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This Day in Georgia History

April 11, 1790

George Gilmer Born

To view an image of Gilmer’s home, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Politician George Rockingham Gilmer was born in what was then Wilkes (later Oglethorpe) County, Gilmer was educated early at the academy of Moses Waddel, who later served as president of the University of Georgia while Gilmer served on the Board of Trustees. Gilmer studied law until the War of 1812, when he led an expedition against the Creek Indians. His political career began in 1818 with his election to the Georgia House of Representatives. After two years in the General Assembly, Gilmer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but poor health precluded a long stay in Washington. He was back in the Georgia legislature by 1824, and was elected governor in 1829. Gilmer was a staunch believer in states’ rights in regards to Indians living within the state of Georgia. With the discovery of gold in Cherokee territory in 1829, the Georgia legislature extended state law throughout the area - resulting in two Supreme Court cases ruling Georgia could not legally extend its laws in such a way. But Gilmer (who had served another term in Congress before being re-elected governor in 1837) defied the rulings and pushed to have the Cherokees forcibly removed from their land in 1836, the beginning of the infamous Trail of Tears. Gilmer retired from public life after completing his term as governor in 1839. Subsequently he authored his memoirs, Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia. He died Nov. 15, 1859.