William Patrick Lay (1853-1940)
A third generation riverboat captain, Lay knew Alabama's rivers better than most. He also understood the state's rapids and shoals, which for decades had blocked riverboats, were ideal sites for hydroelectric dams. Lay founded Alabama Power Company on Dec. 4, 1906 in Gadsden. Although he had the vision and congressional approval to build a dam, Lay lacked the money to make that dream a reality until meeting James Mitchell. When Lay turned over control of the company to Mitchell in 1912, he did so with these words, which continue to guide the company today: "I now commit to you the good name and destiny of Alabama Power. May it be developed for the service of Alabama."
James Mitchell (1866-1920)
President 1912-1913 and 1915-1920
With no investment capital available in the state, and little interest from Wall Street, the electrification of Alabama could have been delayed for decades if not for James Mitchell. Born in Canada and raised in Massachusetts, Mitchell spent 16 years bringing electricity to Brazil before coming to Alabama. His ability to identify good sites for hydroelectric dams and opportunities for investors earned Mitchell the trust of London financiers, who agreed to back his projects in Alabama. Despite his key role in the financing of Alabama Power, Mitchell's goals went well beyond making money. As he put it, "To make money is all right; to build industry is fine. But to build an industry that saves mankind from toil which it can well be spared, that reduces the labor and drudgery of women, that provides leisure for education and culture - truly is a much finer thing."
Thomas W. Martin (1881-1964)
Considered by many to be the most significant business and civic leader of 20th century Alabama, Martin's guiding philosophy was simple: Nothing can be good for Alabama Power unless it is first good for Alabama. A native of Scottsboro, Martin helped write the state's dam laws and was practicing law in Montgomery when he met James Mitchell. While Mitchell had the experience and financial backing to build a company, Martin provided an equally important skill: he was familiar with Alabama's unique political landscape and knew the right ways - and right people - to get things done. Martin understood that the growth and success of both the company and the state were linked. As such, Martin initiated projects that continue to benefit Alabama to this day, including the state's first economic development department and the independent Southern Research Institute, a diverse network committed to scientific discovery and technology development.