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John Brown Gordon

Gov. John Brown Gordon

  • November 9, 1886 - November 8, 1890
  • Democratic
  • February 6, 1832
  • January 9, 1904
  • Georgia
  • University of Georgia
  • Married Fannie R. Haralson; six children
  • Senator
  • Army


JOHN BROWN GORDON, Georgia’s 38th Governor, was born in Upson County, Georgia, on February 6, 1832. He attended the University of Georgia, but withdrew before graduating. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began a short-lived legal career in Atlanta. He also pursued a journalism career in Milledgeville and ran a coal-mining enterprise in Northwest Georgia. During the Civil War, he served as a captain in the Confederate Army, was wounded in several battles, rose to the rank of lieutenant general, and earned a renowned reputation as a skilled soldier and talented leader. Gordon was unsuccessful in his first bid for governor in 1868. An outspoken opponent of Radical Reconstruction, Gordon was believed to head the Ku Klux Klan in Georgia. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1873 and was reelected in 1879, but resigbed in 1880 to accept a lucrative business proposition. Gordon won the 1886 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor of Georgia and he was reelected to a second term in 1888. Though few reforms were enacted during his term, business developments increased, the state bond debt was trimmed, railroads were advanced, and the state’s population boomed. The Georgia Normal and Industrial College was founded and the construction and dedication of the new state capitol were completed. After leaving office, he was elected again to the U.S. Senate in 1890 and as commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans. He served in this capacity until his death. Governor John B. Gordon, who authored Reminiscences of the Civil War, died on January 9, 1904, and he is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.


Georgia Archives (private papers)

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.

Virtual American Biographies

Webpage on John Brown Gordon

Governors’ Portraits

Recent Georgia Governors