Claims although they belonged to the Republican Party, they were not carpet-baggers or scalawags
by Nick Lackeos
Alabama Journal staff writer
Editors note: This article was originally printed in the Montgomery Advertiser under the title, Neither Carpetbagger Nor Scalawag. It appeared on page 1F of the Sunday, June 9, 1991 edition and republished in the Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch on 21 June 1991. Dr. Richard Bailey is assigned to the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education, and was named one of the 20 Maxwell-Gunter Angels in April 1991 for his volunteer work.
Prior to the Civil War, one-time slave Horace King was famous in Alabama for his bridge-building skills. But it was his post Civil War job that brought him to the attention of a local author. Mr. King was one of 247 influential black men who held public office in Alabama during Reconstruction who are featured in a book written by Richard Bailey.
Dr. Bailey is a research and writing specialist at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education. His work involves researching and editing military documents and manuscripts, and coaching Air University students in research and writing.
Reconstruction is a period that fascinates the Montgomery native. He became familiar with the period during the research and writing of a dissertation to obtain his doctorate in history from Kansas State University. He continued the research after the dissertation, spending weekends and evenings for six years poring over old letters, documents and photographs at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
He financed publication of “Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags: Black Officeholders during the Reconstruction of Alabama, 1867-1878.” The hardback book went on sale in March  and is available at bookstores in several Alabama cities.
One of the more fascinating men featured in the book is Mr. King, who was born in South Carolina in 1809 and sent North by his owner to learn the bridge building trade.
John Godwin, King’s owner brought him to Alabama as his foreman in 1832. In his first year in the state, he constructed the Dillingham Street Bridge, linking Phenix City and Columbus, GA. Over the next 30 years, Mr. King built bridges that spanned the Chattahoochee River as far north as Lafayette and as far south as Eufaula.
He also constructed roads in west Georgia and east Alabama, and in 1840 restored the Muscogee County Courthouse in Columbus. The structure had burned the previous year.
When Godwin went bankrupt in 1846, instead of selling King to help with his debts, he freed the slave, an act that illustrated the “unusual bond of friendship” the two men shared, Mr. Bailey wrote in his book. King was the only black, future legislator who “received his freedom while residing in Alabama.”
King was an excellent example of a good, productive citizen, and a man who took pride in doing quality work, Mr. Bailey said. His reputation as a fine builder was known throughout Alabama and Georgia, and he was chosen to repair the stairwell in the state Capitol in Montgomery after it burned in 1849.
During the Civil War, King repaired bridges for the Confederacy, writes Mr. Bailey.
However, by the end of the Civil War, things were beginning to happen for blacks as a whole, Mr. Bailey said. Blacks were encouraged to vote and run for office. King had no trouble in that arena, he said.
“Horace King represented Russell County in the Alabama Legislature, but he didn’t even have to run for office,” Mr. Bailey said. “The blacks and whites of Russell County drafted him. He was a man of his word. And he worked for good race relations.”
And when blacks like King served in the legislature and held other public offices in that era, they worked to make it possible for blacks in general to better themselves, he said.
It was in this period that blacks in Alabama were able to establish banks, schools, labor unions and newspapers, he said. “When you look at the kind of poverty they must have experienced in slavery, you can understand the significance of these achievements,” Mr. Bailey said. These changes not only benefit blacks, they also helped poor whites, many of whom had no access to schools before the Civil War.
“Reconstruction brought public education to Alabama,” Mr. Bailey said.
Despite their achievements, black legislators and other black office holders began to lose power in the political arena.
Mr. King moved to LaGrange, Ga., with his five sons and continued to construct homes and bridges, until his death in 1887.
In looking back over his research, Mr. Bailey wrote: “White Republicans wanted only the black vote; they tolerated black office holding, which existed in the shadows of white Republican rule. In that context, although black lawmakers belonged to the Republican Party, they were neither carpetbaggers nor scalawags.”
The more Mr. Bailey learned about the era — the people and their achievements — the more he wanted to share the information with others, he said. “I wanted to write this book so people could see the great personalities — blacks and whites — that we had here in Alabama during Reconstruction.”
Mr. Bailey is fascinated by many periods of history. When he reads about World War II or the Battle of Hastings, he feels as if he were there.
“When you are a historian, what happened 40 years ago or 100 years ago is just like yesterday,” he said. He began to feel a kinship with the past when he was a boy in Montgomery public schools, reading history textbooks and biographies.
His parents, Lottie and the late Raymond Bailey, always encouraged him and his seven brothers and three sisters to do their best in school. In his school days, he was an athlete, working out with weights and playing football. He loved books but he never dreamed he would someday be an author.
“If you were black, growing up in Alabama in the 50s and 60s, you didn’t grow up dreaming you’d write a book or get a Ph.D.,” he said. “You dreamed of just graduating from high school and of getting a job, and you hoped you would find work in something other than digging ditches.”
Neither Carpetbagger Nor Scalawag, Montgomery Advertiser-Journal, 9 June 1991
Researcher Writes Book about Key Blacks, Maxwell-Gunter Dispatch, 21 June 1991
Nick Lackeos, Alabama Journal