Henry W. Grady
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|Henry Woodfin Grady|
May 24, 1850|
Athens, Georgia, USA 
|Died||December 23, 1889
As a teenager, Grady witnessed fierce Civil War fighting in his home state of Georgia and his father William was killed by a Union soldier. After his father's death, he was raised by his mother Anne in Athens, Georgia. He was educated in the classical tradition of a southern gentleman of the time at the University of Georgia (Bachelor of Arts in 1868) where he was a charter member of Eta Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity. In 1867, he became a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society, and later attended the University of Virginia to study law, but became especially interested in Greek and Anglo-Saxon languages, history, and literature, which led to a career in journalism.
Grady was a lifelong devoted member of the Chi Phi Fraternity. He was a charter member of the Eta Chapter of Chi Phi at the University of Georgia. In 1882 he was elected as the first Grand Alpha (National President) from the south after the union of the Northern and Southern Orders of Chi Phi in 1874.
Upon graduation, he held a series of brief journalistic jobs with the Rome Courier, the Atlanta Herald, and the New York Herald. After working in New York, Grady returned to the South as a reporter-editor for the Atlanta Constitution.
In 1880, with borrowed money, Grady bought a one-fourth interest in the paper and began a nine-year career as one of Georgia's most celebrated journalists. On the business end, he quickly built the newspaper into the state's most influential, with a national circulation of 120,000.
In the tumultuous decades following Reconstruction, when hatreds lingered and conservative whites worked to re-establish white supremacy, Grady offered a vision of a New South in which the past was put to rest:
"There was a South of slavery and secession - that South is dead. There is now a South of union and freedom - that South, thank God, is living, breathing, and growing every hour," he said in an 1886 speech in New York.
Grady popularized an antithesis between the “old South” which “rested everything on slavery and agriculture, unconscious that these could neither give nor maintain healthy growth,” and a “new south” – “thrilling with the consciousness of growing power and prosperity”. From 1882 to 1886, along with Nathaniel E. Harris, he promoted the creation in Atlanta of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), a state vocational-education school to train workers for new industries.
Orator and Spokesman for the "New South"
Grady was also praised for his great passion for political oratory (he supported Prohibition and a Georgia veterans' home for disabled or elderly Confederate soldiers), commitment to the new peace, and well-known sense of humor.
That sense of humor and quick wit got Grady through more than one difficult situation. Once at a banquet of northern elites, he was waxing eloquent about the brilliant prospects for northern investments in a New South determined to rise from the ashes of defeat. Grady spotted General William T. Sherman in the audience, the celebrated Yankee soldier who was credited with defeating and burning much of Georgia, and particularly Atlanta, on his infamous march to the sea. Without missing a beat, Grady acknowledged the general by noting that the people of Georgia thought Sherman an able military man, "but a mite careless about fire."
In another speech, Grady wanted to gently chastise his Southern audience for what he believed to be Georgia's economic shortcomings. Rather than pounding them with statistics, he entertained them with stories that made the points. He said,
"I attended a funeral once in Pickens county in my State. This funeral was peculiarly sad. It was a poor “one gallus” fellow, whose breeches struck him under the armpits and hit him at the other end about the knee—he didn’t believe in decollete clothes. They buried him in the midst of a marble quarry: they cut through solid marble to make his grave; and yet a little tombstone they put above him was from Vermont. They buried him in the heart of a pine forest, and yet the pine coffin was imported from Cincinnati. They buried him within touch of an iron mine, and yet the nails in his coffin and the iron in the shovel that dug his grave were imported from Pittsburg. They buried him by the side of the best sheep-grazing country on the earth, and yet the wool in the coffin bands and the coffin bands themselves were brought from the North. The South didn’t furnish a thing on earth for that funeral but the corpse and the hole in the ground. There they put him away and the clods rattled down on his coffin, and they buried him in a New York coat and a Boston pair of shoes and a pair of breeches from Chicago and a shirt from Cincinnati, leaving him nothing to carry into the next world with him to remind him of the country in which he lived, and for which he fought for four years, but the chill of blood in his veins and the marrow in his bones."
Grady's prestige reached such a height that he became the only non-member ever to adjourn the Georgia Legislature. It occurred on the election of Grover Cleveland to the presidency. News of the close contest arrived at 11 a.m. during the Legislature's session. In his exuberance, Grady rushed to the Capitol with the announcement. He brushed past the door keeper and into the chamber shouting in senatorial tones, "Mr. Speaker, a message from the American people." Sensing the purpose of the intrusion, the Speaker offered Grady a place by his side. However, Grady strode up the aisle to the Speaker's desk, grabbed the Speaker's gavel, and cried out, "In the name of the American people, I declare this House adjourned in honor of the election of the first Democratic President in twenty-five years."
On December 12, 1889 he delivered a speech in Boston at Faneuil Hall, on "The Race Problem in the South." Grady was already ill, and the weather was terrible. His health worsened to the point that he barely made it back to the state of Georgia. By the time he made it to the depot at Atlanta, he was too exhausted to appreciate the reception prepared for him and had to be shielded from the crowd and escorted home by his physician.
By December 23, he was diagnosed with pneumonia and died that day. He was buried on Christmas Day 1889, first in a friend's crypt at Oakland Cemetery because of family finances. His body was moved and reinterred at Westview Cemetery when it opened soon after.
Legacy and honors
Grady County in Georgia and Oklahoma were named in his honor. Places in Atlanta named for him include Grady Memorial Hospital, Henry W. Grady High School, the now-demolished Henry Grady Hotel, and the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The city erected a statue in his honor in 1891, which still stands today on Marietta Street in the heart of downtown Atlanta.
Henry Grady Hotel, 1924-1974
- New Georgia Encyclopedia (about Henry W. Grady).
- Henry Grady: A Complete History
- Davis, Harold E, Henry Grady's New South: Atlanta, a Brave Beautiful City, 1990, Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press.
- Nixon, Raymond, Henry W. Grady: Spokesman of the New South, 1943, NYC, Knopf.
- History of the University of Georgia, Thomas Walter Reed, Imprint: Athens, Georgia : University of Georgia, ca. 1949 pp.847-856
- Henry W. Grady, New Georgia Encyclopedia online