Thomasville is located in northeast Clarke County in the southwest part of the state. Well-known Alabama author and folklorist Kathryn Tucker Windham grew up in Thomasville, as did her cousin, humorist and long-time editor of the Thomasville Times newspaper, Earl Lee Tucker. The city has a mayor/council form of government.
Thomasville was founded in 1887 along the route of the Mobile and West Alabama Railroad, which ran from Birmingham to Mobile via Selma. A number of businesses from the nearby town of Choctaw Corners moved to Thomasville to be closer to the railroad line. The town was named after U.S. general Samuel Thomas, then-president of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad Company. The railroad made its initial run in 1888, carrying a group of revelers to the Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile. During 1889, an epidemic (probably yellow fever) hit the town, which was built in part on reclaimed swamp land, and many residents moved elsewhere to avoid becoming ill.
A fire in 1899 destroyed the entire downtown area, burning 23 businesses and one residence (that of the postmaster). Because most of the businesses destroyed were hastily constructed wooden buildings, the town council passed an ordinance stipulating that only brick buildings could be built downtown.
In 1928, a new brick high school was constructed to replace an older wooden structure; a portion of that building now houses the city hall. In 1935, the volunteer fire department was established. The railroad continued to be vital to the city's economy through the first half of the twentieth century; area businesses included sawmills, cotton gins, and paper mills. A U.S. Air Force radar base opened in the 1950s; when it shut down, the complex became the Thomasville Adult Adjustment Center, later the Thomasville Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. It is now the site of the L.I.F.E. Tech Institute, a transitional facility for former convicts overseen by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Today, Thomasville draws most of its revenue from retail sales.
Thomasville's population according to the 2010 Census was 4,209. Of that number, 51.3 percent identified themselves as black, 46.8 percent as white, 1.3 percent as Hispanic, 0.7 percent as Asian, 0.5 percent as two or more races, and 0.3 percent as Native American. The city's median household income was $28,234, and per capita income was $15,447.
Thomasville’s work force in 2009 was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (44.6 percent)
· Retail trade (12.1 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (11.0 percent)
· Manufacturing (8.3 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (8.0 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (4.4 percent)
· Construction (3.8 percent)
· Public administration (2.8 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (2.4 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.4 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (1.1 percent)
Schools in Thomasville are part of the Thomasville City School District; the town has approximately 1,645 students and 107 teachers in one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. Alabama Southern Community College maintains a campus in Thomasville.
U.S. Highway 43/State Road 13 runs north-south through Thomasville; County Road 27 also runs north-south through the city. State Road 154 runs west from the city, and County Road 5 runs northeast from the city. The Norfolk Southern Corporation operates a railroad line through Thomasville.
Events and Places of Interest
Thomasville holds a number of annual events. The Hometown Celebration, held the Saturday before the Fourth of July, includes a "Clarke County Idol" contest, a parade, waterslides, music, and food. The Ghost Walk, a several-day event culminating on either the Saturday before or the Saturday after Halloween, features stories from Kathryn Tucker Windham's 13 Ghosts series told by people in period dress, as well as hayrides, a costume contest, a haunted house, an antique car show, food, and music. The Downtown Stroll, held the first full week in December, includes Christmas-themed events and snow generated from snow machines. The city also holds a Christmas parade the first Saturday in December.
The Rambling Rose Players, a local theater group sponsored by the Fine Arts Council of Thomasville, stages two performances per year in the Bedsole Theatre.
The Thomasville Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Thomasville High School is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
Recreational facilities in Thomasville include five city parks with softball and baseball fields, playgrounds, picnic pavilions,
and a walking track.
Clarke County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Clarke County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.
James P. Kaetz
Published November 1, 2011
Last updated March 22, 2013