Horace King was the most respected bridge-builder in the southeast during the mid-nineteenth century.
As a slave until 1846, King and his master John Godwin worked as partners on major construction projects. By 1860 he was one of the wealthiest free blacks in Alabama. Both as a slave and a free black, King traveled without any restrictions throughout the Deep South. After reluctantly working for the Confederacy, he served as an Alabama legislator during Reconstruction. His role as an engineer and contractor, during a period when few professional opportunities existed for African Americans, earned him a legendary status that was enhanced over time by towns eager to claim, sometimes erroneously, their own Horace King covered bridge, warehouse, mill, courthouse, church, elaborate Gothic house, or staircase. After his death local historians and journalists frequently cited Horace King as an example of a successful African American. Although he certainly was an exceptional bridge architect and builder of massive heavy-timber frame structures, his career as an entrepreneur was limited by the racial biases of his time.
Photos courtesy of: Alabama Department of Archives and History