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Joseph Emerson Brown

Gov. Joseph Emerson Brown

  • November 6, 1857 - June 17, 1865
  • Democratic
  • April 15, 1821
  • November 30, 1894
  • Georgia
  • Yale University Law School
  • Married Elizabeth Grisham; eight children
  • Resigned
  • Senator


JOSEPH EMERSON BROWN, father of Georgia Governor Joseph Mackey Brown (1909-1911; 1912-1913), was the only Georgia governor to serve four consecutive terms. He was born in Pickens District, South Carolina, on April 15, 1821. He attended Calhoun Academy, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. Even though he had passed the bar, Brown enrolled in Yale law school, graduating in 1846, and establishing a legal career in Canton, Georgia. In 1849 he entered politics as a one-term member of the Georgia Senate. He also served on the bench of the Superior Court in 1855. Brown won the 1857 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected Georgia’s 27th Governor. He won reelection in 1859, 1861, and 1863. During his tenure, he generated substantial revenue from the state-owned Western and Atlantic Railroad, and the profits were used to fund a state educational system. Brown was a proponent of states’ rights and slavery; he also endorsed secession, organizing the state for the approaching war. After resigning from the governor’s office in June 1865, Brown petitioned for reconstruction acceptance; however, this weakened him politically and he lost his 1868 bid for the U.S. Senate. Later that same year, he was appointed to serve as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, a position he held until 1870. Brown won election to the U.S. Senate in 1880, and served in that capacity until 1891. Governor Emerson Brown, who was one of Georgia’s wealthiest men, died on November 30, 1894. He is buried at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. His son, Joseph Mackey Brown, was Governor of Georgia from 1909 to 1911 and from 1912 to 1913.


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.

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