Wilson Lumpkin (1783-1870) represented a dominant force in Georgia politics during the antebellum period. During his political career he served in the state legislature, the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and two terms as governor. Lumpkin also spearheaded the removal of the Cherokee nation from Georgia.
Born in Virginia on January 14, 1783, Wilson Lumpkin’s family relocated to frontier Georgia before his second birthday. He grew up in Oglethorpe County and experienced firsthand the conflicts characteristic of relations between white settlers and nearby native peoples under pressure to yield their homes. Admitted to the Bar in 1804, he established a successful legal practice in Athens. Unlike his younger brother Joseph Henry Lumpkin, Wilson Lumpkin preferred a career focused on politics rather than the law, but his success as a lawyer led to his election to several terms in the state legislature as well as appointment to the Inferior Court of Clarke County in 1805. After serving one term in Congress (1815-1817), he received a federal appointment as United States Commissioner to establish treaty boundaries with the Cherokee. He returned to Congress in 1827 and held the seat until 1831. After winning reelection in 1831, he resigned from Congress to pursue the governorship. During his Congressional tenure, Lumpkin strongly advocated Indian removal and as governor worked with the Jackson administration to make that policy a reality. In addition to Indian removal, Governor Lumpkin supported reforms in education, the tax code, and the state penitentiary. He also advocated state aid for railroad construction. Lumpkin completed his second term as governor in 1835 and in 1836 received appointment as a commissioner to enforce the terms of the Treaty of New Echota, which required the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia. He resigned this position in 1837 to accept a seat in the United States Senate. Upon the end of his term in 1841, Lumpkin retired from politics, though he continued to serve the state as a trustee to the University of Georgia and as a director of the state-owned Western and Atlantic Railroad. As one of Georgia’s elder statesmen, Lumpkin supported secession. He survived the Civil War and died on December 28, 1870.