Oakman is located in southwest Walker County in the west-central part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Oakman is one of only four towns in Alabama whose town limits form a circle.
The Oakman area initially was settled in the early to mid-1820s. The community was first called York after the first post office of that name, which opened in 1860. It was renamed Day's Gap after a prominent local landowner, part of whose property consisted of a valley (known in local parlance as a "gap") between two mountains that led into Oakman.
The community remained relatively small until 1884, when a line of the Georgia Pacific Railroad came through and made Oakman a shipping center for the county. The opening of a coal mine nearby also contributed to Oakman's growth. Oakman was the first city in Walker County to install telephone lines. At one time the town had five saloons, which were kept busy by farmers coming into town to sell and ship their crops.
The origin of the town's name is uncertain. In the more colorful version, a man by the name of Oakman passed through town and offered authorities $10,000 to name the town after him, to which they readily agreed. The more likely story is that the town was named to honor W.G. Oakman, a vice-president of the Sloss-Sheffield Iron and Steel Company who also had allegedly made a large donation to the town. Whatever the case, the town changed its name from Day's Gap to Oakman in 1894. Oakman incorporated in 1895, and the town charter was amended in 1898.
Oakman's population according to the 2010 Census was 789. Of that number, 80.9 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 18.4 percent as African American, 0.5 percent as two or more races, 0.1 percent as Native American, and 0.1 percent as Hispanic or Latino. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $30,395, and the per capita income was $16,976.
According to 2010 Census estimates, the work force in Oakman was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (20.1 percent)
· Retail trade (15.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (12.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (12.3 percent)
· Construction (9.8 percent)
· Manufacturing (9.8 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.9 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (4.9 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (2.9 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (2.9 percent)
· Wholesale trade (1.5 percent)
· Information (1.5 percent)
· Public administration (1.0 percent)
Schools in Oakman are part of the Walker County school system; the town has approximately 816 students and 53 teachers in one elementary school and one high school.
State Highway 69/18 bisects Oakman running roughly north-south.
Events and Places of Interest
The Old York USA Heritage and Music Park in Oakman features 20 period buildings, some dating back to the Confederacy and including the first post office in Oakman, as well as a restaurant and gift shop.
The Stephenson House and the Tubbs Cemetery near Oakman are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The
Stephenson House also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Walker County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Walker County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1999.
James P. Kaetz
Published August 23, 2013
Last updated August 26, 2013