Bayou La Batre is located on Mobile Bay in Mobile County in the southwest corner of the state. It has a mayor/council form of government. U.S. surgeon general Regina Benjamin operated a clinic in Bayou La Batre for many years before being confirmed as surgeon general in 2009. Bayou La Batre is home to a significant population of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian immigrants who are involved with the local fishing industry.
The ship featured in the "Pirates of the Carribean" Disney film series, the Black Pearl, was built in a Bayou La Batre shipyard, and the town was made famous as the hometown of an important character in the 1994 film Forrest Gump.
Originally known by the French name "Riviere d'Erbane," the town was the first non-Indian settlement in what would become Mobile County, which at the time was in Spanish territory. It arose in 1786 on a 1,259-acre land grant from the Spanish government to French settler Joseph Bousage. After the French took control of the area and installed a series of cannons (known as a battery) at the site, the settlement became known as "Riviere la Batterie" and finally as Bayou La Batre. The town became part of the Mississippi Territory of the United States in 1811 and by the 1830s boasted its own hotel. It became a popular vacation spot after the Civil War for its location on the water. In 1906, a hurricane devastated the town and destroyed its tourist industry.
By the mid-1920s, the town began an economic comeback centered on the seafood industry, which remains a mainstay of the local economy today, as is shipbuilding. In the 1940s, Alabama artist John Kelly Fitzpatrick and others operated an artists' colony in the town. Bayou La Batre was incorporated in 1955. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the town's fishing fleet and caused severe damage to the town itself.
Bayou La Batre's population according to the 2010 Census was 2,558. Of that number, 60.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 22.8 percent as Asian, 12.3 percent as African American, 2.8 percent as Hispanic or Latino, 3.2 percent as two or more races, and 0.4 percent as Native American. The town's median household income, according to 2010 estimates, was $34,539, and the per capita income was $15,332.
· Retail trade (24.2 percent)
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (23.0 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (9.2 percent)
· Manufacturing (9.2 percent)
· Public administration (7.0 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (6.5 percent)
· Other services, except public administration (5.6 percent)
· Wholesale trade (4.5 percent)
· Construction (4.3 percent)
· Professional, scientific, management, and administrative and waste management services (2.6 percent)
· Transportation and warehousing and utilities (2.4 percent)
· Finance, insurance, and real estate, rental, and leasing (1.6 percent)
Public schools in Bayou La Batre are part of the Mobile County School District; the town has approximately 581 students and 29 teachers in one middle school.
State Highway 188 runs north-south through the city. The Roy E. Ray Airport is located five miles to the northeast of Bayou La Batre.
Events and Places of Interest
A loop of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail runs through Bayou La Batre. The city's location near the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay affords many opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Events include the annual Blessing of the Fleet, which celebrates the town's fishing industry, in May and the Taste of the
Bayou seafood festival in September.
Mobile County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Mobile County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
James P. Kaetz
Published March 20, 2012
Last updated July 13, 2012