and the Norfolk Southern Railway, with lines to Birmingham, Mobile and New Orleans; Birmingham Southern continues in service. A major railroad feature is the "High Line", constructed by Tennessee Coal & Iron (predecessor to U.S. Steel) to ship iron ore from the mines on the city's south side to the steel works in nearby Fairfield. This elevated line traverses the eastern side of the city. Though tracks were removed over much of the High Line when the mines closed, part of the line is still used by the Birmingham Southern, and all of the roadbed and bridges remain in place.

Bessemer is served by the small Bessemer Airport to the southeast of the city. Commercial service to/from the city is served by the much larger Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport located 5 miles (8.0 km) from downtown Birmingham.

Major highways in Bessemer include I-20/59, I-459, U.S. Route 11, and State Route 150, which connects Bessemer with Hoover.


Bessemer operates its own school system independent of Jefferson County schools. The system includes:

  • Hard Elementary located on Arlington Avenue. Principal:Barbara Mccoy
  • Jonesboro Elementary located on Owen Avenue. Principal: undecided
  • Greenwood Elementary located on Roselyn Road. Principal: Deborah Billups.
  • Abrams Elementary located on 23rd Street. Principal: Brenda Rumley.
  • Westhills Elementary located on Glenn Road. Principal: Mildred Posey.
  • Davis Middle located on Clarendon Avenue. Principal: Albert Soles.
  • Bessemer City High School (formally Jess Lanier) located on Premiere Parkway. Principal: Jerome Cook.

The Board of Education also operates the Quitman Mitchell Opportunity Center, located diagonally across from the Board on 5th Avenue and 17th Street, which includes an adult learning center, Even Start child care center, and New Horizon Alternative School.

There are also three K–12 private schools in the city: Bessemer Academy, Rock Christian School, and Flint Hill Christian School.

Lawson State Community College operates the former Bessemer Technical College campus in the Academy Drive area; the two schools merged in 2005 as a cost-saving measure.


The performance center Bessemer Civic Center provides multiple performance spaces for music and theatre.


Bessemer is served by one weekly newspaper, The Western Star, which is owned by Bob Tribble as part of his newspaper corporation based in Manchester, Ga. Coverage in this paper is not limited to the city, but instead covers all of the Bessemer Cutoff, including Bessemer, Hueytown, McCalla, Midfield, Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, Pleasant Grove and the large sections of western Jefferson County that remain unincorporated. In 2008, The Western Star celebrated its 25th year of covering community news in the Bessemer Cutoff.

Newspaper coverage is provided by The Birmingham News, which is published three days per week and also publishes a weekly section devoted to news from Bessemer and surrounding communities.

One radio station, WZGX (1450 AM), operates within the city; it broadcasts some Spanish language programming and music to appeal to the growing Mexican-American population of Jefferson County. It also continues a tradition of broadcasting high school football games on Friday nights (in English). All of metro Birmingham's stations are heard in Bessemer, as well as several stations broadcasting from Tuscaloosa.

Television station WDBB (channel 17) is licensed to Bessemer, but it broadcasts from studios in Birmingham, simulcasting with WTTO (channel 21). All of Birmingham's television stations are viewed in Bessemer, and some have established news bureaus there.

Points of interest[edit]

  • Bessemer is home to a water park, Splash Adventure. The park was originally built as Visionland, and operated by a consortium of Jefferson County cities and the county itself. After a series of financial difficulties and finally Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the park was sold in 2002 to Southland Entertainment Group. The park faced more financial problems, and in 2008, the park was sold again, this time to Adrenaline Family Entertainment, an Oklahoma-based theme park company, and then subsequently to General Attractions LLC. The park was purchased in March 2014 by the Koch Family Parks, LLC. The park was previously known as Alabama Adventure.

Notable people[edit]

Notable animals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". 2013 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. June 4, 2014. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Alabama Men's Hall of Fame: Henry Fairchild DeBardeleben, Samford University
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  5. ^  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bessemer". Encyclopædia Britannica 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 823. 
  6. ^ Climate Summary for Bessemer, Alabama
  7. ^ "". Weatherbase. 2013.  Retrieved on November 3, 2013.
  8. ^ "Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley talks about the state of his city", Jesse Chambers,, February 08, 2013 at 5:58 PM, updated February 15, 2013 at 11:35 AM
  9. ^ "Post Office Location - BESSEMER." United States Postal Service. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
  10. ^ "Donaldson Correctional Facility." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
  11. ^ United States Census Bureau. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013". Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Neil Bonnett". Racing Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "McKinley Boykin". Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Alex Bradford". Rovi Corp. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  17. ^ "Mildred Brown". M.D.B.M. Study Cente. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  18. ^ "Thornton Dial". Public Radio International. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  19. ^ "Nelsan Ellis". A+E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  20. ^ Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) [1969]. The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8. 
  21. ^ "Bo Jackson". Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "David McCampbell". Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  24. ^ "Deborah E. McDowell". University of Virginia. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  25. ^ "Elijah Nevett". Pro-Football Reference. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Kerry Rhodes". Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  27. ^ "DeMeco Ryans". Philadelphia Eagles. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "Olanda Truitt". NFL Enterprises LLC. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  29. ^ "Jack Whitten". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Andre Williams". Michigan Rock and Roll Legends. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  31. ^ "Rod Windsor". Cleveland Browns. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°23′29″N 86°57′24″W / 33.391343°N 86.956569°W / 33.391343; -86.956569