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Old Marion City Hall, built in 1832.  It now houses the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.
Old Marion City Hall, built in 1832. It now houses the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.
Location of Marion
Coordinates: 32°37′58″N 87°19′2″W / 32.63278°N 87.31722°W / 32.63278; -87.31722
Country United States
State Alabama
County Perry
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Total 10.7 sq mi (27.7 km2)
 • Land 10.6 sq mi (27.4 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
374 ft (114 m)
 • Total 3,686
 • Density 328.1/sq mi (126.8/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 334
FIPS code 01-46768
GNIS feature ID 0160038

Marion is a city in, and the county seat of, Perry County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 3,686, up 4.8% over 2000. First known as Muckle Ridge, the city was renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Francis Marion.

Marion is the 152th most populous city in the state of Alabama, of 573 cities.


Early history

Formerly the territory of the Creek Indians, it was founded shortly after 1819 as Muckle Ridge. The city was renamed in honor of Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," hero of the American Revolutionary War, in 1822. It incorporated as a town the same year and also became the second county seat after the hamlet of Perry Ridge was unsuitable. In 1829, it upgraded from a town to a city. From the very early days, Marion created considerable history for a small town on the western frontier of Alabama. The old City Hall (1832) is but one of many antebellum public buildings, churches, and homes in the city today.

General Sam Houston, while between terms as 1st and 3rd President of the Republic of Texas, married Margaret Lea of Marion in the city in 1840.

At the 1844 meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in Marion, the "Alabama Resolutions" were passed. This was one of the factors that led to the 1845 formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, Georgia.

Founding of colleges

Judson College was founded in 1838 and Marion Military Institute after Howard College moved in 1887. Howard College, initially the location of the current Marion Military Institute, was founded in Marion in 1842, and moved to Birmingham in 1887, later becoming Samford University. A groundbreaking school for African Americans, the Lincoln Normal School, was founded here in 1867. The associated Lincoln Normal University for Teachers moved to Montgomery and became Alabama State University. In 1889, Marion Military Institute was chartered by the State of Alabama and today is the oldest military junior college in the nation.

Pre-Civil War

In December 1857, Andrew Barry Moore (1807-1873) of Marion was elected the sixteenth Governor of Alabama (1857-1861). After serving one term where he presided over Alabama's secession from the Union, he assisted in the war effort, was imprisoned a short time after the war and in ill health returned to Marion where he died eight years later. George Doherty Johnson (May 30, 1832 – December 8, 1910) served as mayor of Marion in 1856, state legislator from 1857-58 and rose to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate States Army in the American Civil War.

Civil War era

Leading up to the Civil War Nicola Marschall (1829-1917), a German-American artist, is generally credited with designing both the first official Confederate flag and the grey Confederate army uniform while a teacher at the old Marion Female Seminary. With the coming Civil War in 1861, Nicola Marschall was approached in February by Mary Clay Lockett, wife of prominent attorney Napoleon Lockett of Marion, and her daughter, Fannie Lockett Moore, daughter-in-law of Alabama Governor Andrew B. Moore of Marion, to design a flag for the new Confederacy. Marschall offered three designs, one of which became the “Stars and Bars,” the first official flag of the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.), and which was first raised in Montgomery, Alabama, on March 4, 1861.

Early 20th century

At the turn of the century in 1900, Perry County peaked in population at 31,783 or three times the population of the county in 2010 census. In 1909, Marion became the county seat.

Hal Kemp, a jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, bandleader, composer, and arranger. was born in Marion in 1904 and died in Madera, California, following an auto accident in 1940. His major recordings were "There's a Small Hotel", "Where or When", "This Year's Kisses", "When I'm With You", "Got a Date With an Angel" and "Three Little Fishies". His band was very popular from 1934 until 1939. In 1936, he was number one for two weeks with "There's a Small Hotel" and two weeks with "When I'm With You". In 1937, his number one hits were "This Year's Kisses", which was number one for four weeks, and "Where or When", which was number one for one week. In 1992, Hal Kemp was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Coretta Scott King, wife of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Marion in 1927 and spent her childhood there. She graduating from Lincoln Normal School as valedictorian in 1945. The couple was married on the front lawn of her mother's home north of Marion in 1953.

