The Liberty County GAGenWeb Project: Augustus Octavius Bacon Biography


Augustus Octavius Bacon, lawyer, legislator, United States senator, was the second son of the Rev. Augustus O. Bacon, a Baptist clergyman, a native of Liberty county, Georgia, himself the third son of Thomas Bacon, of that county. His ancestors on one side were a colony of Puritans who settled in Dorchester, Mass. in 1630, and who removed to Georgia and founded the Midway settlement in 1763. His great-great grandfather, Samuel Bacon, and Richard Baker arrived in that year and were the advance guard and the first of the Midway colony, afterwards the community of Liberty county.

Upon this stock was engrafted a Virginia branch springing from the Holcombes of Cavalier ancestry. Augustus Octavius Bacon was born in Bryan county, Georgia, October 20, 1839, although his mother's home at that time was in Liberty county, where he was reared from his infancy. Her maiden name was Mary Louise Jones, and she was her father's only child. Through her he is a grandson of Samuel Jones, of Liberty county (himself the only son of Samuel Jones, an officer in the revolutionary army) and a grand nephew, through his maternal grandmother, of Judge William Law, of Savannah, one of the most distinguished jurists of his time in the south.

His parents were residents of Liberty county, and there and in Troup county he spent his childhood and boyhood in a typical Georgia environment, chiefly marked by the fact of his early bereavement though the untimely death of his father and his mother, his father having died July 3, 1839, at the age of 23, before the birth of his son, and his mother at 20 years of age, before he was a year old; while his only brother died within a week after the death of his mother.

The father and mother and brother are buried in the old cemetery of historic Midway church in Liberty county. His paternal grandmother, by whom he was adopted when thus doubly orphaned, was a daughter of the Rev. Henry Holcombe, D.D., a native of Virginia and a captain in the colonial army of the revolutionary war, and thereafter a resident of Savannah. Under her fostering and devoted guardianship, he received careful training and a good elementary education and at the age of 16, he entered the University of Georgia at Athens. He was graduated from the collegiate department of that institution in 1858, and immediately thereafter he entered the law school and as a member of the first class ever graduated by the university received a degree therefrom the following year.

He selected Atlanta as the place which to begin his professional career, but scarcely six months elapsed before he joined the Confederate forces as adjutant of the Ninth Georgia regiment, with which he served in Virginia during the campaigns of 1861 and 1862. Subsequently he was commissioned as captain of the provisional army of the Confederate states and assigned to general staff duty, serving at different times on the staffs of General Henry R. Jackson, General Alfred Iverson and General Mackall. He mustered out of service at the close of hostilities with the rank of captain.

Returning to the law after having for a year reviewed his legal studies he for the first time began practice at Macon in 1866, from which date he has been actively identified with the bar of Georgia. His success in his profession was immediate, and he quickly assumed a ranking place as a trial lawyer in both the state and the federal courts. He possessed oratorical talents of a high order, as well as legal learning; and these soon led him into the political arena of his state, gave him growing influence and marked him as one of the coming men.

In 1868, when 28 years of age, Mr. Bacon was nominated by the state democratic convention for presidential elector from the then fourth congressional district. Two years from that time he was elected from Bibb county to the Georgia house of representatives and was returned to that body, after each successive election, for twelve years and was subsequently again elected for a term of two years. During this period he was speaker pro tempore for two years and speaker for eight years an unusual parliamentary experience especially in the fact that no other Georgian has ever been a speaker for so long a time. He served in this position or honor with distinction and dignity, and displayed an executive ability, skill as a parliamentarian and a knowledge of legislative procedure that gave him immediate prestige when he entered the United States senate. Several times in the face of the most powerful adverse political influences, he was brought forward as a candidate for the governorship of his state, and in the state democratic convention in 1883 he lacked one vote for a nomination, when the nomination was equivalent to an election. This was one of the famous convention contests of Georgia, in which there was a three days' deadlock before a nomination was made.

Mr. Bacon was frequently a member of state democratic conventions, was president of the convention in 1880, and was delegate to the state at large to the democratic convention at Chicago in 1884. Although his party was not without sharp rivalries, he was always considered a stalwart, aggressive leader, and, in 1894, after an exciting and remarkable campaign before the people, in which there were four active and influential candidates, he was elected by the Georgia legislature to a seat in the United States senate.

In 1900, after an endorsement in the state democratic primary, he was unanimously re-elected to a second term in the senate by the legislature in which there were democratic, republican and populist members. In 1906, after another endorsement in the state democratic primary, in which he had no opposition, he was, at the succeeding session of the legislature, again, unanimously re-elected to a third term in the senate. In this election, he had the marked distinction of being the first Georgian who, since the foundation of the government, has been elected from the state to a consecutive and uninterrupted full third term in the senate.

In 1913 he was unanimously re-elected in a general popular election, being the first senator chosen by direct vote. Senator Bacon served as president pro tempore of the senate during a portion of the 62d congress and presided over the senate during the impeachment of Judge Robert W. Archibald, in 1913, having been chosen for that duty by special order of the senate.

The Atlanta Constitution, February 15, 1914, page 6A

Submitted by Bob Franks

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