Joseph Henry Lumpkin

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Joseph Henry Lumpkin (December 23, 1799 – June 4, 1867) was the first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. state of Georgia.[1]



Lumpkin attended the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia, for some time and then attended and graduated from Princeton College in 1819. After studying law under the tutelage of Thomas W. Cobb, Lumpkin was admitted to the state bar in 1820, and he began practicing in Lexington, Georgia.


After serving two terms in the Georgia General Assembly, 1824–1825, Lumpkin returned his full attention to his legal career.[2] In 1830, Lumpkin worked in unison with future U.S. Congressman and Georgia Governor, William Schley, and John H. Cuthbert to create the Georgia state penal code.[3]

After the creation of the Supreme Court of Georgia in 1845, Lumpkin was elected as one of three initial justices to preside over that court and was its first chief justice. He served on the court until his death.[3] Lumpkin was offered the faculty chair of rhetoric and oratory at UGA in 1846, but he declined it. He did the same when offered the chancellorship of UGA in 1860. Even a presidential appointment to a federal seat on the Court of Claims was turned down by Lumpkin so that he could remain on the state supreme court.[3] Joseph Henry Lumpkin owned 18 slaves in Athens, Georgia.[4]

University of Georgia School of Law[edit]

He co-founded the UGA law school. The school was previously referred to as the Lumpkin School of Law;[2] however, Lumpkin's name has since been removed from the official name of the school. Lumpkin taught at the law school until the university shut down during the American Civil War. He also served as a trustee for the school for many years.[3]

Other writings[edit]

His writings and policies suggest a mixing of religion and politics:

"In the early 1820s Lumpkin underwent an evangelical conversion that profoundly affected his life. He took an active part in the temperance movement on both the national and state levels. He also believed that slavery was sanctioned by the Bible and often cited religious arguments to support continuation of that institution."[2]

However, early in his career he had expressed opposition to slavery.[5]


Lumpkin died and was buried in Athens on June 4, 1867.[3]


  1. ^ Paul DeForest Hicks (2002). Joseph Henry Lumpkin: Georgia's First Chief Justice. Athens: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-2365-9. 
  2. ^ a b c New Georgia Encyclopedia entry for Joseph Henry Lumpkin
  3. ^ a b c d e William J. Northen, Men of Mark in Georgia, A. B. Caldwell, 1912, pp.302-307
  4. ^ United States 1850 Slave Schedule
  5. ^ Timothy S. Huebner (1999). The Southern Judicial Tradition: State Judges and Sectional Distinctiveness, 1790-1890. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0-8203-2101-X. 

See also[edit]

Joseph Henry Lumpkin House

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia
Succeeded by
Hiram B. Warner