Leeds

Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.

Leeds was founded in 1877, during the final years of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era. It housed the workers and their families of Lehigh, a Portland cement manufacturing plant.

The War of 1812, geography, geology, and three cultures shaped the history of Leeds. Lying at the crossroads of desecrated ancient Native-American paths in the center of Alabama, Leeds drew European and African-American settlers to a land of fertile growing seasons and rich sources of coal and mineral ore. The early settlers built churches and schools with many remaining in Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principal survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporating on April 27, 1887 as "Leeds", has existed along the banks of the Little Cahaba River; beside an historic stagecoach route; and along two large railroads for the greater part of American History.


The tale of John Henry was believed to have originated in Leeds. In this folk story, John Henry, the "steel-drivin' man", raced and won against a steam engine in the laying of railroad that penetrated the Oak Mountain Tunnel in Leeds. Retired chemistry professor and folklorist John Garst, of the University of Georgia, has argued that the contest happened at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern Railway) in Leeds on September 20, 1887.

Based on documentation that corresponds with the account of C.C. Spencer, who claimed in the 1920s to have witnessed the contest, Garst speculates that John Henry may have been a man named Henry who was born a slave to P.A.L. Dabney, the father of the chief engineer of that railroad, in 1850. Since 2007, the city of Leeds has honored John Henry's legend during an annual festival held on the third weekend in September, the Leeds Downtown Folk Festival & John Henry Celebration.

In 2009, the City of Leeds Board of Education authorized the construction—completed by the Wyatt Construction Company—of two new schools, Leeds Middle School and Leeds High School. They began construction in 2009 and now have completed both schools. The Leeds BOE also authorized the renovations of and additions to Leeds Elementary School, which began in 2008. These renovations were made by the Wyatt Construction Company, and include an expanded office and a new awning around the front of the school.

Leeds has constructed a new school, named Leeds Primary School, to house Pre-K through 2nd graders to ease overcrowding at its elementary school. The school opened for the 2016-2017 school year.

On December 4, 2008 the Leeds High School Greenwave football team won the Class 3A AHSAA State Football Championship and finished the year 15-0. On February 28, 2009, the Greenwave basketball team won the 3A AHSAA State Basketball Championship. On December 6, 2010 the Greenwave football team won the Class 3A AHSAA State Football Championship and finishing the year 15-0. On December 5, 2014 the Greenwave football team won the Class 4A AHSAA State Football Championship and finished the year 14-1. On December 5, 2015 the Greenwave football team won the 4A AHSAA State Football Championship and finished the year 14-1. On February 14, 2015 the Greenwave wrestling team won the Class 1A-5A AHSAA State Wrestling Championship.

The Leeds High School Track and Field team has won several state championships.

The 2007 Leeds High School Softball team won the 3A state championship after winning six straight games from the loser's bracket.

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Updated: 25th March, 2019 5:38 PM.