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This Day in Georgia History

January 29, 1878

Walter George Born

Future Georgia politician and U.S. Senator Walter F. George was born in Webster County. He attended Mercer University, obtaining a B.S. degree (1900), a B.L. degree (1901), and an honorary LLD degree (1920). George began a successful law practice in Vienna in 1901. Later, he served as solicitor-general (1907-12) and judge (1912-16) for the Cordele superior court circuit. In 1916, he was elected to the Georgia Court of Appeals, and in 1917 to the Georgia Supreme Court. In 1922, he was elected to the U.S. Senate (replacing Rebecca Latimer Felton) to fill the unexpired term of Tom Watson. In the Senate, George came to oppose much of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, and in particular Roosevelt’s effort to pack the Supreme Court with more favorable justices. With arrival of World War II, George became an important ally of the president. In 1941, he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After the war, he was an important advocate Senate ratification of the U.N. Charter. During his years in the Senate, George was an important figure. Reelected five times, he served as president of the Senate (1955-57) and was a sponsor of various acts related to vocational education. George was regularly consulted by Pres. Eisenhower and Secretary of State Dulles on American foreign policy. However, despite his influence in the Senate and with the Eisenhower Administration, George never developed a political machine back in Georgia. Thus, when former governor Herman Talmadge decided to challenge George for his Senate seat in 1956, George realized he had little chance against the Talmadge machine–so he withdrew from the primary race. In 1957, Eisenhower named George as a special presidential representative to NATO and one of his foreign policy advisors. At age 79, George died at his home in Vienna on Aug. 4, 1957. George has been remembered in many ways. During his life, five law schools (Mercer, Emory, Brown, Columbia, and Union) bestowed honorary LLD degrees on him. In 1947, Mercer University renamed its law school as the Walter F. George Law School. The year after his death, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers named a new lake constructed on the Chattahoochee River in recognition of George’s half century of public service. On Nov. 5, 1960, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring George. First day of issue ceremonies were held in his hometown of Vienna, Ga.