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This Day in Georgia History

March 27, 1941

Snake Handling Not Allowed to Endanger Others

Snake handling is a religious ritual that developed in some Pentecostal churches throughout the South in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the practice involved poisonous snakes, particularly rattlesnakes. Frequently, snake handlers were bitten, resulting sometimes in death. During a church service in Adel, Georgia, a six-year-old girl was enouraged to pick up a snake. Unfortunately, the snake bit her, and she died. As a result, legislation was introduced in the Georgia General Assembly to limit the practice. On March 27, 1941, Gov. Eugene Talmadge signed an act making it a felony for any person - including a minister to handle or possess a poisonous snake in a manner that would endanger any other person. The act also made it illegal to advise or encourage any other person to handle a poisonous snake in a manner that would endanger the life or safety of such person. The act, however, did not prevent a person from voluntarily handling a poisonous snake so long as no one else was endangered.