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Bayou La Batre

James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Regina Benjamin
Bayou La Batre is located on Mobile Bay in Mobile County in the southwest corner of the state. It has a mayor/council form of government. Former U.S. surgeon general Regina Benjamin operates a clinic in Bayou La Batre. Bayou La Batre is home to a significant population of Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian immigrants who are involved with the local fishing industry.
The ship featured in the "Pirates of the Carribean" Disney film series, the Black Pearl, was built in a Bayou La Batre shipyard, and the town was made famous as the hometown of a major character in the 1994 film Forrest Gump.
History
Child Oyster Shuckers in Bayou La Batre
Originally known by the French name "Riviere d'Erbane," the town was the first non-Indian settlement in what would become Mobile County, which at the time was in Spanish territory. It arose in 1786 on a 1,259-acre land grant from the Spanish government to French settler Joseph Bousage. After the French took control of the area and installed a series of cannons (known as a battery) at the site, the settlement became known as "Riviere la Batterie" and finally as Bayou La Batre. The town became part of the Mississippi Territory of the United States in 1811 and by the 1830s boasted its own hotel. It became a popular vacation spot after the Civil War for its location on the water. In 1906, a hurricane devastated the town and destroyed its tourist industry.
Hurricane Katrina Damage in Bayou La Batre
By the mid-1920s, the town began an economic comeback centered on the seafood industry, which remains a mainstay of the local economy today, as is shipbuilding. In the 1940s, Alabama artist John Kelly Fitzpatrick and others operated an artists' colony in the town. Bayou La Batre was incorporated in 1955. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the town's fishing fleet and caused severe damage to the town itself.
Demographics
According to 2016 Census estimates, Bayou La Batre recorded a population of 2,532. Of that number, 52.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 31.9 percent as Asian, 9.8 percent as African American, 6.1 percent as Hispanic, and 5.9 percent as two or more races. The town's median household income was $40,909, and the per capita income was $17,270.
Employment
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Bayou La Batre was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Manufacturing (22.8 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (16.4 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extraction (14.9 percent)
  • Retail trade (11.5 percent)
  • Educational services and health care and social assistance (7.0 percent)
  • Transportation and warehousing, and utilities (5.6 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services (5.2 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (4.9 percent)
  • Construction (4.0 percent)
  • Finance and insurance, and real estate and rental and leasing (3.1 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services (3.4 percent)
  • Information (0.7 percent)
  • Public administration (0.7 percent)
Education
Public schools in Bayou La Batre are part of the Mobile County School District; the town has one middle school.
Transportation
Bayou La Batre Blessing of the Fleet
State Highway 188 runs north-south through the city. The Roy E. Ray Airport is located five miles to the northeast of Bayou La Batre.
Events and Places of Interest
A loop of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail runs through Bayou La Batre. The city's location near the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay affords many opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Events include the annual Blessing of the Fleet, which celebrates the town's fishing industry, in May and the Taste of the Bayou seafood festival in September.

Additional Resources

Mobile County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Mobile County. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2002.
Published:  March 20, 2012   |   Last updated:  October 19, 2021