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1793 Gov. George Mathews signed an act creating Hancock County as Georgia's 15th county. Created from portions of Greene and Washington counties, the new county was named after John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
1833 Lawyer and Confederate general James Thadeus Holtzclaw was born in McDonough, Georgia. He later moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1855. Here, he practiced law until the outbreak of the Civil War, when he joined the Montgomery True Blues as a lieutenant. Subsequently, Holtzclaw was commissioned as a major in the 18th Alabama in August 1861, and promoted to lieutenant colonel in December. He was seriously wounded in the Battle of Shiloh, but rejoined his unit in three months as a colonel. Holtzclaw commanded a brigade at Mobile, and later fought in the battles of Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge. He was promoted to brigadier general with command of his own brigade during Sherman's Atlanta Campaign.
After the fall of Atlanta, Holtzclaw's Brigade accompanied Hood's ill fated army into Tennessee and defeats at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. Gen. Holtzclaw was paroled in May 1865 and returned to Montgomery, where he resumed the practice of law. He also became active with the Democratic Party and served on the state railroad commission. He died in Montgomery on July 19, 1893.
1859 Gov. Joseph E. Brown signed two acts that made it a bad day for free blacks living in Georgia or thinking about moving to the state. One act prohibited free blacks from entering Georgia and further provided that any free black coming into the state could be seized by the sheriff and sold as a slave. The second act provided that "any free person of color wandering or strolling about, or leading an idle, immoral or profligate course of life, shall be deemed and considered a Vagrant." The penalty for a first offense was to be sold into slavery for up to two years, and for a second offense,"perpetual slavery."
1898 President William McKinley visited Savannah as part of the nation's Spanish-American War victory celebration.
1902 Legislation was approved to amend Georgia first state flag (adopted in 1879) was changed to provide that the "coat of arms of the State" be shown on the vertical blue band. An early photograph of the 1902 state flag shows the addition of a ribbon with the word "Georgia" under the coat of arms.
By 1904, and without legislative authorization, the simple arch had been replaced by a color coat of arms placed on a white-and-gold shield. And, without statutory authorization, by the 1920s the coat of arms and shield had been replaced with Georgia's state seal--which is what commonly is referred to as the pre-1956 state flag.
1903 Novelist Erskine Caldwell was born in Coweta County, Georgia. Known for such novels as God's Little Acre and Tobacco Road, Caldwell became internationally recognized for his works. After his death on Apr. 11, 1987 in Paradise Valley, Ariz., an Erskine Caldwell Museum was opened in Moreland, Georgia near his birthplace.
1963 The C-141A aircraft made its first successful test flight. Flying over Dobbins AFB, Georgia (Lockheed-Georgia plant) the Starlifter flew for 35 minutes.
The original C-141A cargo aircraft had the ability to travel up to 500 m.p.h. and carry 154 troops,123 paratroopers, or a 70,000-pound payload. [Contributed by Dr. Tom Scott, Kennesaw State University]
1968 Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle was kidnapped and buried alive in a plywood box containing a lamp, air pump, three gallons of water and some candy. Her father, a wealthy developer in Florida, paid a $500,00 ransom. FBI agents, following vague directions from the kidnappers, finally found Mackle after 3 and a half days; she was dehydrated, but alive. University of Miami researcher Gary Krist and Ruth Eiseman-Schier were arrested and convicted of the kidnapping. Mackle later wrote a book about her ordeal, which was made into a movie.
1975 The NAACP presented its annual Spingarn Medal to Atlanta Brave Hank Aaron for his landmark home run record and for his sportsmanship.
1976 Atlanta UHF television station WTCG-TV changed its call letters. Ted Turner's channel 17 – best known for broadcasting sitcom reruns and professional wrestling – took the big step of uplinking via satellite to become "America's Super Station" under the call letters WTBS (for Turner Broadcasting System).
2007 Former Speaker of the House Tom Murphy died at age 83. Murphy served in the Georgia House of Representatives 42 years (1960-2002), the final 28 years as speaker. His term as speaker of a state house of representatives was the longest in the country.
Georgia cities and towns incorporated by acts approved on Dec. 17:
1859 Summerville (Emanuel County)
1892 Etna (Polk County)
1894 Davisboro (Washington County)
1896 Baldwin (Banks and Habersham counties), Mitchell (Glascock County), Plains (Sumter County), and Yatesville (Upson County)
In Their Own Words on This Day. . .
1736 In London, Sir Jacob Debouverie attended a meeting of the Georgia Trustees and announced that his father had died and left an estate of £500 and that he was willing to match that amount in order to give the Trustees £1,000 – a sizable amount at the time – for use in the colony of Georgia. Debouverie's only stipulation was that the money be used for a specific purpose. The Earl of Egmont's response, as recorded in his diary, indicated that religion was an important consideration in their plans for Georgia. However, the financial cost of promoting religion was more than the Trustees were ready to assume, and so they recommended using Debouverie's gift for another purpose:
Source: U.K. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Diary of the First Earl of Egmont (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1923), Vol. II, pp. 320-321.
1828 The Georgia House of Representatives adopted a resolution opposing the Tariff of 1828 enacted by Congress that stated in part:
Source: Ga. Laws 1828, pp. 183-192.
1864 After having received a letter from Grant the previous day urging him to send a large part of his army by boat to Virginia to help defeat Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Gen. William T. Sherman sent a letter to Gen. William Hardee, commander of Confederate forces in Savannah, demanding the surrender of Savannah or
Hardee immediately sent a reply to Sherman in which he refused to surrender. Further, as to Sherman's threats of burning down Savannah, Hardee noted:
Source: U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893, reprinted by The National Historical Society, 1971), Series I, Vol. XLIV, pp. 737-738.
For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
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