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Project Synopsis

A 120 Year Tradition of Violence
Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson dubbed Phenix City, Alabama "the wickedest city in America." Phenix City, or Sodom as it was called, provided a safe haven for criminals and runaway slaves. During Prohibition the town became the main source of illegal liquor for residents of prosperous Columbus, Georgia, just across the river. Phenix City's gamblers, prostitutes and drug dealers enticed soldiers training at nearby Ft. Benning. Chicago mobsters interested in Phenix City's profits wound up at the bottom of the Chattahoochee River.

The Heros
Sunday school teacher Hugh Bentley avoided the rough aspect of Phenix City, like many others in town. While attending a business convention in Chicago, he discovered that his hometown's seamy reputation preceded him. Bentley felt the heat of an intense shame overtake him and returned home to form the Russell Betterment Association (RBA) with the guidance of attorney Albert Patterson. Risking their families, businesses and their own lives, the members of the RBA met in secret and fought to free their town of vice.

The Price
In 1954 Patterson ran for attorney general on the platform "a man against crime." The night Patterson won the election an assassin took his life. The National Guard marched in arresting hundreds of people under Martial Rule.

The Film Project
A story that is as relevant today as it was in 1954, Phenix City: The Fight for the Soul of a Small Southern Town addresses the importance of community activism through the lessons learned from history.

Phenix City will be a 30 minute documentary video shot on digital video as a project in lieu of thesis for the Documentary Institute at the University of Florida.

Coming in May, 2003.

 

 

 

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Copyright December 3, 2002.
All rights reserved.
Contact bauldree@ufl.edu for more information.