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This Day in Georgia History

January 21, 1846

Nathaniel Harris Born

Future governor Nathaniel E. Harris was born in Jonesboro, Tenn. His family moved to Georgia after the Civil War, with Harris studying at the University of Georgia under the sponsorship of Alexander Stephens. Harris graduated at the top of his class, was admitted to the bar, and began a successful law practice (with future University chancellor Walter B. Hill) in Macon. After holding local political office, Harris was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1882. As a representative he was the driving force behind the establishment of the Georgia School of Technology (later Georgia Institute of Technology). Harris went on to serve one term in the Georgia Senate, before retiring to his law practice. Harris took a long break from politics – but not a permanent one. At the urging of Tom Watson and many of the state’s Confederate veterans, Harris entered the Democratic primary for governor in 1914. Harris won the election and was inaugurated amidst turmoil – five days after Governor John Slaton had commuted the death sentence of Leo Frank. After Frank was kidnapped and lynched, Harris offered a reward for the capture of the culprits and ordered the Cobb County Superior Court to investigate the matter. Much of the rest of Harris’s term was taken up with the prohibition debate. Harris was defeated in his attempt to win a second term as governor. He then retired permanently from politics, devoting most of his attention to the growth and development of the Georgia Institute of Technology, even serving as interim president in 1918. His health soon began to decline; he died at home in Macon on September 21, 1929.