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In Their Own Words

March 11, 1883

Journal Entry on Stephens’ Death and Burial

Alexander Stephens was one of the state’s most respected political leaders. Though crippled and in frail health, he nevertheless was elected governor of Georgia in 1882. However, he died after only four months in office. In Richmond County, Gertrude Thomas recorded Stephens’ death and burial in her diary:

“One week ago last night Gov Stephens died. That was March 3d. Thursday Mch the 8th he was buried. It was a grand funeral, 75,000 people were in Atlanta to do honor to the occasion - Statesmen, Senators, Congressmen, eminent divines were present to pay their tribute of respect… . My mind and thoughts are almost as dull as if my brain had been taken from my head to be weighed. The Evening News of Augusta thinks it is a great pity Mr. Stephens’ brain had not been weighed ‘for the sake of science, as was Bonaparte’s, and even more recently Gambetta’s.’ What possible good could have been gained by it aside from the profanation. Would it have given the editors of the Evening News more brain. Did the weighing of Gambetta’s brain increase the mental powers of anyone in France? …”

Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 431.