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This Day in Georgia History

October 24, 1823

James Milton Smith Born

To view an image of James Milton Smith, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Politician James Milton Smith was born in Twiggs County, Georgia. Smith began his political career by serving in the Confederate Congress after being severely wounded in the Battle of Cold Harbor. Following the war, he and Peter Alexander began a very successful law firm in Columbus, Georgia. He was elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1870 as an outspoken opponent of Radical Reconstruction. Smith was elected Speaker of the House on 1871, then nominated and elected to fill the unexpired term of Governor Rufus Bullock. Smith was elected to his own four-year term the following year. His term as governor was marked by many impressive appointments to high state offices, most notably Gustavus Orr as state school commissioner, who received national notoriety for his work. Smith also retired the state debt and left office with a surplus in the Treasury. After an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, Smith was appointed first chairman of the Georgia Railroad Commission, where he served a six-year term. Then Gov. John B. Gordon appointed him as superior court judge of the of the Chattahoochee judicial circuit in 1887 to fill an unexpired term. As with the governorship, Smith did so well that he was appointed to another full term in 1888. However, he suffered a stroke and died on November 25, 1890 at his home in Columbus. The Atlanta Constitution eulogized Smith as “one of the boldest and most fearless men in the history of Georgia.”