For purely hypothetical purposes, the MBM staff was recently discussing the following question: What if the Bay area had its own version of Mount Rushmore? A lot of names came to mind trying to determine what local legends would be worthy of such an honor. Some speak for themselves, others sound crazy until you plead their case. It was a tough choice, but we came up with our best recommendations. So here they are, in no particular order…
1. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville
This cofounder of Mobile might as well be the George Washington of the Port City. Though young in years, a then 20-something Bienville already had a good deal of experience by the time he clambered up the Mobile River’s steep bank at 27-Mile Bluff. In 1697, he had fought bravely at the Battle of Hudson’s Bay under his capable elder brother Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, and, at 17, sailed on with him to explore the Gulf Coast, helping to establish outposts at Biloxi and Dauphin Island. Bienville later served as the governor of the French colony of Louisiana and founded New Orleans in 1718.
2. Joseph Stillwell Cain
What would Mobile be today without the post-War revival of Mardi Gras? Joe Cain is credited by some historians with not only being a founding member of the Tea Drinkers Society and the Lost Cause Minstrels but also having influenced the founding of some of the oldest mystic societies in existence to this day. It has been written that he — along with other members of the TDS, Lost Cause Minstrels, Cowbellions and Strikers — helped found the Order of Myths (OOM), today the oldest Mardi Gras parading society in the country. He is also credited with convincing Dave Levi, founder of the Comic Cowboys, to take his vaudeville show to the streets as a parade. As Julian Lee Rayford once said, “All the half a hundred great events of Mardi Gras since 1866 grew out of Joe Cain.” Yep, he definitely deserves a spot.
3. Augusta Jane Evans
Augusta Jane Evans (Augusta Evans Wilson, married) was essentially the queen of Southern literature. At the age of 15, she authored her first book, “Inez: A Tale of the Alamo.” She followed it up with “Beulah, ” which sold an astonishing 20, 000 copies, and the proceeds allowed her family to buy the Georgia Cottage on Spring Hill Avenue. At 33, she published her most successful novel, “St. Elmo.” This book became a cultural phenomenon when enthusiastic readers named towns, steamboats and even their children after the book’s titular hero. In addition to her literary success, she also helped start Mobile Infirmary and the Protestant Children’s Home on Dauphin Street.
4. Jeremiah A. Denton Jr.
Jeremiah Denton's life story is nothing short of incredible. A McGill and Spring Hill College grad, Denton served as a pilot in the United States Navy when his plane was shot down and he was held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for nearly eight years. He is widely known for blinking the word T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse code during a TV interview to alert the U.S. to the atrocities happening to American prisoners of war. His experience in Vietnam was chronicled in a 1976 memoir, “When Hell Was in Session.” After his retirement from the naval service, he served as a United States Senator from Alabama. Denton also launched a humanitarian outreach to needy countries through his National Forum Foundation, which arranged shipments of donated goods. Denton Middle School is named in his honor.
Honorable Mention: The Crichton Leprechaun
Real or not (though obviously real), this lucky guy is a YouTube sensation with more than 25 million views to date. In 2006, he went “viral” before going “viral” was even a thing. Like him or not, he put Mobile on the map and prompted the creation of the best “Amateur Sketch” known to man. You'd be hard pressed to find someone regionally, or maybe even nationally, who hasn't heard of the Crichton leprechaun. You know what they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity.
We've shared our picks, now we want to hear yours. Comment below
and tell us who you would put on a Mobile Bay version of Mount Rushmore.