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Column: Thank three Georgians who signed for independence
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

I think we are reaching the point of having holidays that we don’t understand. I had heard of Juneteenth, but I didn’t understand it until it became a holiday last year.

This week, we celebrate Independence Day. We have pretty much diminished the day that we bid King George farewell to a day for a mattress sale, a trailer selling fireworks in the parking lot of a retail store and a day beside the lake or a pool.

We had three signers from Georgia: Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett and George Walton.

Hall is the namesake of Hall County. He served in the Continental Congress and later as governor of Georgia.

His administration was plagued by financial problems, but he was noted for helping to establish the University of Georgia.

While he was in Philadelphia, Lachlan McIntosh took command of Gwinnett’s military unit and it began a bitter feud between the men. In 1777, Gwinnett was appointed Georgia’s second governor by the Council of Safety.

He succeeded Archibald Bulloch, the first governor, who also happened to be President Teddy Roosevelt’s great-great grandfather. Often thought of as a New Yorker, Roosevelt’s mother was a Georgia-born member of the Bulloch family.

Also in 1777, Gwinnett and McIntosh engaged in a duel. Both men were shot, but Gwinnett did not survive.

Walton, a Virginian, served in a number of roles during and after the Revolutionary War. He is buried at the Signers’ Monument in Augusta.

If you are not from Georgia, but were wise enough to move here, I can understand why you might not know much about our participation in the Declaration of Independence.

But we teach kids in the eighth grade about Georgia history and they should know at least some of this. Sadly, there are adults who don’t know from whom we declared our independence.

By the way, it was Great Britain. Our judges would have accepted England as an answer also.

I’m not suggesting that we don’t have reason to celebrate and we should. Perhaps we need to fly our flag and remember the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence.

They were brave men who took a considerable risk by telling King George to take a hike.

The declaration was principally written by Thomas Jefferson, whose words were absolutely brilliant.

Our declaration and Constitution are outstanding examples of living documents that have just as much bearing and effectiveness today as they did 246 years ago. I don’t know if they still teach it, but our students should learn the preamble to the Constitution. We the people are still we the people and it’s the kind of thing that we should remember on our patriotic holidays.

Enjoy your cookout and maybe a churn of peach ice cream. Please don’t drink and drive, but partake of a cold glass of iced tea or lemonade.

As you do, raise that glass to Lyman Hall, George Walton and Button Gwinnett. Without them, you might be enjoying a bowl of mush and saluting the Queen, or worse, the Fuhrer.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns publish weekly.