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This Day in Georgia History

December 23, 1799

Joseph Henry Lumpkin Born

Attorney and judge Joseph Henry Lumpkin was born in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Lumpkin, younger brother of Gov. Wilson Lumpkin, attended the University of Georgia until it temporarily closed its doors, subsequently transferring to Princeton where he graduated with honors in 1819. On the reopening of the University of Georgia, Lumpkin enrolled while also beginning the private study of law. In 1820, he helped found the Phi Kappa Literary Society while also being admitted to the bar. He began practicing law in Lexington but soon moved to Athens. Lumpkin was one of three attorneys selected by the General Assembly to draft Georgia’s Penal Code in 1833. In 1845, Lumpkin was one of three lawyers appointed to Georgia’s first Supreme Court. The other two justices - Hiram Warner and Eugene A. Nisbet selected Lumpkin as presiding justice, and he was named the court’s first chief justice when that position was created in 1863. Though active on the Supreme Court, Lumpkin did not forget his alma mater and was influential in establishing a school of law at the University of Georgia, also assuming some teaching duties. He also acted as trustee of the University from 1854 until his death in 1867. The University of Georgia Lumpkin Law School was named in his honor. After his death, Lumpkin was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens.