Chickasaw is located in east-central Mobile County, in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Well-known musician Ray Sawyer ("Dr. Hook" of "Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show") was born in Chickasaw. The town is named for the Native American tribe that lived in southwestern Alabama until the early nineteenth century.
Although the area around Chickasaw has been inhabited for many years, the town itself began as a company town. At the beginning of World War I, the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company (TCI) bought the land on which the city now stands to construct a shipbuilding enterprise (the Chickasaw Shipbuilding and Car Company) at the north end of Mobile Bay. As part of the endeavor, TCI built a mill town, including a complete water and sewer system, to house workers. The war ended before the shipyard was fully functional, and although some ships were built there, many workers lost their jobs and thus left the area. The community survived, although it was much smaller than originally planned.
As World War II loomed, in April 1939 the shipyard and town were bought by a local businessman and in turn sold to the Gulf Shipbuilding Company, which restarted the facility. The company evicted a number of long-time residents of the community to make room for incoming shipyard workers. A notable court case, Marsh v. Alabama, originated in Chickasaw in 1943, during the time that Gulf Shipbuilding owned the town. Grace Marsh and several other Jehovah's Witnesses began distributing literature in the Chickasaw business district and were arrested numerous time for trespassing on private property because the company owned the land. Marsh and others were found guilty in local courts, and several lower courts upheld the convictions. The case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1946, the Court overturned the convictions, ruling that Chickasaw was in essence a town like any other and that fundamental rights of free speech therefore applied.
Gulf Shipbuilding built around 75 ships during the war for the U.S. Maritime Commission, the U.S. Navy, and the Royal Navy. With the end of WWII, the shipyard once again shut down. The Leedy Investment Company bought the entire town and offered the houses for sale. Some former inhabitants took the opportunity to move back to Chickasaw and purchased homes. The city incorporated in 1946, establishing city offices in an existing building. A new City Hall was built in 1953, and city services expanded to include a number of regulatory agencies and boards during the 1960s. Chickasaw is now essentially a suburb of Mobile, drawing much of its income from retail sales.
Chickasaw's population according to the 2010 Census was 6,106. Of that number, 63 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 33.6 percent as African American, 2.3 percent as Hispanic, 1.2 percent as two or more races, 0.8 percent as Native American, and 0.5 percent as Asian. The city's median household income was $33,061, and per capita income was $$18,105.
The workforce in present-day Chickasaw is divided among the following occupational categories:
· Retail trade (17.5 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (16.1 percent)
· Construction (10.6 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (10.1 percent)
· Manufacturing (10.0 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (7.3 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (7.0 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (7.0 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (5.6 percent)
· Public administration (3.5 percent)
· Wholesale trade (3.5 percent)
· Information (1.2 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.6 percent)
Schools in Chickasaw are part of the Mobile County School system; the town has approximately 1,553 students and 100 teachers in two elementary schools and one middle school. Two private schools serve 125 students. The University of South Alabama is located approximately eight miles from Chickasaw.
Interstate 65, running north-south, is located about one mile west of Chickasaw; U.S. Highway 43/State Road 13 runs north-south through the city. The Mobile Regional Airport is located approximately 10 miles south of Chickasaw.
Events and Places of Interest
Recreational facilities in Chickasaw include two municipal parks with baseball fields, basketball courts, and tennis courts, and a marina with a boat launch. The city also has a municipal pool and an 18-hole flying disc golf course.
Established in 1963, the Chickasaw Civic Theatre stages a number of plays each year.
The Chickasaw Shipyard Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mobile County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Mobile County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
James P. Kaetz
Published October 30, 2011
Last updated March 11, 2013