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This Day in Georgia History

November 27, 1931

Hoke Smith Died

Georgia politician Hoke Smith died in Atlanta. Born Sept. 2, 1855, in Newton, N.C., Smith and his parents moved to Atlanta after the Civil War. 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 was named U.S. Secretary of Interior. Smith 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. His administration included many progressive reforms, though he also led efforts to amend Georgia’s Constitution to disenfranchise black voters through literacy tests and other devices. 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.