History Time Line

1852: Alabama Insane Hospital established by the Alabama Legislature on a 326-acre tract adjacent to the University of Alabama.

1860: Peter Bryce, 26, elected first superintendent. During his tenure, Bryce abolishes straitjackets and restraints and insists on treating patients with dignity and respect.

1861: The immense hospital, built on the model developed by Thomas Kirkbride and Samuel Sloan, opens. It features running water, flush toilets, gas lighting and is the first building in Tuscaloosa to have gas lights and central steam heat.

1865: From the hospital's dome, observers watch Union troops burn the University of Alabama.

1900: The state Legislature renames the hospital for Bryce, who died in 1892.

1949: A report finds the state's two mental hospitals, Bryce and Searcy near Mobile, have an average daily patient population of 5,732 with 10 full-time staff physicians, the largest patient load of any state in the nation at the time.

1970: A class-action lawsuit in federal court, Wyatt v. Stickney, alleges that persons involuntarily committed to Bryce were not being treated. At the time, Alabama is 50th out of the 50 states in spending for the care of people with mental illness or intellectual disability in public institutions, allotting 50 cents per day per patient.

1971: U.S. District Court Judge Frank Johnson rules persons committed for treatment have a constitutional right to receive treatment.

1972: Johnson issues minimum standards for mental health and intellectual disability facilities.

1995: U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson releases several mental health facilities from supervision under the Wyatt case and finds the department in compliance with about a third of the mental illness and intellectual disability standards.

2003: Thompson terminates Wyatt v. Stickney case after 33 years.