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This Day in Georgia History

March 28, 1834

Rufus Bullock Born

Businessman and politician Rufus Bullock was born in Bethlehem, New York. After a successful career constructing telegraph lines in several large northern cities, Bullock moved south to Augusta in 1857 . Working with The Southern Express Company, Bullock was soon constructing telegraph lines thoughout the South. Although he was personally opposed to secession, he continued to build telegraph and railroad lines for the Confederacy. The Civil War devastated Georgia’s economy, and after the war Bullock found it difficult to obtain loans to rebuild his business. Told that the money would be available when Georgia was readmitted to the Union, Bullock became involved in politics. A Republican, he supported Reconstruction as the quickest and most efficient way to speed Georgia’s economic recovery. In 1868, Bullock narrowly defeated ex-Confederate John B. Gordon in the gubernatorial race - but his victory came at an inopportune time. The Democratic legislature, still bitter from the war and Reconstruction policies, opposed him at every step. Bullock was eventually forced to request that military control (which had ended in 1868) be reestablished. With such control in place and many ex-Confederates barred from office, Bullock faced a more cooperative legislature in 1870. This body approved the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, and Georgia was officially restored to the Union in the summer of 1870. But Bullock had made many enemies, and his administration was accused of corruptness and squandering the state treasury. As a result, Bullock quietly resigned in October 1871 and fled the state. He was arrested in New York and returned to Atlanta for trial. In court, prosecutors could not prove that Bullock had done anything illegal. The debt he had incurred had been used to redeem pre-war debts, build railroads, improve schools, and move the capital from Milledgeville to Atlanta. Vindicated in court, Bullock remained in Atlanta, resumed a successful business career, and became one of the city’s leading citizens. He served on the boards of banks, railroads, and the Chamber of Commerce. Bullock also was on the board of directors and presided over opening ceremonies for the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. In 1903, with his health failing, he returned to his family home in Albion, N.Y., where he died on April 27, 1907.