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This Day in Georgia History

September 02, 1855

Hoke Smith Born

Future Georgia governor Hoke Smith was born in Newton, North Carolina. After the Civil War, Smith’s family moved to Atlanta. Here, he studied law and was admitted to practice at age 17. In the following years, he invested wisely and became quite wealthy. In the late 1800s, he became active in Democratic politics, and for his support of Grover Cleveland in the 1892 presidential campaign, he was named U.S. Secretary of Interior. He resigned the cabinet post in 1896 and returned to the practice of law. In 1905, he decided to seek the office of Georgia governor, and in 1906 won overwhelmingly. While Hoke Smith was a progressive, he was perhaps most notorious for campaigning in 1906 for black disenfranchisement and was responsible for the 1908 amendment to the Georgia constitution which required additional tests for voting (though whites were exempted by virtue of the famous “grandfather clause”). Smith lost to Joseph M. Brown in 1908, but two years later regained the office of chief executive. After the death of U.S. Senator Alexander Clay in 1910, the General Assembly elected Smith to fill Clay’s remaining term. In the Senate, Smith is best remembered for his support of agriculture and vocational education. The two most notable pieces of legislation associated with him were the Smith-Lever Act, which authorized agricultural extension programs, and the Smith-Hughes Act, which provided for pre-college vocational education in the areas of agriculture, industrial arts, and homemaking skills. Smith died in Atlanta on November 27, 1931.