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This Day in Georgia History

December 23, 1889

Henry Grady Died

Henry Grady died in Atlanta of complications from pneumonia - likely brought about by a recent trip to Boston. Born in Athens on May 24,1850, Grady began his journalistic career in Rome, Georgia, where he eventually purchased his own newspaper and earned a respected reputation as an editor. In 1872 he purchased one-third of the Atlanta Daily Herald, bringing him closer to the world of Georgia politics and business. A political moderate, Grady tended to support the campaigns of such politicians as John B. Gordon, Alfred Colquitt, and Benjamin Hill. But it was as an editorialist on the future of the South that Grady left his lasting mark. Grady envisioned a South with developed industry and more diversified agriculture, united in harmony with the North. In a March 1874 editorial he first used the term “New South” to describe his vision. When his newspaper folded financially, Grady was hired, after several brief stints with other newspapers, by the Atlanta Constitution. While it was little noticed at the time, Grady was responsible for the Constitution hiring a shy storyteller from Eatonton, Georgia - Joel Chandler Harris. It was also at the Constitution that Grady became nationally renowned for his coverage of the Tilden-Hayes presidential debates and the growth of southern railroads. But it was his “New South” speech delivered in New York on December 22, 1886 that catapulted Grady into the public spotlight, to the point where he was actually considered a possible running mate for Grover Cleveland in 1888. But Grady was not interested in holding political office. Back in Atlanta he stayed busy helping the city become the center of his “New South,” organizing expositions, supporting progressive legislation, and calling for ever improving city services. His eloquence made him a popular speaker, both in Georgia and nationally. In December of 1889 he spoke on “The Race Problem in the South” at the meeting of the Boston Merchants’ Association. Tragically he became during the trip and died at his home in Atlanta at the young age of thirty-nine. In 1921 the University of Georgia College of Journalism was named in his honor.