JAMES MILTON SMITH, Georgia’s 33rd Governor, was born in Twiggs County, Georgia, on October 24, 1823. He studied law and established a legal career in Columbus, Georgia. During the Civil War, he served in the Confederate Army, was wounded in the Battle of Cold Harbor, and earned the rank of colonel. Smith entered politics in 1864 as a member of the Confederate Congress, a position he held until March 18, 1865. He also served as a one-term member in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1870, serving as speaker in 1871. An adversary of Radical Reconstruction, Smith was nominated and elected governor in December 1871, filling the unexpired term of Governor Rufus Bullock. He was reelected to a four-year term in October 1872. During his tenure, the Department of Agriculture and the Office of State Geologist were founded, as well as the Georgia State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts in Athens. Smith made several key appointments to state agencies that earned high praise, particularly the appointment of Gustavus Orr as state school commissioner. Orr received nationwide recognition for his work. By the end of his term, Smith had rectified the economic difficulties he inherited and left a surplus in the state treasury. After running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1877, Smith was appointed to the Railroad Commission, serving from 1879 to 1885. He also served on the bench for the Superior Court of the Chattahoochee Circuit from 1887 to 1890. Governor James M. Smith died on November 25, 1890, and he is buried at the Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville, Georgia.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.