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Walter William Bankhead

Grace London, Auburn University
Walter William Bankhead
Walter William Bankhead (1897-1988) served briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1914 to February 1914, representing Alabama's Seventh Congressional District. He was a member of the influential and powerful Bankhead family. Although Bankhead's political career was not as extensive as other family members, he had a prolific career as a businessman tending to family businesses as well as his personal law practice.
Bankhead was born in Jasper, Walker County, on July 21, 1897, to John Hollis Bankhead II and Musa Harkins; he had two siblings. He was the grandson of Sen. John Hollis Bankhead, who is best known for his 20-year political career in the U.S. House of Representatives and 13 years in the U.S. Senate representing Alabama. Walter's father spent 15 years in the U.S. Senate and was an avid supporter of Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal.
Walter William Bankhead, 1915
His uncle, William B. Bankhead, served as Speaker of the U.S. House and supported the New Deal and opposed isolationism in the years before World War II. In addition, Walter William Bankhead was related to famed actress Tallulah Bankhead and Marie Bankhead Owen, who headed the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Bankhead was educated in Walker County public schools as well as several college preparatory academies. He attended the Starke University School in Montgomery, Montgomery County, and then went to the University Training School in Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County. He graduated from Marion Military Institute in Marion, Perry County, in 1916 and went on to attend the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, graduating in 1919. He enrolled in the University of Alabama law school in 1920 and was admitted to the Alabama State Bar that same year. After graduating from law school, he joined his father in the family law firm, Bankhead & Bankhead. On June 5, 1920, he married Emelil Crumpton in Birmingham, Jefferson County, and they settled in Jasper County, where Bankhead would live for the rest of his life. They had four children, John Hollis III, Marion Louise, Barbara, and Blossom.
Bankhead Elector Certificate
Like other family members, Bankhead entered politics in addition to practicing law. He was elected as a delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention, when Roosevelt was nominated to an unprecedented third presidential term. Bankhead was later elected to the Seventy-seventh Congress to fill the seat left open by Zadoc L. Weatherford of Marion County, who was elected in 1940 to fill the seat after the September 15 death of uncle William B. Bankhead. He served for less than one month, from January 3, 1941 to February 1, 1941, temporarily filling William B. Bankhead's seat until a special election could be held, and then resigned to resume his law practice in Jasper. The open seat was won by Democrat Carter Manasco of Townley, Walker County.
After his short political career, Bankhead became heavily involved in his family's businesses. He was named chairman of the board for both the Bankhead Mining Company, formerly Caledonia Coal Company and Bankhead Developing Company. He served as president for the Mammoth Packing Company and Bankhead Broadcasting Company, which began operating several radio stations in the Jasper area in the 1940s. Bankhead also served as vice-chairman for the board of directors for the First National Bank of Jasper. Bankhead died in Jasper on November 24, 1988, and was interred in the city's Oak Hill Cemetery.
Published:  June 21, 2017   |   Last updated:  June 21, 2017