From Slave to Builder

KING

So skilled an engineer was Horace King that the Alabama legislature passed a law granting his freedom. 

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An engineer, supervisor, and builder of major bridges throughout the prewar South while still enslaved, King also helped to design the state capitol building in Montgomery. After the war, he was elected to two terms in it.

The kin of Robert Jemison, the politician and builder who worked with King and arranged his freedom, became influential developers in the new postwar city of Birmingham. They built a skyscraper called the Empire Building on what was called the "Heaviest Corner in the South." 

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Now a hotel, the landmark building's best feature is its rooftop bar, which allows views of the city and a rare closeup look at the colorfully painted terracotta ornamentation.