January 17

William Washington Gordon

January 17, 1796 - Savannah

Georgia and its cotton industry may well have gone off the tracks if it hadn’t been for William Washington Gordon.

In 1835, Gordon was instrumental in raising money for the railroad that became the Central of Georgia. South Carolina had already built a railroad line from Charleston to the interior. It threatened to send Georgia’s cotton business to Charleston. Gordon literally worked himself into an early grave to complete Georgia’s first rail line from Savannah to Macon.

One of Georgia’s most distinguished citizens, he was the first West Point man from Georgia, graduating in 1814. But he left the Army less than a year later and moved to Savannah to study law under future Supreme Court Justice James Moore Wayne and was active in local politics. But his crowning achievement, the Central of Georgia, became one of the most important railroads in the South and a major part of Georgia’s economy for over a century.

The West Point graduate who made it possible was born on January 17, 1796, Today in Georgia History.