James Z. George

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James George
James Zachariah George.jpg
United States Senator
from Mississippi
In office
March 4, 1881 – August 14, 1897
Preceded byBlanche Bruce
Succeeded byHernando Money
Personal details
James Zachariah George

(1826-10-20)October 20, 1826
Monroe County, Georgia
DiedAugust 14, 1897(1897-08-14) (aged 70)
Gulfport, Mississippi
Political partyDemocratic
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1865
Unit20th Mississippi Infantry
5th Mississippi Cavalry
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

James Zachariah George (October 20, 1826 – August 14, 1897) was an American lawyer, writer, U.S. politician, Confederate politician, and military officer. He was known as Mississippi's "Great Commoner". He was also a slave owner.[1][2]


James Z. George was born in Monroe County, Georgia, but moved to Noxubee County, Mississippi at age eight when his widowed mother remarried, and two years later, to Carroll County, Mississippi, where he received his education in the common schools.[3] He served as a private in the Mexican–American War under Colonel Jefferson Davis, and participated in the Battle of Monterey.[3] On his return, George read law and was admitted to the bar. In 1854 he became a reporter of the Supreme Court of Mississippi and, over the next 20 years, George prepared a 10-volume digest of its cases.

As a member of the Mississippi Secession Convention, George signed the Secession Ordinance. A Confederate colonel of the 5th Mississippi Cavalry during the Civil War, he was captured twice and spent two years in a prisoner of war camp, where he conducted a law course for his fellow captives. After the war, he returned to Mississippi and resumed the practice of law. In 1879 he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Mississippi and immediately was chosen chief justice by his colleagues.[4]

From 1881 until his death, George represented Mississippi in the United States Senate, where he was recognized for his skills in debate, helped frame the future Sherman Anti-Trust Act, introduced the bill for agricultural college experiment stations, and encouraged the establishment of the Department of Agriculture. Alarmed by the proposed Lodge Bill, which would have provided for federal supervision of elections, he campaigned in Mississippi for a constitutional convention in order to legally disenfranchise African-Americans, without resorting to violence, fraud, and other extralegal measures that had been used prior.[5] He was a major figure during the Mississippi Constitutional Convention of 1890 itself, leading a hardline faction promoting the disenfranchisement of blacks without disenfranchising whites (as opposed to those who wanted to apply property and educational requirements to whites and blacks equally), and successfully defended the constitution before the Senate and the Supreme Court.[6]

George died in Mississippi City, Mississippi, where he had gone for health treatment. He is buried, along with his wife, Elizabeth Brooks (Young) George,[7] in Evergreen Cemetery in North Carrollton, Mississippi.[8] George's wife Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Col. William Martin Jr. of Tennessee, and the great-granddaughter of General Joseph Martin, an early Virginia explorer and Revolutionary War commander.[9]

In 1931, the state of Mississippi donated a bronze statue of George to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.

The J. Z. George High School in North Carrollton, Mississippi is named in his honor, which is less than 2 miles (3.2 km) from his burial place. In addition, George County, Mississippi, is also named in his honor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weil, Julie Zauzmer; Blanco, Adrian; Dominguez, Leo. "More than 1,700 congressmen once enslaved Black people. This is who they were, and how they shaped the nation". Washington Post. Retrieved January 29, 2022.
  2. ^ "Congress slaveowners", The Washington Post, January 27, 2022, retrieved January 29, 2022
  3. ^ a b Thomas H. Somerville, "A Sketch of the Supreme Court of Mississippi", in Horace W. Fuller, ed., The Green Bag, Vol. XI (1899), p. 513.
  4. ^ Leslie Southwick, Mississippi Supreme Court Elections: A Historical Perspective 1916-1996, 18 Miss. C. L. Rev. 115 (1997-1998).
  5. ^ Kousser, J. Morgan (1974). The Shaping of Southern Politics: Suffrage Restriction and the Establishment of the One-Party South, 1990-1890. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 140. ISBN 9780300016963.
  6. ^ Ogden, Frederic D. The Poll Tax in the South (University of Alabama Press, 1958), 211
  7. ^ Family History Compiled by Lucy Henderson Horton, Press of the News, Franklin, Tennessee, 1922
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: George
  9. ^ Family History Compiled by Lucy Henderson Horton, Press of the News, Franklin, Tenn., 1922

Further reading[edit]

  • Timothy B. Smith. James Z. George: Mississippi's Great Commoner (University Press of Mississippi; 2012) 256 pages; scholarly biography

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
Served alongside: Lucius Q. C. Lamar, Edward C. Walthall, Anselm J. McLaurin, Edward C. Walthall
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Justice of the Supreme Court of Mississippi
Succeeded by