John Patterson refers to Phenix City, Alabama in the 1940s and 50s as a 'poor man's Las Vegas.' It was the most egregious example of a phenomenon that affected many small American cities in that period -- the total takeover of all levels of government by a mob profiting from gambling, prostitution, loan sharking and other forms of vice. But Phenix City was the only place where a high public offical was brazenly murdered on a public street. Ray Jenkins, whose reporting on Phenix City won a Pulitzer Prize, gives a summary of Phenix City history in the video below, while Pete Hanna, who helped clean up Phenix City as a member of the National Guard in 1954, calls it 'not a normal town.'

In 1955 a film crew arrived to film what would become a B-movie classic, The Phenix City Story. Though based on the facts surrounding the murder of Albert Patterson, the film contained wild inaccuracies, among them who actually did the killing. John Patterson recalls how the film came to be made and his and the mob's reaction to it.

The sections that follow describe the Mob, the Killing in 1954 and the Cleanup that followed a declaration of martial law by Alabama Governor Gordon Persons.