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About Tuscaloosa

Tuscaloosa is a city in west central Alabama in the southern United States. Located on the Black Warrior River, it is the seat of Tuscaloosa CountyGR6 and the fifth-largest city in Alabama with a population of 83,052 (2006 U.S. Census Bureau Estimate).[1] Tuscaloosa is named after the Choctaw chieftain Tuskalusa (which means Black Warrior in that language), who battled and was defeated by Hernando de Soto in 1540 in the Battle of Mauvila.

Skyline of Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Best known as the home of The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa is also the center of industry, commerce, healthcare, and education for the region commonly known as West Alabama. Tuscaloosa attracted international attention when Mercedes-Benz announced it would build its first automotive assembly plant in North America in Tuscaloosa County. Nevertheless, the University remains the dominant economic and cultural engine in the city.

History

The area at the fall line of what would be later known as the Black Warrior River had long been well known to the various Indian tribes whose shifting fortunes brought them to West Alabama. The river shoals at Tuscaloosa represented the southernmost site on the river which could be forded under most conditions. Inevitably, a network of Indian trails converged upon the place, the same network which, in the first years of the 19th Century began to lead a few intrepid white frontiersmen to the area.

The pace of white settlement increased greatly after the War of 1812, and a small assortment of log cabins soon arose near the large Creek village at the fall line of the river, which the settlers named in honor of the legendary Chief Tuskaloosa of the Choctaw tribe. In 1817, Alabama became a territory, and on December 13, 1819, the territorial legislature incorporated the town of Tuscaloosa, exactly one day before Congress admitted Alabama to the Union as a state.

From 1826 to 1846 Tuscaloosa was the capital of Alabama. During this period, in 1831, The University of Alabama was established. The town's population and economy grew rapidly until the departure of the capital to Montgomery caused a rapid decline in population. Establishment of the Bryce State Hospital for the Insane in Tuscaloosa in the 1850s helped restore the city's fortunes. During the Civil War following Alabama's secession from the Union, several thousand men from Tuscaloosa fought in the Confederate armies. During the last weeks of the War, a brigade of Union troops raiding the city burned the campus of The University of Alabama. Tuscaloosa, too, suffered much damage from the battle and shared fully in the South's economic sufferings which followed the defeat.

The construction of a system of locks and dams on the Black Warrior River by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1890s opened up an inexpensive link to the Gulf seaport of Mobile, stimulating especially the mining and metallurgical industries of the region. By the advent of the 20th Century, the growth of the University of Alabama and the mental health-care facilities in the city, along with strong national economy fueled a steady growth in Tuscaloosa which continued unabated for 100 years. Manufacturing plants of large firms such as Michelin and JVC located in town during the latter half of the 20th Century. However, it was the announcement of the addition of the Mercedes facility in 1993 that best personified the new era of economic prosperity for Tuscaloosa.

Demographics

As of the censusGR2 of 2000 there were 77,906 people, 31,381 households, and 16,945 families residing in the city. The population density was 534.8/km² (1,385.2/mi²). There were 34,857 housing units at an average density of 239.3/km² (619.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 54.09% White, 42.73% Black or African American, 0.16% Native American, 1.49% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.63% from other races, and 0.87% from two or more races. 1.40% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 31,381 households out of which 23.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.0% were married couples living together, 15.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 19.8% under the age of 18, 24.5% from 18 to 24, 25.4% from 25 to 44, 18.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,731, and the median income for a family was $41,753. Males had a median income of $31,614 versus $24,507 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,129. About 14.2% of families and 23.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.3% of those under age 18 and 13.4% of those age 65 or over.

Economy

The Black Warrior River is vital to Tuscaloosa's economic health.
The Black Warrior River is vital to Tuscaloosa's economic health.

Despite its image as a college town, Tuscaloosa boasts a diversified economy based on all sectors of manufacturing and service. 25% of the labor force in the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical area is employed by the federal, state, and local government agencies. 16.7% is employed in manufacturing; 16.4% in retail trade and transportation; 11.6% in finance, information, and private enterprise; 10.3% in mining and construction; and 9.2% in hospitality. Education and healthcare account for only 7.2% of the area workforce with the remainder employed in other services.[4]

The city's industrial base includes Elk Corporation of Alabama (Asphalt Shingles), Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa, BF Goodrich Tire Manufacturing (a division of Michelin), JVC America, Phifer Incorporated, and the Gulf States Paper Corporation. Another significant contributor to Tuscaloosa's economy is the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc., assembly plant located on a site in Tuscaloosa County located near Vance. The plant began assembling the Mercedes-Benz M-Class in 1997 and the R-Class Grand Sport Tourer in 2005 and just recently began production with the GL-Class. Plants that supply components to Mercedes-Benz also make their home in Tuscaloosa and add to the economic strength of the city.

Health-care and education serve as the cornerstone of Tuscaloosa's service sector, which includes the University of Alabama, DCH Regional Medical Center, Bryce State Mental Hospital, the William D. Partlow Developmental Center, and the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

The city is home to the region's two largest malls, University Mall and McFarland Mall, as a well as large array of retail outlets and a 16-screen movie theater.

Education

Denny Chimes on The University of Alabama campus
Denny Chimes on The University of Alabama campus

Education is a vital component of the city as Tuscaloosa is home to several colleges and schools. The University of Alabama is the dominant institution of higher learning. Enrolling approximately 24,000 students, UA has been a part of Tuscaloosa's identity since it opened its doors in 1831. Stillman College, which opened in 1875, is a historically Black liberal arts college which enrolls approximately 1,200 students.

