Phenix City, Alabama has a population of 36,435 according to the 2019 statistics. But there was a time that it was even less populated and yet very dangerous. It may be hard to believe, but this little spot in the road on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee River was controlled by organized crime, whorehouses and gambling; just to name a few issues plaguing the area. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama: A 1954 report by the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division stated that the small town had more per capita incidences of venereal disease and violence than any other city in America!
Indeed. It was so out of control that General George Patton, who was stationed at nearby Ft. Benning, Georgia, issued an order that “Sin City” (as it was called nationwide) was off-limits to military personnel. The order also came with a warning that allegedly went something like this: “If one more soldier is found floating in the Chattahoochee I will order tanks to cross that River and flatten Phenix City.”
Things got even worse when an attorney named Albert Patterson decided to clean up the town by running for the office State Attorney General on the Democratic ticket. He won the primary in spite of election tampering by local politicians. Soon after, he was gunned down in the street outside of his law office in June 1954.
According to the legendary town today: Future governor John Patterson ran for the State Attorney General’s Office in 1955. While in office, he prosecuted those who were responsible for his father’s murder, though only one man was actually convicted. More than 700 people were indicted by a special Russell County Grand Jury, and by late 1955, the town was rid of all organized crime and vice.
But did they really clean it up so tidy?
To learn more take a look at the fascinating documentary clips below!
sources: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3973; https://phenixcityal.us/our-community/history/