The earliest settlers in the area that now encompasses Sulligent built homes not far from a portion of the military road constructed by Gen. Andrew Jackson's troops after the Creek War. James Greer Bankhead, father of Alabama senator John Hollis Bankhead, built a house in the community in the 1850s, and several members of the Bankhead political dynasty would be born in the home. Their birthplace also has been referred to as Moscow, a nearby small town to the southeast that mostly burned down in the late 1880s. Efforts are underway to restore the house.
The construction of the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham Railroad in 1887 spurred economic growth; Sulligent was originally called Elliot for the chief engineer of that railroad. It was later renamed Sulligent for the last names of two other railroad officials, Sullivan and Sargent (or Sargeant). The town was incorporated February 12, 1897.
Sulligent became the center of commerce in north Lamar County with many businesses engaged in processing and shipping cotton to Memphis, Tennessee, to the north, and to Birmingham, Jefferson County, to the east. Warehouses, a livery stable, a bank, a lumber company and yard, a brick kiln, and a milling company were built in the early 1900s. In addition, the Sulligent Oil Company was reputed to be for a time the largest cotton gin under one roof and for years was a major business in the area, employing as many as 35 to 40 workers. In the 1950s, an apparel plant opened in Sulligent and led to the formation of a few other clothing manufacturing firms including a sports apparel company.
The population in Sulligent at the time of the 2010 Census was 1,927. Of that number, 78.3 percent reported itself as white, 19.3 percent as African American, 2.0 percent as two or more races, 0.8 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and 0.1 percent as American Indian. The median household income in 2010 according to Census estimates was $22,469 and per capita income was $17,094.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the Sulligent workforce was divided among the following major industrial categories:
· Manufacturing (29.6 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (14.6 percent)
· Retail trade (10.8 percent)
· Construction (8.4 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (8.4 percent)
· Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (7.0 percent)
· Public administration (6.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (5.5 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (4.2 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (2.6 percent)
· Information (1.6 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (1.0 percent)
Public education in Sulligent is administered by the Lamar County school system which oversees one kindergarten through 12th-grade school.
Sulligent is accessed by U.S. Highway 278 and State Highway 118 which run east-west and by State Highway 17 that runs north-south. Lamar County Airport is located approximately four miles south of Sulligent. The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company operates a rail line through Sulligent.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Sulligent is the James Greer Bankhead Home (ca. 1850), which also was documented by the Historical American Building Survey in 1936. Listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage is the Ogden House (ca. 1888). Sulligent sponsors an Old Fashioned Day featuring arts and crafts in early October.
Published January 18, 2013
Last updated January 31, 2013