Our History: Bankhead Highway―The Military Road
Every Now and Then is a column featuring a little piece of Douglas County history.
Editor's note: Lisa Cooper's newest work can be found at douglascountyhistory.blogspot.com.
Even with the convenience and ease of using Interstate 20 as a shortcut to travel about Douglasville, at some point in time you will find yourself on U.S. 78/Bankhead Highway―that stretch of road running parallel to the railway line through the downtown historic district of Douglasville where the road is also known as Broad Street.
Originally, the road was known as the Military Road since it served primarily as a route for soldiers to move back and forth between Fort McPherson and the rifle range at Waco, Georgia, approximately 30 miles west of Douglasville.
A common sight most weekends for Douglasville residents were columns of soldiers marching up the road in formation. They would set out from Fort McPherson early on a Saturday morning and march to Camp Hobson, a sub-post near Lithia Springs, where the soldiers would bivouack. The next morning the soldiers would be on the march again trekking the remaining twenty miles that Bankhead Highway cuts across Douglas County. Later, as the road continued on into Alabama the soldiers would march on to Anniston.
An actual road was proposed by a Congressional bill in 1905 and was finished in 1915, but the Military Road remained a dirt road until 1931 when it was finally paved. The road brought Atlanta closer to Douglasville. There was limited bus and taxi service in the beginning but eventually the service widened and as more and more people were able to own cars the road began to be traveled extensively. Many Douglasville citizens were able to travel to Atlanta for work and area farmers could reach new markets.
Once the road was connected to Birmingham it received the name Bankhead in honor of Senator John H. Bankhead of Alabama, the sponsor of the Congressional bill known as the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916, the first federal highway funding legislation.
Senator Bankhead was instrumental in the funding legislation. Two of his sons also served in Congress and his granddaughter was Tallulah Bankhead, a famous actress who had a scandalous reputation from the 1920s through the 1950s.
Today Bankhead Highway criss-crosses the lower half of the United States and can take you from Washington D.C. to San Diego, California via Douglasville!