Pennington is located in northeastern Choctaw County in the southwestern part of the state. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Actress, poet, singer, and activist Billie Jean Young was born in Pennington in 1947.
Naheola Bridge Originally known as Thompkinsville, Pennington was named after John Wesley Pennington. He was the first surveyor for Choctaw County and also the state legislator who donated land for a church and a school in the community. The first post office in town was opened in 1889 after the name was changed to Pennington. The Meridian & Bigbee Railroad built a line through Pennington, likely in the early 1900s, that would eventually connect Montgomery, Montgomery County, to Meridian, Mississippi. With the onset of the Great Depression, however, the town turned to cotton as its main business. Resources including timber, fish, and wild game were crucial components of Pennington’s economy as well.
The Allison Lumber Company sparked economic growth in the 1950s, paving the way for the Marathon Southern Corporation paper mill. It was renamed the American Can Company and then the James River Corporation. In August 1997, it merged with Fort Howard Paper Company and is now called the Fort James Corporation, with branches across the county. Georgia-Pacific also operates its Naheola paper mill in Pennington.
Pennington built a railroad bridge in 1934, the Meridian & Bigbee River Railroad Bridge, which is also called the Naheola Bridge. In 1956, the bridge was modified to allow both trains and automobiles to use it simultaneously, one of only a handful of bridges in the United States to do both. The bridge was used until 1999, when a new one was built beside it and named after Sen. Richard Shelby. Pennington is the only area in Choctaw County with rail, highway, and water transportation facilities. The town incorporated in 1964 and the first mayor elected was Philip McIlwain.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Pennington recorded a population of 620. Of that number, 59.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as African American, and 40.6 percent as white. The town’s median household income was $24,007, and the per capita income was $19,530.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Pennington was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Public administration (27.9 percent)
- Construction (25.0 percent)
- Manufacturing (20.9 percent)
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (13.4 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.8 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (4.7 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (1.2 percent)
- Retail trade (1.2 percent)
Students in Pennington attend Choctaw County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
State Highway 156 runs through the northern half of Pennington, roughly east-northeast. State Highway 114 bisects the town north-south, becoming County Highway 33 as it intersects 156. The Meridian & Bigbee Railroad, a subsidiary of the Genesee & Wyoming, operates a rail line through the town.
Events and Places of Interest
Pennington’s location on the Tombigbee Rivers provides ample opportunities for all types of watersports such as swimming, skiing, boating, and fishing. Lock Number 2 Park on the Tombigbee has a boat launch. Hunting is also a popular activity in the area. Local Haguewood Park includes ball fields, a walking trail, and a playground. A community center features an eight-hole golf course, a weight room, and a driving range. The old Naheola Bridge still stands and is a popular attraction. Moscow Landing, which is located north of Pennington on the Tombigbee River, is the site where the burning steamboat Eliza Battle sank in February 1858, killing 33 people out of the 60 passengers and 45 crewmembers on board. Local legend in Pennington claims this section of the Tombigbee River is haunted by ghosts from the sunken ship. The story is featured in Kathryn Tucker Windham‘s book 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.
Choctaw County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Choctaw County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.