Civil Rights era

A number of significant events occurred in Marion relating to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1958 Jimmy Wilson, a black man, was sentenced to death by a jury in Marion for stealing $1.95 from Estelle Barker. Wilson's case became an international cause célèbre, covered in newspapers worldwide and inspiring over 1000 letters per day to the office of governor Jim Folsom. Finally, after the Alabama Supreme Court upheld Wilson's conviction, at the urging of the Congress of Racial Equality, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles wrote to Folsom explaining the damage that the case was doing to the international reputation of the United States and Folsom quickly granted Wilson clemency.

In 1964, Marion was a center of civil rights protests in Alabama. During a Southern Christian Leadership Conference march on the evening of February 18, 1965, during the height of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, Marion resident Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler. These events were depicted in the movie Selma, released in 2014. . Jackson died on February 26 of an infection stemming from the wounds at nearby Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma. Martin Luther King preached a sermon at Jackson's funeral on March 3, and Jackson's death is recognized as the catalyst for SCLC Director of Direct Action, James Bevel, to call and organize the first Selma to Montgomery March on March 7. It was not until 2007, that Fowler was indicted for murder for his role in Jackson's death. In 2010, Fowler pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Recent events

In 2009, Marion made national news when a three-year-old family feud turned into a 150-person riot outside the town's city hall, resulting in the arrest of eight people and the hospitalization of two.

In early 2016, the New York Times reported the city was the center of an outbreak of tuberculosis. In 2014-15 twenty people in the area had contracted active cases of the disease and three had died.

Historical structures

Jewitt at Judson College
Jewett Hall at Judson College, part of the Judson College Historic District.

Marion has many historic structures, with most listed on historic registers directly or as contributing buildings. The Chapel and Lovelace Hall at Marion Military Institute, First Congregational Church of Marion, the Henry House, Marion Female Seminary, Phillips Memorial Auditorium, President's House at Marion Institute, Siloam Baptist Church are all individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has one National Historic Landmark, Kenworthy Hall. The city also has several historic districts, including the Green Street Historic District, Judson College Historic District, Marion Courthouse Square Historic District, and West Marion Historic District. Historic district buildings of special significance include examples such as Reverie.


Marion is located at 32°37′58″N 87°19′2″W / 32.63278°N 87.31722°W / 32.63278; -87.31722 (32.632838, -87.317284).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.7 square miles (28 km2), of which 10.6 square miles (27 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.94%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,544
1860 1,408 −8.8%
1870 2,646 87.9%
1880 2,074 −21.6%
1890 1,982 −4.4%
1900 1,698 −14.3%
1910 1,834 8.0%
1920 2,035 11.0%
1930 2,141 5.2%
1940 2,382 11.3%
1950 2,822 18.5%
1960 3,807 34.9%
1970 4,289 12.7%
1980 4,467 4.2%
1990 4,211 −5.7%
2000 3,511 −16.6%
2010 3,686 5.0%
2015 (est.) 3,447 −6.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
2013 Estimate

As of the census of 2010, there were 3,686 people, 1,184 households, and 819 families residing in the city. The population density was 331.8 people per square mile (128.1/km²). There were 1,418 housing units at an average density of 134.0 per square mile (51.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 63.9% Black or African American, 32.9% White, 0.26% Native American, 0.09% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.26% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.9% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,184 households out of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.8% were married couples living together, 25.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.8% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.17.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.5% under the age of 18, 15.7% from 18 to 24, 21.5% from 25 to 44, 18.7% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30.7 years. For every 100 females there were 80.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 72.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,142, and the median income for a family was $29,663. Males had a median income of $27,422 versus $20,240 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,934. About 28.4% of families and 33.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 51.3% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.

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