Additionally, Shelton State Community College, one of the largest in Alabama, is located in the city. The school enrolls 8,000 students from all backgrounds and income levels. The majority of Shelton State students are "traditional" students. They are usually either first-time college students earning associate degrees for transfer to four-year institutions after graduation, or UA and Stillman students enrolled in entry-level classes that they cannot or do not want to take at their home institutions.

The Tuscaloosa City School System serves the city. It is overseen by the Board of Education, which is composed of eight members elected by district and a chairman is elected by a citywide vote. The Board appoints a Superintendent to manage the day-to-day operations of the system. Operating with a $100 million budget, the system enrolls approximately 10,300 students. The system consists of 19 schools: 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, 3 high schools; Paul Bryant High School, Central High School (Tuscaloosa, Alabama), and Northridge High School (Tuscaloosa, Alabama), and 2 specialty schools (the Tuscaloosa Center for Technology, a vocational school, and Oak Hill School for special needs students). In 2002, the system spent $6,313 per pupil, the 19th highest amount of the 120 school systems in the state.[5]

Since 1871 the Tuscaloosa County School System has served the county. There are 7 Education Members on the local board for Tuscaloosa County, elected by district and a Superintendent. As of the 2005-2006 school year 16,318 students were enrolled over 16 elementary schools, 7 middle schools, 5 high schools and the Tuscaloosa Regional Detention Center and Sprayberry Regional Eduational Center for gifted and special needs children. Currently four new schools are scheduled to open August 2008.

Culture

Tuscaloosa is home to a variety of cultural sites and events reflective of its historical and modern role in Alabama and the Southeast in general. Many of these cultural events are sponsored by The University of Alabama. Numerous performing arts groups and facilities, historical sites, and museums dedicated to subjects as varying as American art and collegiate football dot the city. The nightlife is one of the highlights of the city with popular venues such as The Houndstooth, Gallette's, 4th and 23rd, and Innisfree Irish Pub being classic staples of social life. During football season the area known as "the strip" pulsates with students, alumni, locals and visitors.

Eateries in Tuscaloosa range from the classy Cypress Inn to a wonderfully shabby steak house, Nick's in the Sticks. Downtown offers Italian cuisine at Cafe Venice or Depalma's; those seeking biscuits and grits can have their fill at the Waysider, a landmark filled with Crimson Tide paraphernalia, or across the river at Northport's City Cafe or Northport Diner. Slabs of ribs are available at various locations, including the Dreamland Drive-Inn Bar-B-Que. This world-famous icon has been featured in many magazines, newspapers and on ESPN. Their slogan proclaims, "There ain't nothing like 'em nowhere." There are numerous other less-famous BBQ locations — including Archibald's, Woodrow's, Bottomfeeders, Big Bad Wolves, and Foxfire.

The Tuscaloosa Public Library is a city/county agency with nearly 200,000 items on catalog. 46,857 registered patrons use the library on a regular basis — roughly 28 % of the population of the county. There are currently with three branches: the Main Branch on Jack Warner Parkway, the Weaver-Bolden Branch, and the Brown Branch in Taylorville.

Most of the museums in Tuscaloosa are found downtown or on the campus of the University. Downtown is the home of Children’s Hands-On Museum of Tuscaloosa and the Murphy African-American Museum. The Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Paul Bryant Museum are located on The University campus. The Westervelt-Warner Museum of American Art is located in northern Tuscaloosa at Jack Warner's NorthRiver Yacht Club. Moundville Archaeological Park and the Jones Archaeological Museum are located 15 miles south of Tuscaloosa in Moundville.

Performance arts groups in Tuscaloosa include:

The Bama Theatre was one of the last movie palaces built in the South. At the time of its construction in 1938, it was the only air-conditioned building in Tuscaloosa. The theater was renovated as a performing arts center in 1976 and housed the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra and Theatre Tuscaloosa troupe until those groups moved into their own facilities. Today, the Bama is home to the Tuscaloosa Children's Theatre Company in addition to showing foreign and independent films in its Cinema Nouveau series. It also hosts a Jewish Film Festival in the spring.

The Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra currently resides at the Moody Music Building on The University of Alabama campus while Theatre Tuscaloosa makes its home at the Bean-Brown Theater at Shelton State Community College.

The Tuscaloosa Winds is a community and campus concert band comprised of over 100 community members, university professors, university students, and other interested musicians. The band is sponsored by The University of Alabama and resides at the Moody Music Building.

Other performance facilities in Tuscaloosa include the Marian Gallaway Theatre (305-seat, proscenium theater), the Allen Bales Theatre (170-seat, studio theater), and Morgan Auditorium on the campus of The University of Alabama.

Points of interest

Notable residents

Research Interests protein-protein Interactions, DNA structure, protein-DNA interactions, UV resonance Raman spectroscopy. Higher Education: Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA: AB cum laude, 1983 University of California, Berkeley California, Ph D, 1990 Academic Appointments: AT&T Bell Laboratories, Senior Research Associate, 1983-1985. Wesleyan University, Assistant Professor, 1994-2001; Wesleyan University, Associate Professor, 2001-present. Awards and Recognitions: Princeton University, Postdoctoral Fellowship: 1991-1994 NIH Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 1991-1993 National Science Foundation Career Development Award (CAREER), 1995-2001 Donaghue Investigator Award, The Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation, 2001-present.

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