BUTTON GWINNETT, president (the equivalent of governor) of Georgia, was born in Down Hatherley, Gloucestershire, England in about 1735. His education was attained at the King’s School in Gloucester. Around 1762 he immigrated to America, settling first in Savannah, Georgia. In 1765 he moved to St. Catherine’s Island, where he established a plantation. Gwinnett first entered politics as a member of the Commons House of Assembly, a position he held in 1769. He served as a member of the Continental Congress in 1776 and was one of three Georgians to sign the Declaration of Independence. He also was an instrumental member and speaker of the Georgia state government that framed the state constitution in 1777. On February 24, 1777, Governor Archibald Bulloch died in office, and Gwinnett, who was speaker of the provincial congress was selected by the Council of Safety to succeed him on March 4, 1777. He was not elected governor when the new legislature met. Gwinnett left office on May 8, 1777. Gwinnett had always aspired to serve as brigadier general of Georgia; however, the position went to his rival Lachlan McIntosh. Shortly after his gubernatorial defeat, Gwinnett challenged his adversary (McIntosh) to a duel. Both men were seriously wounded, but only Gwinnett’s injury was fatal. Governor Button Gwinnett died three days later on May 19, 1777, and was buried in the Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. His signature is extremely valuable, because it is so rare. Gwinnett County in north Georgia was named in his honor in 1818.
Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.