Arlie Barber

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Arlie K. Barber (born October 11, 1873; died December 10, 1958) was a druggist, owner of the Barber Seed Company, and a politician. He was a member of the Birmingham City Commission from 1915 to 1917 and ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Alabama in 1922 and 1934 and to represent the 9th Congressional District of Alabama in 1932.

Barber married the former Wessie B. Lee in Birmingham on August 16, 1894.

Barber's seed company was supplied from a greenhouse on property he owned in Center Point. Barber paid to build an enclosure around a natural spring on the property, now Barber Springs in Reed-Harvey Park.

At the turn of the century, Barber was an active member of the Alabama State Pharmaceutical Association and served on a regional committee promoting the establishment of a system of state-controlled dispensaries to control the sale of liquor.

Though he was opposed by the Birmingham News, Barber defeated incumbent A. O. Lane for the office of Commissioner of Public Safety in the 1915 Birmingham City Commission election. Barber denounced Lane for his vote allowing the consolidation of the People's Home Telephone and Telegraph Company with Southern Bell, producing a monopoly.

Shortly after the election, Barber announced his membership in the Socialist Party, though he never involved himself in anything that could be described as "radical". He did propose in 1917 that the city should annex the property on which the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company had erected its Ensley and Fairfield Works, in order to collect taxes on the operation. Commission President George Ward argued against the measure on the grounds that it would provide a disincentive to further investment by the company. As public safety commissioner, Barber was responsible for issuing arrest warrants to cinema operators that screened "unwholesome" films. He further proposed to close pool halls on Sundays and to prohibit the playing of dominoes in public places.

Barber's bid for President of the Commission in the 1917 Birmingham City Commission election was eclipsed by the rise of "True American" candidate Nathaniel Barrett of East Lake. During the campaign, Barber sought to discredit Barrett by secretly releasing private correspondence taken from the office of former commissioner and Barrett supporter James Weatherly. Barber finished third behind Barrett and Ward.

Though he served only one term, Barber was representative of a new wave of suburban Commissioners that, years after the Greater Birmingham annexation, began to dominate city politics. He ran unsuccessfully for Governor of Alabama in 1922, and again in 1934. In 1932 he ran unsuccessfully to represent Alabama's 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He garnered less than 3% of the vote in each of those races.

Barber died in 1958 and is buried at Elmwood Cemetery.


  • Harris, Carl V. (1977) Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921. Twentieth-Century America Series. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 087049211X
  • Breedlove, Michael A. (July 1980) "Progressivism and Nativism: The Race for the Presidency of the City Commission of Birmingham, Alabama in 1917". Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society. Vol. 6, No. 4

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