William Yates Atkinson

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William Y. Atkinson

William Yates Atkinson (November 11, 1854, Oakland, Georgia – August 8, 1899, Newnan, Georgia) was the 55th Governor of Georgia from 1894 to 1898.

Atkinson graduated from the University of Georgia with an LL.B in 1877. He married Susie Cobb Milton in 1880. (Their 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.)

The elder 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. He was also the Georgia Democratic Party state chair from 1890 to 1892.

Atkinson died on August 8, 1899 in Newnan, Georgia, aged 44. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in that city.

Other notable facts about Atkinson:

  • He hired the first woman salaried employee in state government, Ellen Dortch, as assistant state librarian.
  • Atkinson County, Georgia is named for him.
  • 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.[1]
  • 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 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.


  1. ^ "Von Gammon". Georgia Info. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 

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Political offices
Preceded by
William J. Northen
Governor of Georgia
1894 – 1898
Succeeded by
Allen D. Candler