WILLIAM YATES ATKINSON, Georgia’s 40th governor, was born in Oakland, Georgia, on November 11, 1854. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1877, then studied law, and established a legal career in Newnan, Georgia. From 1879 to 1882, he served as solicitor of Coweta County. Atkinson entered politics in 1886, as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, a position he held until 1894. He also served as speaker of the house from 1892 to 1894, and chaired the 1890 Georgia Democratic Convention. Atkinson won the 1894 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected Governor of Georgia. He was reelected to a second term in 1896. During his tenure, public school funding increased as did pensions for Confederate soldiers and widows. The office of commissioner of agriculture became an elective position, the Atlanta Exposition of 1895 was promoted, and the Georgia Normal and Industrial School in Milledgeville was established. After leaving office on October 29, 1898, Atkinson retired from public service, but continued to stay active in his law career. Governor William Y. Atkinson died on August 8, 1899, and was buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan, 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.