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1822 Lawyer, politician, and military officer Allison Nelson was born in Fayette (later DeKalb, and still later Fulton) County. Nelson read law and became an attorney. In 1846, he raised a volunteer company -- the Kennesaw Rangers – and served as a captain in the Mexican War. After the war, Nelson returned to Georgia, where he married and settled in Cobb County. Becoming a successful planter, he represented Cobb in the Georgia House of Representatives (1848-49). In Jan. 1855, Nelson won election as mayor of Atlanta (though he resigned that July), giving him the distinction of being the first Atlanta mayor born in the limits of what now is Fulton County.
After a brief term as Atlanta mayor, Nelson moved to Texas. In 1860, he was elected to the Texas legislature, also serving in that state's secession convention. After Texas' secession, Nelson helped organized the 10th Texas regiment, in which he served as a colonel. In Sept. 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general. That same month, he became infected during an outbreak of typhoid fever, and died on Oct. 7, 1862 at a Confederate camp (subsequently named for him) near Old Austin in Lonoke County, Ark.
1861 In Montgomery, Ala., the Confederate Congress unanimously adopted the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, which had been principally drafted by Georgians Thomas R.R. Cobb and Robert Toombs.
Though largely based on the U.S. Constitution – there were a number of important differences. The Confederate Constitution also marked the first constitution to provide for the an item veto – which allow the chief executive to veto specific items with an appropriation act while approving other items. Copies of the new constitution were then forwarded to the eight states that had seceded for ratification. Today, the original Confederate Constitution is housed in the collection of the Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia.
1868 Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia's Reconstruction constitutional convention took several final actions before adjourning. These including adopting the proposed Constitution of 1868, which would be submitted to Georgia's eligible voters for ratification on April 30th. The convention also adopted ordinances repealing the Georgia's 1861 ordinance of secession and its ratification of the Confederate Constitution. Finally, delegates readopted the ordinance of the 1865 convention that repudiated Georgia's Civil War debt.
1879 Georgia politician Robert A. Alston was shot and fatally wounded in Georgia's state capitol. [See Dec. 31 entry for biographical information.]
1926 Clergyman and civil rights leader Ralph David Abernathy was born in Linden, Ala.
After graduating with a masters' degree in sociology from Atlanta University in 1951, Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery. Ala. There, he met Martin Luther King, Jr., and the two ministers began a long and close relationship. In 1955, they organized the Montgomery bus boycott, which effectively started the modern civil rights movement.
In 1957, King and Abernathy founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with King as president and Abernathy as secretary-treasurer. Abernathy moved back to Atlanta in 1961, the same year he became vice-president of the SCLC. He also began Operation Bread Basket, attempting to feed Atlanta's poor while working for economic equity for Atlanta's black community. Abernathy was with King and other protesters who were arrested during the Albany Movement, which began as a protest against the segregation of the south Georgia city's bus station, but escalated into a confrontation that received nationwide attention. Abernathy remained King's right hand man until King's assassination in 1968. Abernathy eulogized King and officiated at his funeral, then assumed leadership of the SCLC.
He resigned in 1977 to return to his original calling – pastoring a Baptist church in Atlanta. Abernathy's autobiography – And the Walls Came Tumbling Down – was published in 1989.
He died a year later -–on April 17, 1990 – in Atlanta and was buried in the city's Lincoln Cemetery.
1948 Former Gov. Roy Barnes was born in Atlanta.
Graduating from South Cobb High School in 1966, Barnes graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in history (1969) and a law degree (1972). He then worked as a prosecutor in the Cobb County district attorney's office. In 1975, Barnes was elected to the Georgia Senate, where he served sixteen years. In 1993, he was elected to the Georgia House, where he served six years. In November 1998, Barnes was elected governor of Georgia. During his term, he is probably best remembered for his role in getting the General Assembly to replace the 1956 state flag with a new flag in 2001. He sought a second term but was defeated in 2002 by Republican Sonny Perdue, who served two terms but was constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term. As a result, Barnes decided to seek the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2010 primary. He did win the Democratic nomination, but lost in the general election to Republican Nathan Deal.
1953 Gov. Herman Talmadge signed legislation directing that all public high schools in Georgia offer in the eleventh or twelfth grade a year-long course in the study of federal and state government, and that the course be supplemented by the study of local county and city government. The law also prohibited any student from graduating from high school with a diploma without successfully completing the course in government.
1956 Georgia congresswoman Iris Blitch signed the "Southern Manifesto" – a declaration of constitutional reasons for opposing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 and 1955 Brown v. Board of Education decisions.
In adding her signature, she joined 80 other U.S. Representatives and 19 U.S. Senators from the South – including the entire Georgia delegation.
1980 Ten year old Jeffrey
Mathis disappeared from the streets of Atlanta.. His body would not be discovered
for almost a year, but he was the latest victim in the Atlanta Child Murders case.
1996 Cairo High School dedicated its baseball field in honor of Jackie Robinson, who was born in the south Georgia town.
2005 Superior court judge Rowland Barnes and court reporter Julie Brandau were shot and killed
in an Atlanta courtroom by Brian Nichols. On trial for rape, Nichols overpowered a deputy,
took her gun, and entered the courtroom firing. He then escaped outside,
shot and killed a Sgt. Hoydt Teasley, and went on the run. He eventually killed David Wilhelm, a U.S.
customs agent, and took a young woman hostage in Duluth. Nichols was
arrested for the crimes the following day. The woman he had taken hostage,
Ashley Smith, had talked to him and calmed him during the night, and eventually
he let her go. Smith then called the police, who surrounded her apartment prompting Nichols
to surrender. After many delays, Nichols' case finally went to trial in 2008. Despite his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, he was convicted of 54 different counts, including four counts of first-degree murder. The jury was deadlocked over sentencing Nichols to death, so the judge sentenced Nichols to consecutive terms of life without parole for each of the four murders, plus hundreds of years in prison for the other 50 counts.
In Their Own Words on This Day. . .
Source: William Stephens, A Journal of the Proceeding in Georgia ([no city cited]: Readex Microprint Corporation, 1966), Vol. II, pp. 311-312.
1739 George Whitefield gave his own account of the day noted above in his diary:
Source: [no author or editor cited], Our First Visit in America: Early Reports from the Colony of Georgia, 1732-1740 (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1974), p. 302.
1877 The following article in the Atlanta Constitution provides a glimpse of the rapid growth downtown Atlanta was experiencing in 1877:
Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of 1954 original volume), Vol. I, pp. 936-937.
1883 Alexander Stephens was one of the state's most respected political leaders. Though crippled and in frail health, he nevertheless was elected governor of Georgia in 1882. However, he died after only four months in office. In Richmond County, Gertrude Thomas recorded Stephens' death and burial in her diary:
Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 431.
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