The National Forests in Alabama began with the Alabama Purchase Unit, established by the National Forest Commission in Fiscal Year 1914. The area was proclaimed the Alabama National Forest by President Woodrow Wilson on January 15, 1918.
The first forest was located in Franklin, Lawrence and Winston Counties. Land acquisition files show that much of the ridge tops had been cut-over and approximately 40-percent of the land was cut-over, cultivated and vacated farmland. The virgin timber must have been located in the deep gorges and on public domain land.
On June 19, 1936, by proclamation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Alabama National Forest was renamed the Black Warrior National Forest. About six years later on June 17, 1942, the name was changed, by an Act of Congress, to the William B. Bankhead National Forest.