The Bankhead Family


Home | What's New | Search | Email me

Walking back in history....(Historical Families)

The Bankhead Family

John Hollis Bankhead


Confederate War Hero, Congressman, Statesman

John Hollis Bankhead, lifelong resident of Alabama, was born in 1842 on his father's farm near Moscow in that part of Marion County which is now Lamar County. The modern town of Sulligent was built upon part of the Bankhead farm. He became a farmer, a legislator, a hero in the Confederacy and a member of both the House and Senate of the United States.

Reared upon his father's plantation in pioneer country, he supplemented his meager formal education by avid reading and contact with the issues and the world. He enlisted in the Confederate Army at age 19. He served from the beginning to the end of the conflict, participating heroically in many battles. As Captain he led the 16th Alabama Regiment in a successful charge at Chickamauga, where he was wounded. In spite of one useless arm, he saved the life of John Custer. After the close of the war he married Tallulah Brockman of Wetumpka.

Captain Bankhead served in the Alabama legislature in both houses. In 1880 Governor Rufus Cobb offered him the wardenship of the State penitentiary. Under his regime as head of the prison system, he initiated many reforms, among which was the establishment of the Boys Industrial School. This was later developed at Roebuck Springs, under the leadership of club women.

From 1887 to 1907, Bankhead served in the US Congress and was active in the establishment of the Library of Congress. He was instrumental in the development of waterways including the deepening of Mobile Bay. Lake Bankhead was named for him.

In 1907 he was elected to fill the vacancy in the US Senate left by the death of Sen. John T. Morgan. He concentrated his efforts on establishing a national system of highways and despite opposition, was successful. In appreciation, the grateful public named the transcontinental highway from the "Zero Stone" in Washington, DC the "Bankhead Highway". Senator Bankhead continued to work on the highway system at the request of President Roosevelt.

A dramatic moment in the life of Senator Bankhead took place at the 1912 Democratic Convention in Baltimore. Bankhead's son, William B. Bankhead, the a member of Congress, stepped to the platform and presented his father's name as Alabama's nominee for presidency of the United States.

Senator Bankhead died in Washington, DC on March 1, 1920, and is buried in the family plot in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Alabama.


Author: The Mountain Eagle newspaper issue of 2/12/1922


John Hollis Bankhead was born on his father's farm in Marion (now Lamar) County on September 13, 1842. He was educated in the country schools of his native county and with this meager scholastic preparation became a man of solid and practical learning. He was married November 13, 1866 at Wetumpka, Alabama to Tallulah Brockman and they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1916 at their home ‘Sunset' at Jasper, Alabama. At the time of his death there were surviving him, his wife, Tallulah Brockman Bankhead and five children:

1) Louise (now deceased) wife of A. G. Lund;

2) Marie, wife of Thomas McAdory Owen;

3) John H. Bankhead Jr;

4) William B. Bankhead  (* Father of Tallulah-see below)

5) Henry M. Bankhead

 During the time Senator Bankhead was a member of the Senate, his son, William B. Bankhead was a member of the House.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, John Hollis Bankhead enlisted as a Private inthe Army of the Confederacy and was in the conflict from the beginning to the end. After the battle of Fishing Creek he was promoted to Third Lieutenant and later became Captain.

Senator Bankhead's death removed from the Senate the last Confederate soldier
to occupy a seat in that body. During his services in Congress he supported the
bill to locate and mark the graves of Confederate soldiers who died in northern
prisons or were buried in the north.

After the Civil War Captain Bankhead returned to his home and resumed life on the farm. He was elected a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for the session of 1865 and 1866 from Marion County. He was a member of the State Senate from the 12th Senatorial District in the General Assembly of 1876 and 1877. In 1880 he again served in the House of Representatives of the Alabama General Assembly from Lamar. He was later appointed Warden of the State Penitentiary and served in this capacity for four years.

On September 3, 1886, at the Fayette Court House Captain Bankhead was nominated
for Congress by the Democratic Convention of the 6th Congressional District of Alabama and elected to the office in November of that year, serving ontinuously from March 4, 1887 to March 4, 1907. His bill was adopted for an appropriation of 75 million dollars for post roads which was later increased to 200 million dollars. The Bankhead Highway beginning at Washington, D. C. and ending in San Diego, is a just recognition by the public of the achievements wrought by John Hollis Bankhead on behalf of good roads throughout his

He entered the Senate in 1907 after the death of our distinguished Senator John T. Morgan. He was re-elected by the people in 1911 and again in 1919. He was serving his thirteenth year in the Senate when death called him. All together his period of service in congress was nearly thirty-three years.

Additional Comments:
John Hollis Bankhead was the son of James Greer and Susan Hollis Bankhead.
Through his efforts the government made its first survey of Muscle Shoals
for power development, the Warrior River became the world's longest canalized
waterway and Mobile became a deep-seaport.

