Vernon is the county seat of Lamar County and is located on the western border of the state. Songwriter and Muscle Shoals musician Dan Penn is a native. Originally named Swayne, after Union head of the Freedman's Bureau Gen. Wager Swayne, the town changed its name to Vernon in 1868.
The territory that is now included in the town of Vernon became part of Lamar County in 1867, when it was created from portions of Marion and Fayette counties. Agriculture, mills, and timbering formed the base of Vernon's economy, as it did in much of Alabama, before the Civil War. After the war, plantations were sold off to large timber interests, eliminating many jobs that had derived from farming and bringing economic hard times that generally continue to the present. The few textile factories that located in the area in the early twentieth century have either closed or relocated to other areas of the United States.
Vernon's population at the time of the 2010 Census was 2,000. Of that number, 79.4 percent identified themselves as white, 18.1 percent as African American, 1.7 percent as Hispanic, 1.2 percent as two or more races, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $34,236, and per capita income was $16,814.
The workforce in present-day Vernon is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (16.5 percent)
· Retail trade (15.9 percent)
· Public administration (10.7 percent)
· Manufacturing (10.6 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (9.7 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (8.9 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (7.4 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (5.9 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.0 percent)
· Construction (4.1 percent)
· Information (2.6 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.4 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.2 percent)
Vernon is part of the Lamar County Public Schools and has two multi-grade schools that serve slightly more than 1,000 students and employ approximately 65 teachers.
Vernon is served by State Highway 18, which runs east-west through the city, and State Highway 17, which runs north-south through the city. The city of Vernon is also host to the Lamar County Airport, which serves general aviation.
Events and Places of Interest
In April, Vernon hosts its annual Vernon City Celebration, which offers attendees food and music as well as games and rides. The downtown Backstreet Opry venue offers a variety of performances by musicians, comedians, and other entertainers every Saturday night.
Claire M. Wilson
Published December 7, 2009
Last updated August 8, 2012