John Persons

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John Cecil Persons (born in Atlanta, Georgia) was a reporter, attorney, and later a General in the U. S. Army, serving in World War I and World War II. He reorganized the Alabama National Guard afterward and finished his career as a banker.

Persons began his career in Birmingham in 1904, working as a cashier and accountant for Colonel G. T. Bush. He enrolled at the University of Alabama School of Law in 1909 and was employed as bursar and registrar, and as University Treasurer during his senior year. He also reported for several newspapers.

After graduating in 1912, Persons was hired as city attorney for Tuscaloosa and assistant Tuscaloosa County attorney. He also operated a 6,000 acres plantation, a cotton gin, and a timber company.

During World War I, Persons was commissioned a Captain and then Major in the 4th and 7th Infantry Divisions and served overseas until 1919. Upon returning home, he accepted the vice-presidency of the First National Bank of Tuscaloosa. He came back to Birmingham as vice-president, and then president of the American-Traders National Bank. In 1930 he was named president of the First National Bank of Birmingham, chairman of the board in 1943, and the corporation's first CEO in 1946.

Meanwhile, in 1924, Persons was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the Alabama National Guard, and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1930 and Major General in 1941. During World War II he led the 31st Infantry Division in the Guinea Campaigns and commanded the assault troops that occupied Morotai.

Following the War, Persons was placed in charge of reorganizing the Alabama Guard. He retired from the service in 1948 with the rank of Lieutenant General. Persons and his wife, the former Elonia Dudley Hutchinson, had three children, John Cecil, Elonia Nelson (McHenry) and Alice Virginia (Stewart). He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1972 and into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1976.


  • Armbrester, Margaret (1974) John C. Persons: Citizen-Soldier. Birmingham: Oxmoor Press
  • Hinckley, George C. (1975) "John Cecil Persons: Southern Businessman and Military Leader." Samford University Master's thesis
  • John C. Persons (March 14, 2007) Alabama Academy of Honor profile - accessed August 10, 2010