Dothan is a city in Alabama. The city’s name derives from a town mentioned in a Bible verse, Genesis 37:17 – “For I heard them say, let us go to Dothan”.
In the late 1700s and 1800s, horse and ox-drawn covered wagons from Charleston (South Carolina), Savannah (Georgia) and Jacksonville (Florida) creaked and groaned across the South as pioneer families searched for a place to build new homes and to start a new life. Those pioneers who passed through the vast pine forests in the southeast corner of the territory that was to later become the state of Alabama, would often stop at a spring known as Poplar Head, where they would camp for a while and rest. Most of those early travelers believed that the sandy soil which nurtured the thick pine forests would not be suitable for farming, so they moved on.
Poplar Head, named for the poplar trees that encircled the glade where the “head” (as springs were often called) welled from the earth, was where ancient Indian trails met and crossed. The spring was often used by Indians from the various tribes of the Creek Confederacy as a meeting place and as a campground. In the 1830s, a fort existed on the Barber Plantation, ten or twelve miles (19 km) east of Poplar Head, where the settlers from the surrounding town and hamlets could go when they felt threatened by the Indians. By 1840, the Indian wars in Alabama were over and the fort soon disappeared.
By 1885, the hamlet had grown into a village. The new settlers realized that if the community’s growth was to be sustained, they would need a governing body and local law enforcement. On November 10, 1885, the people of Poplar Head voted to incorporate and re-name the village Dothan, after it was discovered that a “Poplar Head” post office already existed in northern Alabama. The city of Dothan was incorporated on November 11, 1885.
Original inhabitants were the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes.
Hyman Blumberg settled in Dothan in 1892 and started a retail apparel business. He married his sweetheart from Baltimore, Maryland, Esther, and together they had six sons and one daughter, all of whom were active in building the largest department store in southeast Alabama. It was the first store in Dothan to install a moving escalator; people would come from many miles away just to ride this new innovation. Blumberg’s and Sons was the first full line department store in Dothan and drew customers from as far away as Georgia and Florida. The store closed in 1975, but the Blumbergs remain a prominent family in Dothan.
In 1902, Dothan resident W. M. Cooper released a revision of B. F. White’s popular tune book, The Sacred Harp.
Dothan also took part in the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Famous residents, past and present
Dothan is the birthplace of Johnny Mack Brown (1904-1974), an All-American college football player and successful film actor.
Actors William Gray Espy, (the original Snapper of the long-running CBS soap opera, The Young and the Restless), and Donna D’Errico were also born in Dothan.
Singer Bobby Goldsboro, famous for his 1968 Top 40 #1 hit “Honey” as well as many other Top 40 releases of the 1960s and early 1970s, grew up in Dothan and graduated from Dothan High School, though he was born in Marianna, Florida.
Farley Taylor and his co-star Joe Dykes, heard nationwide on their radio show The Old Taylor-Made Opry With Farley And Uncle Joe, broadcast their popular radio show from WTVY-FM in Dothan. Taylor lived most of his life there until his death. Dykes is still a resident.
Former Alabama Attorney General and Lt. Governor Bill Baxley, famous for prosecuting the 16th St. Baptist Church bombings, was born and raised in Dothan.
Movie Gallery CEO Joe Malugen is a current resident of Dothan.
Former Miss America, Heather Whitestone, also was born and raised in Dothan.
Matt Cain, a starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, was born in Dothan.
Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville University center and later MVP of the ABA, attended junior high and high school in Dothan.
Former Playboy model Nicole Holland (List of Playboy NSS models G-R) was born and raised in Dothan.
Gardner Dickinson, a 7-time PGA Tour champion golfer was born in Dothan.
Another Dothan native is “The Wrestling Pro” Leon Baxter, who was a professional wrestler. He got his start in the 1960s, wrestling all over the South as “Tarzan Baxter.” He feuded with wrestling legend Danny Hodge and teamed with Juan Sebastian as The Masked Guachos, then achieved success in the Gulf Coast area as “The Wrestling Pro” in the 1970s. Baxter went on to have a short feud with legendary world heavyweight champion Lou Thesz and a rookie named Terry “The Hulk” Boulder, later known as Hulk Hogan.
An independent professional wrestling group currently runs shows in and around Dothan. The group’s name is Southeastern Xtreme Wrestling or SXW. It was formed in 1999 by head promoter Will Pritchard.
Dothan is also home to Gabe Gross, who is an outfielder for Major League Baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dothan is also the hometown of professional skateboarder Jamie Thomas, creator of two skateboard companies and a shoe company. He was featured as a playable character in the first five Tony Hawk video games, though at least one instruction booklet erroneously lists his current residence as his hometown. He also won an “Entrepreneur of The Year” award in 2006.