Bessemer is an American city and southwest suburb of Birmingham located in southwestern Jefferson County, Alabama. As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 29,672. According to the 2005 U.S. Census estimates, the city had a population of 28,641.
Bessemer was surveyed in 1887, and was incorporated in 1889. Its rapid growth in its early days led to the nickname of "The Marvel City," a moniker which still finds occasional use today.
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.
Today, ore mining has ended as supplies exhausted. Manufacturing remains a factor with the Mueller Water Products U.S. Pipe division 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.
The city was also once home to a large railroad car manufacturing factory operated by Pullman Standard for many decades and later Trinity Industries, but the plant ceased most production in the 1990s, though other industries have relocated to this facility. With the exhaustion of the mines and the exodus of the steelmaking and railcar manufacturing industry, the city faced an economic crisis in the early to mid 1980s with percentage of un-employed workers reaching into the mid 30s. Since that time the city has been successful in diversifying it's economy and is recognized for its business growth.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 29,672 people, 11,537 households, and 7,868 families residing in the city. The population density was 281.5/km² (729.0/mi²). There were 12,790 housing units at an average density of 121.3/km² (314.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 28.93% White, 69.55% Black or African American, 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.
Bessemer operates its own school system independent of Jefferson County schools. The system includes:
The Board of Education also operates the Quitman Mitchell Opportunity Center, located catty-cornered 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.
Bessemer is served by one weekly newspaper, "The Western Star, which is run by editor/publisher and long-time local resident Dale Jones and covers all of the Bessemer Cutoff, including Bessemer, Hueytown, McCalla, Midfield, Fairfield, Brighton, Lipscomb, and the large sections of western Jefferson County that remain unincorporated.
Daily newspaper coverage of the area comes from The Birmingham News, which also publishes a weekly section devoted to news from Bessemer and surrounding communities; the News also maintains a news bureau in downtown Bessemer.
One radio station, WZGX (1450 AM), operates within the city; it broadcasts Spanish language programming and music aimed at the growing Mexican population of Jefferson County, but continues a tradition established by previous owners of broadcasting high school football games on Friday nights (in English). All of metro Birmingham's stations are heard in Bessemer.
Television station WDBB (channel 17) is licensed to Bessemer, but it actually 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.