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This Day in Georgia History

May 10, 1864

Thomas Butler King Died

To view an image of Thomas Butler King, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Planter and politician Thomas Butler King died in Waresboro, Georgia. Born Aug. 27, 1800 in Palmer, Mass., King was educated at an academy in Massachusetts, after which he read law and passed the bar in Pennsylvania. In his early 20s, King moved to Glynn County, Ga. to join his brother, who was a sea island planter. There, he married the daughter of a wealthy planter. By mid-1830, King had become very successful himself, owning three plantations and 355 slaves. In 1832, he was elected to the Georgia Senate, and in 1838 to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he would serve five terms (1839-43, 1845-51). In Congress, King was active in reorganizing the U.S. Navy, establishing an Atlantic fleet, and pushing the transition from sail- to steam-powered vessels. After brief involvement in California politics and promoting a Texas-to-California railroad, King returned to Georgia to promote in-state railroads. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Gov. Joseph E. Brown appointed King as a commissioner to promote direct trade between Georgia and European countries. King immediately left for Europe, where he had unofficial meetings in Britain and France. When Confederate representatives took on this responsibility in 1862, King returned to Georgia, where he was active in state and Confederate politics until his death in 1864.