The first settlers in what is now Leighton arrived as early as 1813. The community’s first name was Crossroads, for its location at the intersection of one road that ran from the Tennessee River to Tuscaloosa, Tuscaloosa County, and another that connected Huntsville, Madison County, to Tuscumbia, Colbert County. The first business at the intersection was a tavern.
LaGrange College Historic Site The name was changed to Leighton for Rev. William Leigh, a minister and entrepreneur who also served as the first postmaster in 1824. In 1826, the town’s population expanded dramatically after 20 families from North Carolina settled there. In 1830, the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church founded the all-male LaGrange College in the Leighton community of LaGrange; the college operated until it was burned by Union troops during the Civil War. In 1833, the Tuscumbia, Courtland, and Decatur Railroad built a line through the city, and Leighton became a shipping center for cotton. The town incorporated in 1890 and remained a major shipping center well into the twentieth century.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Leighton recorded a population of 6,454. Of that number, 57.5 percent of respondents identified themselves as African American, 39.3 percent as white, 2.4 percent as Hispanic, 1.5 percent as two or more races, 0.2 percent as Native American, and 0.1 percent as Asian. The town’s median household income was $29,844, and the per capita income was $16,297.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Leighton was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (23.7 percent)
- Manufacturing (22.6 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (11.3 percent)
- Retail trade (10.5 percent)
- Wholesale trade (8.9 percent)
- Public administration (5.1 percent)
- Information (4.3 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (4.3 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (3.5 percent)
- Construction (2.7 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (2.3 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (0.8 percent)
Schools in Leighton are part of the Colbert County Schools; the town has two elementary schools and one high school.
County Highway 48 bisects Leighton running north-south, and County Road 22 bisects the town running east-west.
Events and Places of Interest
Old Brick Presbyterian Church The John Johnson House near Leighton, the Old Brick Presbyterian Church north of Leighton, Preuit Oaks just south of Leighton, the Tabie House, the Leighton Training School/Leighton Middle School, the LaGrange Cemetery, and the LaGrange College Site (now part of the LaGrange College Site Park living-history center) are listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Historic Places.
The John Johnson House, the Old Brick Presbyterian Church, Preuit Oaks, and the LaGrange Rock Shelter are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Colbert County Heritage Book Committee. Heritage of Colbert County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, Inc., 1999.