William Yates Atkinson
Atkinson was born in the Oakland community in Meriwether County on November 11, 1854. He graduated from the University of Georgia with an LL.B in 1877. He married Susie Cobb Milton, granddaughter of Florida Governor John Milton, in 1880.
After graduating from the University of Georgia, Atkinson began practicing law in Newnan. Atkinson was the solicitor of the Coweta Superior Court circuit. He then represented Coweta County as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives (1886–94), where he was the speaker, or presiding officer, during the last two years. As a state representative, he introduced a bill that established the Georgia Normal and Industrial College, which later became Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. He was also the Georgia Democratic Party state chair from 1890 to 1892.
Atkinson won the 1894 election and was elected Governor of Georgia. He was reelected to a second term in 1896. During his administration, he hired the first woman salaried employee in state government, Ellen Dortch, as assistant state librarian. In 1897, he vetoed a law that would have prohibited football in the state, due in part to an impassioned letter from Rosalind Burns Gammon, whose son's death had initiated the anti-football legislation. He was vehement in his opposition to the practice of lynching.
After his two terms as governor, Atkinson bravely confronted the mob in the infamous Sam Hose lynching and tried to get them to allow the legal justice system to take its course. He was unsuccessful, however, and Hose was lynched soon after Atkinson confronted the mob.
Death and Legacy
Atkinson died on August 8, 1899 at the age of 44. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in that city. Atkinson County, Georgia is named for him.
His son, William Yates Atkinson, Jr., was the Georgia Democratic state chair in 1942 as well as a Georgia state Supreme Court justice from 1943 to 1948.
- Ham, Henry Wilkes Jones (1887). Representative Georgians. Biographical sketches of men now in public life. Savannah: Morning News Print. p. 191. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- "William Yates Atkinson". National Governors Association. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- "Von Gammon". Georgia Info. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved May 14, 2012.
- Arnold, Edwin T. (2012). What virtue there is in fire : cultural memory and trhe lynching of sam hose. Athens: Univ Of Georgia Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-0820340647. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- Thurston, Robert W. (2011). Lynching : American mob murder in global perspective. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate. p. 118. ISBN 978-1409409083. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- "Atkinson Hall (Georgia College & State University)". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- This Day in Georgia History:November 11th, Ed Jackson and Charly Pou, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, The University of Georgia
- Hulett, Keith. "William Y. Atkinson (1854-1899)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2014. Web. 17 June 2016.
- Portrait of William Yates Atkinson
- William Yates Atkinson at Find-A-Grave
- Picture of Georgia Governor William Yates Atkinson (foreground) with his military staff on horseback at the corner of Peachtree Street and Cain Street (now Andrew Young International Boulevard) in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta History Photograph Collection, Atlanta History Center, presented in the Digital Library of Georgia. Web. 17 June 2016.
- "Governor William Yates Atkinson historical marker". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
William J. Northen
|Governor of Georgia
1894 – 1898
Allen D. Candler
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