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November 27, 2014

Logan Martin Dam transformed Coosa Valley 50 years ago

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Posted: Saturday, August 9, 2014 9:30 pm

There was no fanfare at all on Monday, Aug. 10, 1964, the day 50 years ago when Alabama Power officially put Logan Martin Dam into service and a new era for the company and the community was under way.

There were no live look-ins by national cable news networks or satellite radio reports hailing the event. No emails, texts or tweets encouraging folks to visit Facebook, Integra or a website to see a video of the coverage. The Daily Home not only didn’t have a front-page story on the event, it had no story at all.

In fact, a search of this paper’s bound archives for a month before and after Logan Martin’s startup date found no mention of the occasion at all. There was a full-page pictorial essay on a moving project on the Nile one day, but no mention at the entire massive construction project that had reached its culmination mere miles down the road.

A further search of those archives, by no means completely exhaustive, didn’t reveal any real significant mention of Logan Martin Dam until almost three years later, when Alabama Power finally dedicated the facility. And even then it was not banner headline news.

On Saturday, June 24, 1967, in a small two-column hole near the bottom of The Daily Home’s front page, readers learned that then-Gov. Lurleen B. Wallace would have to cancel her scheduled appearance at the dedication because of a delay in completing medical tests. She was to have been the featured speaker, but after entering a Montgomery hospital the previous Tuesday, she agreed to remain until her test results were available, and it was uncertain when that would be.

The brief story did not mention who would replace Gov. Wallace and, as almost an afterthought, told readers that the ceremony was scheduled for “2 p.m. on the St. Clair County side of the lake.” It also mentioned that congressmen Bill Nichols, John Buchanan Jr., Armistead T. Selden Jr. and Tom Bevill were expected for the occasion, and that was all.

Coverage of the event in the Monday, June 26, 1967, Daily Home was only slightly more substantive. A three-column by 5-inch photo appeared in the upper right-hand corner over a caption that simply said, “Logan Martin Dedication – See Page 10.”

When you flipped over to page 10, which was the back page of that day’s edition, there were two more three-column by 5-inch photos that showed, you guessed it, national, state and local politicians in attendance. There was an eight-column headline that read “Alabama Power Dedicates Logan Martin Dam” and there was about a 15-inch story by Johnnie Pender. Pretty much just the facts, folks, and that was it.

Taking precedence on the front page that 1967 day was the U.S. Senate voting to censure Sen. Tom Dodd, a second summit meeting being scheduled for world leaders to discuss their problems and a local story under the headline “Multitude of Candidates Means Folks Unhappy?”

All this historical background is provided as proof that everyone involved back then, from Alabama Power to the politicians to the people in the community whose lives had been changed forever for a variety of reasons, had no idea of the impact a 6,706-foot-long, 97-foot-high structure would have on our area for generations to come. How could they?

To them it was probably only a structure with a 612-foot concrete section, 5,464 feet of earthen dikes which initially required the moving of 1.34 million cubic yards of earth and took over four years to build. They had no way of knowing at the time that the Logan Martin Dam, and the 15,263-acre reservoir it creates, would become not just a landmark, but a way of life.

For 50 years now, people have lived on and loved Logan Martin Lake. They’ve announced engagements, gone to weddings, welcomed newborns and said goodbye to loved ones on Logan Martin Lake. They’ve fished; water skiied, sunbathed and snorkeled on Logan Martin Lake. In short, many have now lived a lifetime on Logan Martin Lake’s waters, and can’t imagine it any other way.

There’s also the economic impact the dam and the lake have had on our area, the jobs created, the businesses born, the countless tourists drawn to these parts. But this is not a day to talk dollars and cents. This is a day to talk of milestones and memories, of grand achievements past and more to come, of an amazing feat back then and even more amazing feats to come.

Its startup might have gone unnoticed 50 years ago, but rest assured that as Logan Martin Dam celebrates its Golden Anniversary, it certainly does not go unnoticed today in so many ways.

So here’s to Logan Martin Dam, its first 50 good years, and many, many more to come.

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