Prichard borders the north side of Mobile, as well as the Mobile suburbs of Chickasaw, Alabama, Saraland, Alabama, and the unincorporated sections of Eight Mile, Alabama. As of the 2010 Census, the population of the city was 22,659. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan statistical area.
Prichard began as a settlement in the 1830s bordering Telegraph Road (known now as U.S. Highway 43) It remained largely unsettled until the Clotilde landed in Mobile Bay prior to the Civil War. Africatown evolved into a greater part of the Plateau/Magazine area which developed along Telegraph Road, and eventually, Plateau and Magazine had their territory split between Mobile and Prichard.
After 1900, Prichard began a slow and steady development. In 1925, Prichard was incorporated as a city. During World War II Prichard became a company town as many Mobile shipbuilding companies built homes for their workers in Prichard. During the 1950s and 60's, Prichard annexed historic Whistler as well as parts of Eight Mile, Alabama and Kushla. The 40's and 50's saw phenomenal growth in the Mobile area, and Mobile, Prichard and Chickasaw all recorded their highest city-proper populations in 1960. Following the Civil Rights Movement however, Prichard's rigid system of segregation collapsed, and many blacks who had previously lived in the Bullshead/Neely/Trinity Gardens area of Prichard began moving into East Prichard (downtown Prichard) causing a dramatic white flight to occur.
In 1960, Prichard recorded a population of 47,371. In 1970, the population had decreased to 41,000 and by 1990 it had decreased to approximately 34,000. In 1970, Vigor High School on Wilson Avenue, which had been Prichard's white high school during segregation was 70% white, by 1980, it was 80% black, even considering the fact that most of Prichard's remaining white areas were in its district. In 1994, construction of Interstate 165 was completed, and it has produced some economic benefits in East Prichard. The 1980s downtown vacancy rate was near 80%, as of 2000, it was closer to 30%. In 2004, the Prichard Housing Authority began demolition of the Bessemer Avenue Housing Project in Bullshead.
In December 2006, the city of Prichard was selected as the site of the future Alabama Motorsports Park, a Dale Earnhardt Jr. Speedway and theme park. This complex of racetracks and entertainment venues is planned to be on nearly of land near the intersection of Industrial Parkway (Alabama State Route 158) and US Highway 45 in the northern section of Prichard.
Recent political history
In 1972, while still a majority white city, Prichard elected its first black Mayor, Algernon Johnson (A.J.) Cooper, who would serve 2 terms as Prichard's mayor, and would eventually serve in the administration of President Bill Clinton. In 1968, Cooper founded the Black American Law Students Association at New York University. While Mayor Cooper was popular with both blacks and whites, however, he engaged in many battles with the Prichard City Council during his tenure.
In the 1980s and 1990s problems with crime, drugs and middle class flight were elevated when the area's major financial and employment base left with the closing of factories operated by Scott Paper Company and International Paper as well as Brookley Field Air Base. This devastated the area and the city struggled to recover. In 1999, the city declared bankruptcy.
In November 2004, Mobile County voters narrowly (500 votes out of 100,000 cast on the issue) defeated a local amendment which would have allowed Prichard to set up a special trade zone. The measure passed by a 2/3s vote in Prichard, and also passed by smaller margins in Mobile and Chickasaw, but was defeated by the rest of Mobile County.
In 2004, the city hired an actuary to analyze and summarize their employees’ pension plan. He told the city the plan would run out of money by the summer of 2009. In September of that year, the city's pension fund ran out of money and stopped paying pensions. The city filed for bankruptcy again in October 2009.
In 2010, Councilwoman Earline Martin-Harris suggested dissolving the city and offered an alternative budget which would make all city employees part-time employees. As of April 2011, pensioners had not received their pension checks nor had a budget been passed in eighteen months.
Recent Political History