1983 Birmingham municipal election

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The 1983 Birmingham municpal election included races for Mayor of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, then elected at-large. The election was held on October 11, 1983 with two challengers vying trying to unseat Richard Arrington, Jr, then at the end of his first term of office.

Newspapers billed the contest as a "Battle of the Ph.D.s" as Arrington and his main opponent, City Council president John Katopodis, were both accomplished educators. Despite the appellation, the campaign rhetoric was kept intentionally low-key, with the candidates agreeing by pact not to try to inflame racial fears to win votes. The election was the first in which black voters outnumbered white voters in the city, about 68,000 to 65,000. The increase in black votes was credited partly to Arrington's initiative in annexing predominantly-black neighborhoods into the city, and partly to a successful voter registration drive organized in advance of the 1980 presidential election.

Polling indicated that Arrington had broadened his support among whites, especially among business leaders, and that Katopodis, lacking a strong issue over which to attack the incumbent, would need black voters to stay away from the polls. They did not. Helped by the increased efficacy of Arrington's Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, overall turnout was 83% with a record 77% of voters in black precincts casting ballots. Arrington soundly won his second term of office.

Mayor's race

  1. Richard Arrington, Jr: 56,967 votes (60%)
  2. John Katopodis: 37,608 votes (40%)
  3. Sonja Franeta (Socialist Workers Party): 171 votes (0.2%)

City Council election

Preceded by:
Birmingham municipal elections
Succeeded by:


  • Schmidt, William E. (October 9, 1983) "Birmingham picks a mayor Tuesday." The New York Times
  • Kelly, Mark (September 30, 1999) "William Bell: The Historical Perspective" Black & White
  • Allers, Robyn, ed. (1999) Birmingham: A City Born Again: The Arrington Years 1979-1999. Birmingham: Elements/Jesse J. Lewis and Associates
  • Archibald, John (October 9, 2009) "Archibald: What next? C-Notes for votes?" Birmingham News