The History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, written by Thomas McAdory Owen, was published in 1921 by the S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. The company had approached Dr. Owen in 1911 with a proposal that he produce a history and biographical dictionary of the state. Dr. Owen had begun gathering materials and writing a history of Alabama in the late 1890s. He continued this pursuit after his appointment to head the Alabama Department of Archives and History and had almost completed his work when a fire destroyed his home in 1906. From the materials salvaged from his home, Owen felt that he had the history completed and could use the bulk of the Clarke Publishing contract period to write the biographical sketches. However, upon reviewing the papers in the boxes gathered from his home after the fire, Owen found that he would have to rewrite the history and gather all of the biography materials.
Dr. Owen worked on the History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography until his death on March 25, 1920. His widow, Marie Bankhead Owen, completed the manuscript materials for publication in the year following Dr. Owen's death. Dr. Owen’s wide circle of contacts in the history, library, and manuscript communities helped him to write a comprehensive history of the state and gather biographical information on many Alabamians who helped shape and mold the state.