Old Wadley Hotel Building Settlers resided in the area that now encompasses Wadley from the 1830s, but the town itself was not founded until 1906. It was established by the Callaway Development Company of LaGrange, Georgia, largely because it was midway between LaGrange and Birmingham, Jefferson County, and thus provided a convenient stop for the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad. The town was named after George Dole Wadley, a railroad official overseeing the construction of the line. Shortly after construction of the town center began, the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Atlantic Railroad came through. The railroad was economically important to the town and the county because it provided quicker access to distant markets, and Wadley became a shipping center. By 1910, the population had reached 426.
Southern Union State Community College at Wadley Land sales and timber were economic mainstays for Wadley in the first half of the twentieth century. Later industries included Clegg Manufacturing Company, a shirt manufacturing facility (began operating in 1957) and a wrought-iron furniture factory (opened in 1963); the shirt factory closed by 1990. Southern Union State Community College is now one of the town’s largest employers. A granite quarry opened in 2012.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Wadley recorded a population of 802. Of that number, 55.2 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 31.8 percent as African American, 11.6 percent as two or more races, and 2.1 percent as Hispanic, and 0.7 percent as American Indian and Alaska Native. The town’s median household income was $20,156, and the per capita income was $10,728.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Wadley was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Manufacturing (32.4 percent)
- Educational services and health care and social assistance (22.9 percent)
- Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (12.3 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (5.0 percent)
- Retail trade (5.0 percent)
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (5.0 percent)
- Construction (4.5 percent)
- Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (4.5 percent)
- Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (3.9 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (1.7 percent)
- Public administration (1.7 percent)
- Wholesale trade (1.1 percent)
Schools in Wadley are part of the Randolph County school system; the town has one K-12 school. Wadley also hosts a campus of Southern Union State Community College.
State Highway 77 terminates in Wadley, coming in from the northwest. State Highway 22/77 runs through the southern tip of town, going east and southwest.
Events and Places of Interest Wadley Railroad Depot
The Gay Craft House is listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. The Wadley Railroad Depot, which ceased operations in 1964, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011; it is one of only four Mission-style depots surviving in the state (the others being in Bridgeport, Cullman, and Mobile).
Randolph County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage, of Randolph County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Smith, Eugenia Elizabeth. “A History of Randolph County.” Master’s Thesis, Auburn Polytechnic Institute, 1938.
“Wadley Railroad Depot Listed in the National Register.” The Randolph Leader, July 27, 2011. http://www.therandolphleader.com/news/article_254a6522-b85f-11e0-ae67-001cc4c03286.html