(Submitted by Willie Barton)




William Brockman Bankhead


 William Brockman Bankhead was the son of John Hollis Bankhead, brother of John Hollis Bankhead II, and uncle of Walter Will Bankhead), a Representative from Alabama; born in Moscow, Lamar County, Ala., April 12, 1874; attended the country schools; was graduated from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1893 and from the Georgetown University Law School at Washington, D.C., in 1895; was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Huntsville, Ala.; member of the State house of representatives in 1900 and 1901; city attorney of Huntsville 1898-1902; moved to Jasper, Walker County, Ala., in 1905 and continued the practice of law; solicitor of the fourteenth judicial circuit of Alabama 1910-1914; unsuccessful candidate for nomination to the Sixty-fourth Congress in 1914; elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-fifth and to the eleven succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1917, until his death; chairman, Committee on Rules (Seventy-third Congress); majority leader (Seventy-fourth Congress), Speaker of the House of Representatives (Seventy-fourth to Seventy-sixth Congresses); delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1940; died in Washington, D.C., September 15, 1940; funeral services were held in the Hall of the House of Representatives; interment in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Ala.

Source: DAB; Heacock, Walter J. “William Brockman Bankhead: A Biography.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1952; Heacock, Walter J. “William B. Bankhead and the New Deal.” Journal of Southern History 21 (August 1955): 347-59.


From The Mountain Eagle newspaper September 19, 1940

William B. Bankhead died at the U. S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. A short funeral service was held at 12:30 p.m. in the House of Representatives on Monday, Sept. 16, 1940. A special train for Jasper, Alabama, left Union Station, Washington, D.C. at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon and arrived at 11 a.m. in Jasper on Sept. 17th. Funeral rites were held at the First Methodist Church of Jasper where he was a member.

The President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with his cabinet members, 63 members of the House of Representatives, 30 Senators and many other dignitaries attended the funeral. B. B. Speed, Chief of Police, estimated a crowd of 40,000 people who came to pay final tribute to one of Jasper's most beloved citizens.

Active ushers were Dr. A. C. Jackson, R. A. Argo, Dr. L.M. Walker, John Kilgore, W.D. Leake, E. W. Long, M. E. Nettles and Charles R. Wiggins. Honorary pallbearers were the Board of Stewards of the First Methodist Church, members of the Brotherhood Class of the Methodist Church, members of the Masonic Lodge No. 221 and members of the bar of the Seventh District. Ushers were G. T. Patrick, head usher; Bob Argo, Bob Kilgore, Bob Bruner, Al Blanton, C. O. Bostick, Robin Boteler, Bert Simmons, E. K. Barnes, Dr. Fred Haston, Lee Hamilton, John Primm, Charles Tweedy, Jr, William Ellis and R. R. Looney. The ushers were aided by Jasper Sea Scouts and Boy Scouts. Sam Watkins, Dora; Albert Boutwell, Birmingham, and Pitt Tyson Manor, Montgomery, served on the state identity committee.

There was a scriptural reading by Dr. T. L. McDonald, pastor; Dr. L.E. Barton, Dr. B. F. Tingle, district superintendent; Rev. Harrison McMains, and prayer by Rev. J. F. Akin. William Brockman Bankhead was buried in the Bankhead family plot at Oak Hill Cemetery in Jasper, Alabama.


John Hollis Bankhead II

1872- 1946

 John Hollis Bankhead II, (son of John Hollis Bankhead, brother of William Brockman Bankhead, and father of Walter Will Bankhead), a Senator from Alabama; born on a farm near Old Moscow, Lamar County, Ala., July 8, 1872; attended the public schools; graduated from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1891 and from the law department of Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., in 1893; admitted to the bar in 1893 and commenced practice in Jasper, Ala.; served in the Alabama National Guard with rank of major 1901-1903; member of the State house of representatives 1904-1905; president of the Bankhead Coal Co. 1911-1925; trustee of the University of Alabama 1917-1919 and 1931-1946; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1930; reelected in 1936 and 1942 and served from March 4, 1931, until his death in the United States Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Md., on June 12, 1946; chairman, Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation (Seventy-fifth through Seventy-ninth Congresses); interment in Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper, Ala.

Source: Dictionary of American Biography; Key, Jack B. “John H. Bankhead, Jr. of Alabama: The Conservative as Reformer.” Ph.D. dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 1966; U.S. Congress. Memorial Services for John Hollis Bankhead, 2d. 80th Cong., 1st sess., 1947. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1949.



Walter Will Bankhead

1897- 1988

 Walter Will Bankhead, (son of John Hollis Bankhead II, grandson of John Hollis Bankhead, and nephew of William Brockman Bankhead), a Representative from Alabama; born in Jasper, Walker County, Ala., July 21, 1897; attended the public schools; was graduated from Marion (Ala.) Military Institute in 1916, from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in 1919, and from the law department of the same university in 1920; was admitted to the bar in 1920 and commenced practice in Jasper, Ala.; delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Chicago in 1940; elected as a Democrat to the Seventy-seventh Congress and served from January 3, 1941, until February 1, 1941, when he resigned; resumed the practice of law; chairman of the board of Bankhead Mining Co., Inc., and Bankhead Development Co., Inc.; president of Mammoth Packing Co. and Bankhead Broadcasting Co., Inc.; vice chairman, board of directors, First National Bank of Jasper; was a resident of Jasper, Ala., until his death in November 1988.


Marie Bankhead Owen