Columbus State University Archives

10. Phenix City Story


10. Phenix City Story


In the first half of the twentieth century, Phenix City, Alabama became a notorious haven of crime. Prohibition in Alabama began in 1915 (ended in 1933) and Phenix City developed as a large-scale alcohol manufacturing and distribution hub, along with gambling and prostitution. Widespread voting fraud maintained the criminal syndicate’s control over the city, and it became known as “sin city.” Local soldiers arriving at Fort Benning for basic training often fell victim to Phenix City’s vice trade. One local lawyer James Albert Patterson ran for Alabama’s attorney general to challenge the criminal syndicate that controlled the city. Shot three times on the streets of Phenix City (1954), Patterson's murder investigation exposed the depth of corruption. Marshal law was established in the community and within six months, the city was cleaned up. The Hollywood film noir movie The Phenix City Story (1955) captured that period.
Barnes, M. (1998). The Tragedy and Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press.

Bibliographic Citation

[unidentified author]. (n.d.). No Title [image]. Hugh Bentley/Phenix City Cleanup SMC 20. (Courtesy Columbus State University Archives).


The Phenix City Story - John Patterson's Speech.mp4
No Title


“10. Phenix City Story,” Columbus State University Archives, accessed May 21, 2019,

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