Terry, Luther Red Level is located in northwestern Covington County in the extreme south-central part of the state. Red Level derives its name from a store that once existed in the area named Read’s Level and predates the town by a few years. James Read, the owner of the store, always pronounced his name with a silent “a,” which prompted a misspelling of the name. It has a mayor/city council form of government. Luther Terry, surgeon general of the United States during the 1960s, and ventriloquist Willie Tyler both were born in Red Level.
The first land sold in the vicinity of Red Level was purchased by Elkanah Briggs from the federal land office at Cahaba on March 24, 1824, but settlers did not move to the area in any significant numbers until the 1840s and 1850s. Squatters, or individuals with no legal title to the land they occupied, contributed to the Red Level area’s population surge during these decades. The population in the Red Level area grew significantly in the early 1850s, primarily because land prices fell substantially. The area was granted a post office in 1857. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the Red Level settlement was one of the largest in Covington County, and this can be partially attributed to its position at the intersection of a heavily travelled road between Andalusia and the railroad station at Georgiana. Expansion slowed after the Civil War, and the settlement briefly lost its post office in 1866, but it reopened again in 1868. The citizens changed the settlement’s name to Red Level in 1876.
In 1898, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad began laying track that would eventually run through Red Level, bringing increased economic growth. The primary economic drivers in the area were cotton (growing, harvesting, ginning, and shipping), cattle, timber, and tobacco. Passenger trains also carried mail, and freight trains made daily stops to pick up cattle, cotton, and lumber. A sugar refinery outside of town provided bootleggers with a crucial ingredient required to distill moonshine, a major illegal source of revenue for the people of Red Level. Red Level was incorporated by a charter granted by the Alabama State Senate in 1901. During the early twentieth century, the boll weevil‘s destruction of cotton throughout the Southeast had a marked negative effect on the local economy of Red Level. The first drugstore opened in 1912, followed by the Peoples Bank of Red Level in August 1914; it still operates today as Local Bank.
Red Level’s population according to the 2020 Census was 363. Of that number, 85.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 7.7 percent as African American, and 6.9 as two or more races. The town’s median household income was $43,295, and the per capita income was $23,634.
According to the 2020 Census, the workforce in Red Level was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Retail trade (20.5 percent)
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (18.2 percent)
- Construction (15.3 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (12.5 percent)
- Manufacturing (11.9 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (8.5 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (4.0 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (2.3 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (2.3 percent)
- Wholesale trade (2.3 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (1.7 percent)
- Public administration (0.6 percent)
Schools in Red Level are part of the Covington County school system; the town has one PreK-12 high school.
State Highway 55 runs northwest-southeast through the northeastern quadrant of Red Level. County Highway 7/82 runs through town northeast-southwest. The Three Notch Railroad, a subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc., operates a line from Georgiana to Andalusia that runs through Red Level.
Events and Places of Interest
Red Level lies about five miles northwest of the Conecuh River and Point A reservoir and seven miles west of Gantt Lake that provides boating and fishing opportunities.
Bryan, Gus J., and Ruby R. Bryan. Covington County History, 1821-1976. Opp, Ala.: Opp Historical Society, 1985.
Covington County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Covington County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2003.
Ward, Wyley Donald. Early History of Covington County, Alabama, 1821-1871. Huntsville, Ala.: n.p., 1976.