GEORGE ROCKINGHAM GILMER was born near Lexington, Georgia, on April 11, 1790. He was educated at Dr. Wilson’s classical school and at the famous Academy of Moses Waddell in Abbeville, South Carolina. He worked as a teacher while studying law, and then established a legal career in Lexington in 1818. Gilmer served in the 43rd U.S. Infantry as a lieutenant and commanded a mission against the Creek Indians. He was discharged from duty after peace was reached with Great Britain in 1815. Gilmer entered politics in 1818, as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position to which he was reelected to in 1819 and 1824. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1821 to 1823, and again from 1827 to 1829. He was reelected again to Congress thereafter, but neglected to denote his acceptance within the allotted time and consequently his seat was declared vacant. On October 5, 1829, he was elected Governor of Georgia, and on November 4, 1829, he was sworn into office. Gilmer strove to be non-partisan during his administration. During his first tenure, he dealt with the unearthing of gold located on the eastern boundary of land belonging to the Cherokee Indians. Gold seekers caused relations with the Indians to grow strained, and legislation was enacted that required all whites living on Cherokee land to sign a promise to abide by Georgia law. After leaving office on November 9, 1831, Gilmer was reelected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1833 to 1835, and was a presidential elector in 1836. He won reelection to a second term in the governor’s office on October 2, 1837. During his second administration, he participated in Cherokee Indian removal from Georgia, dispatching state militia to assist federal troops. He also encountered difficulties resulting from the Panic of 1837. The state had invested heavily in the Monroe Railroad and the state treasury also became depleted due to the economic recession. After leaving office, Gilmer served again as a presidential elector in 1840, and continued his service as a trustee of the University of Georgia, a position he held for 25 years. He also served in 1854 as president of the Agricultural Association of the Slaveholding States. Governor George R. Gilmer, who authored Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia in 1855, died on November 16, 1859. He is buried in the Beth-Salem Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Lexington, Georgia. Gilmer County in the North Georgia mountains was named in his honor in 1832.
Cook, James F. Governors of Georgia, 1754-2004. 3d ed. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2005.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress
Carl Vinson Institute of Government, The University of Georgia