A. B. Meek was born in Columbia, S.C., the oldest of ten children. His family moved to Tuscaloosa, Ala., when he was about five. As a boy, he was a voracious reader of newspapers, especially literary ones, smuggling them into his classes folded up to a size that would fit inside a schoolbook. He began writing poetry in his teens. Meek attended the University of Georgia but transferred to the University of Alabama when it opened in 1831, graduating with an AB in 1833 and earning an MA in 1836. Meek was admitted to the bar at Tuscaloosa in 1835. In early 1836, he volunteered for military service in the Seminole War in Florida. Meek was a Jacksonian Democrat and was involved in politics. He was appointed several times to state legal offices, mostly to fill out unexpired terms. He also served as law clerk for former Tuscaloosan Seth Barton, who was solicitor of the United States Treasury under President James K. Polk. In 1846, Meek was appointed Federal Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama in Mobile, which became his residence for nearly twenty years. Meek was elected twice to the state legislature from Mobile. In his first term, he sponsored the bill to establish free public schools in Alabama. In his second term, he was elected Speaker of the House.
In 1835, Meek began editing and publishing the Tuscaloosa-based Democratic newspaper, the Flag of the Union. In 1839, Meek became the founder and editor of The Southron, a short-lived literary monthly in which he laid out his theories for Southern literature. During this period, he also published poems in several Southern literary newspapers. From 1851 to 1853, Meek was an associate of Thaddeus Sanford, editor of the Mobile Register, which published many of his poems. He was also a popular orator, speaking on topics related to Southwestern history. In 1855, Meek published his book-length poem, The Red Eagle, about William Weatherford, Andrew Jackson, and the Creek War of 1813. In 1857, he published two more books, a collection of poems and lyrics about the South and a prose work on Southwestern history, which included several of his orations on the subject. In 1863, Meek moved to Columbus, Miss., to live with the family of his younger brother who was serving in the military. He died there two years later of heart failure. His lifelong project, a history of Alabama, was never published.
A. B. Meek wanted to create a unique Southern literature in the tradition of Romanticism. He believed that Southern writing should feature the beautiful natural scenery, the original Native American inhabitants of the land, and the history of the region's discovery, exploration, and settlement.
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Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.