William T. Underwood
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William T. Underwood is one of the youngest of the iron-makers of the United states, and none are better known among those who sustain the new-born fame of Alabama in the great iron markets than he. The industrial civilization of our times is a moral and intellectual plane upon which strong men dispose great events. Leaders play their parts there as surely as in the eras of war, or discovery, or political reform. There are subjects to be moved upon that plane, under the most enlarged theories of offensive and defensive combination, regulated, withal, by the most advanced principles of social and political development. The widening influence of commerce; the refinement of thought, put in motion by the steam-driven machine ; the cultivation of personal honor, in the realm of banking ; the elevated manhood of labor are among the subjects, of which we speak, and whose disposition the modern business man is brought to contemplate and appreciate.
The personal elements of character which insure Mr. Underwood’s high rank in his chosen sphere of life are the strictest integrity and directness of conduct, promptness and energy in methods, intelligence in opinions, ready accessibility and unvarying courtesy of intercourse. He is a business man, thoroughly identified with the life of the people among whom he lives.
W. T. Underwood was born in Nashville, Tenn., July 24, 1848. He is descended from an English colonist, who settled in Goocliland County, Virginia, as a planter toward the middle of the eighteenth century. Joseph R. Underwood, grandfather of William T., emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky in his youth. His name is honorably connected with the history of his adopted State He served as a soldier in the war of 1812. He represented one of the Kentucky districts in the lower house of Congress, and represented the State in the Senate. He was a lawyer of great distinction, and served as one of the judges of the court of appeals of that State.
The father, Eugene Underwood, is now a large farmer and land owner in Warren County, Kentucky. He was for several years a practicing lawyer at Nashville, Tenn. He was one of the originators of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and one of its first directors.
William T. was carried to Louisville, Ky., by his father, after the death of his mother in Nashville, and there placed in the public schools. From these he was advanced to the Forest Academy, near the city. Having been well educated, Mr. Underwood read law, and was admitted to the bar, but never practiced the profession. He soon left Louisville to enter into land operations in Minnesota, and there became associated with influential men. His efforts in the West were altogether successful and satisfactory. In 1871 he took up his residence again in Louisville, but even then he continued to buy and sell the lands of Minnesota and other Western States and Territories, to examine titles and negotiate loans.
In 1882 Mr. Underwood was induced to come to Birmingham. He saw at once the marvelous opportunities here open to energy and capital well directed. He resolved to remain permanently, and then associated himself with Mr. H. F. De Bardeleben and others in founding the Mary Pratt Furnace Company.
Mr. Underwood has disposed of much of his possessions in other States to concentrate them at Birmingham. He is now a large investor in manufactories and real estate in and near the city. He is a director of the First National Bank, and president of the Mary Pratt Furnace Company, whose affairs he manages with distinguished capacity and success. He refused a nomination to the legislature at the August, 1886, election.
Mr. Underwood’s mother, Catharine Underwood, nee Thompson, who died when he was ten years old, was a daughter of a lawyer of note, William Thompson, of Nashville.
In 1871 William T. Underwood and Miss Miranda B. Wilder, daughter of Oscar Wilder, a Louisville gentleman of wealth, were married. They lost their only child, a son, born to them in Birmingham. Mrs. Underwood is a very active promoter of the interests of the Episcopal Church, of which she is a member, and of practical charities of various kinds in the city. Mr. Underwood is a member of both the Masonic and Odd Fellow fraternities.
– from Jefferson County and Birmingham Alabama: History and Biographical, edited by John Witherspoon Dubose and published in 1887 by Teeple & Smith / Caldwell Printing Works, Birmingham, Alabama