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This Day in Georgia History

December 14, 1865

Charles J. Jenkins Took Office

To view letters of Charles J. Jenkins, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Georgia Supreme Court justice Charles J. Jenkins took office as Georgia’s first elected governor during Reconstruction. Born Jan. 6, 1805 in Beaufort, S.C., he attended the University of Georgia but graduated from Union College. Coming to Georgia, he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1826. In 1830, Jenkins began a political career that would include terms in both houses of the General Assembly (including four years as Speaker), state attorney general, and superior court solicitor. Jenkins lost a close race for governor in 1853, but he was named to the Georgia Supreme Court in 1860. After Lincoln was elected president, Jenkins attended Georgia’s secession convention. After Georgia seceded, he supported Georgia and the Confederacy - though he continued to serve on the Georgia Supreme Court through 1866. Though a Democrat, he asked President Andrew Johnson for a pardon after the war in order for him to attend Georgia’s 1865 constitutional convention. In Nov. 1866, Jenkins was elected governor, taking office Dec. 14. A year later, however, he was removed by Gen. Meade for refusing to authorize $40,000 to pay for a constitutional convention meeting in Atlanta in Dec. 1867. Before leaving office, Jenkins took $400,000 from the state treasury (which he deposited in a New York bank), many official books and documents, and the state seal (an action recognized in his official portrait that hangs at the state capitol. For over two years, Jenkins lived and traveled abroad, returning to Augusta in late 1870 with the state’s money, documents, and seal. Subsequently, he retired to his home near Augusta, reemerging to chair the constitutional convention of 1877. Jenkins died in Augusta on June 14, 1883.

Image of Charles J. Jenkins Took Office View large image
Source: Photo: Ed Jackson