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This Day in Georgia History

August 31, 1812

William Tappan Thompson Born

To view an image of William Tappan Thompson, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Georgia newspaper editor William T. Thompson was born in Ravenna, Ohio. In his early 20s, he moved to Augusta, Georgia, where he studied law under Augustus B. Longstreet, editor of the State Rights Sentinel. With the outbreak of the Seminole War, Thompson enlisted in a local militia unit that was dispatched to Florida. During the campaign, he wrote letters detailing his unit’s adventures to Longstreet, who published them in his newspaper. In 1838, Thompson began publishing the Augusta Mirror, a literary endeavor. In 1842, he wrote the first of a series of fictional letters from a semi-literate Major Joseph Jones. That same year, Thompson moved to Madison, where he became editor of the weekly Southern Miscellany. He continued writing his series of fictional letters, and in 1843, 16 of them were published as Major Jones’ Courtship. After leaving the Madison, Thompson wrote Chronicles of Peneville (1845) and Major Jones’ Sketches of Travel (1848). In 1850, Thompson helped establish the Savannah Daily Morning News, which he edited until his death in 1882. In his later years, Thompson became involved in politics, and was a member of the convention that framed Georgia’s redeemer Constitution of 1877. But of all his accomplishments, William Thompson probably is best remembered for his humorous Major Jones’ letters, which skillfully employed dialect to portray comical characters in antebellum Georgia.