Historic Markers Across Alabama

Southern Normal and Industrial Institute

Marker ID: AHC 
County: Escambia
Waymark: None


The Southern Normal and Industrial Institute was established on September 18, 1911, by James A. Dooley, Sr. The first black school in the Brewton area, it offered an academic and vocational education program. When Mr. Dooley arrived in the area, he found limited educational opportunities for blacks such as inadequate facilities and materials combined with an exceptionally short school term. With his personal funds, Mr. Dooley purchased an existing school for disadvantaged boys and established a co-education day and boarding school, the Southern Normal and Industrial Institute.

In an effort to raise money for the school, Mr. Dooley visited a number of Reformed Churches in the East and Midwest. The churches became interested in the school and supported it as a mission center. In 1919, Southern Normal and Industrial Institute was transferred to the Board of Domestic Missions of the Dutch Reformed Church of America of New York City. The church provided funding for building construction and operation. In 1930 the name was changed to Southern Normal School. The only black secondary school in a fifty-mile radius, it was accredited by the State Board of Education in 1938. James Dooley, Sr. died in 1930 and was buried in the center of the campus under an oak tree. His grave is marked with an eternal flame, symbolic of Mr. Dooley's legacy for educational excellence that is continued by the Southern Normal School staff, alumni and community.

A complex of 15 buildings, Southern Normal School was acquired by Alabama State University in June 1997. It is currently being developed into a multifaceted university campus serving the Brewton area and surrounding rural counties of the region. The school was listed to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1997.

End of Southern Normal and Industrial Institute