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Tift was born in Groton, Connecticut and moved with his family to Key West, Florida in 1826, and then to Charleston, South Carolina in 1830. In October 1835, Tift moved to Augusta, Georgia. He then moved to Hawkinsville, Georgia in March 1836. In October of that year, Tift founded Albany, Georgia and became justice of the peace. On July 5, 1840, he was elected to the Baker County, Georgia Inferior Court and was re-elected to that post in January 1841.
In 1840, Tift was elected as a colonel of the local unit of the Georgia Militia. In 1841, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives and was re-elected to that one-year position in 1847, 1851, and 1852. Tift founded, edited and published the Albany Patriot newspaper from 1845 until 1858.
During the American Civil War, Tift was a captain in the Navy supply department of the Confederate States Navy supply department. After the war ended, he was elected to the 40th United States Congress as a U.S. Representative with the Democratic Party and served from July 25, 1868, until March 3, 1869. He was not permitted to qualify for re-election in 1868 and unsuccessfully contested the election of his replacement, Richard H. Whiteley. After his congressional service, Tift worked in various businesses. He served as a delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1877. He died in Albany on November 21, 1891 and was buried in that city's Oakview Cemetery. Tift County, Georgia, was named in his honor but in March 2013 the Georgia Legislature voted to adopt a resolution written by Edd Dorminey of Tifton, Georgia naming Tift County after its founder, Henry Harding (H.H.) Tift. Because H.H. Tift was living in 1905 when Tift County was founded, the county could not be named after him. Wanting the county to honor the Tifts, the delegates chose Nelson Tift as he was deceased.
Role in Georgia
Tift helped to found Albany, Georgia, in 1836 and for decades was its leading entrepreneur. A booster, he promoted education, business, and railroad construction. During the Civil War he provided naval supplies and helped build two ships. He opposed Radical Reconstruction inside the state and in Congress and was scornful of the Yankee carpetbaggers who came in. Fair concludes that Tift became "more Southern than many natives." His pro-slavery attitudes before the war and his support for segregation afterward made him compatible with Georgia's white elite.
- Fair, John D. "Nelson Tift: A Connecticut Yankee in King Cotton's Court," Georgia Historical Quarterly (2004) 88#3 pp 338-374
- Nelson Tift at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-05-01
- "Nelson Tift". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2010-10-15.
- Nelson Tift entry at The New Georgia Encyclopedia
|United States House of Representatives|
American Civil War
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 2nd congressional district
July 25, 1868 - March 3, 1869
Richard H. Whiteley
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