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James Z. and Elizabeth B. George

placeholder image for James Z. and Elizabeth B. George

This collection is composed of one box of correspondence from 1846 to 1899 with the majority of letters being written between 1892-1894 during which time J. Z. and his wife, Elizabeth Brooks or E. B. George, were in Washington as he served as a United States Senator representing the state of Mississippi. The collection also contains one receipt book and three scrapbooks of family news.

Status: Open

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About James Zachariah George

James Zachariah George, better known as J. Z. George and Mississippi’s “Great Commoner”, was a soldier in the Mexican-American war, a Confederate General, a lawyer, Mississippi Supreme Court justice, and a United States Senator. George is well known for his white supremacist politics and was one of the writers of the infamous 1890 Mississippi state constitution.

J. Z. George spent most of his life in Mississippi but was born in Georgia on October 18, 1826 to Joseph and Mary George. Joseph died in June 1828, before his son’s second birthday. Mary would remarry in 1830 to Seaborn Durham. J. Z. legally emancipated himself at age 19, Elizabeth Brooks Young, and enlisted for the Mexican-American war.

Upon return from the war, where he served under Jefferson Davis, J. Z. George successfully petitioned the Mississippi Courts to become one of the youngest attorneys in the state. By 1850, at age 24, J. Z. George enslaved twelve people; by 1860, that number would grow to 65. He would declare himself a southern Democrat in 1850.

J. Z.’s career was full of highs and lows. He was a private in the Mexican-American war, became a colonel in the Civil War, and would later obtain the title of General. By some accounts, he was not a successful soldier, as he was captured twice during the Civil War. His professional career as a lawyer, both before and after the War was more successful. J. Z. was a Mississippi state Senator in 1853-1854, was a state recorder for the court of appeals, and served on the board of secession before the Civil War. George’s Postbellum career saw him return to law where he continued to practice. In 1870, he was a member of the group to found Mississippi A & M, which would become Mississippi State University.

The highpoint of J. Z. George’s political career came with his election to the United States Senate to represent Mississippi in 1881. He would remain a Senator until his death in 1897. While in congress, George pursued white supremacist politics. He supported the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was also during this time that J. Z. helped pen the 1890 Mississippi state constitution. This infamous document laid the groundwork for Jim Crow laws of the time. It effectively disenfranchised African American voters in the state until the Civil Rights movement.

J. Z. George and his wife E. B., whom he often called Bettie, had eleven children, with nine living to adulthood. This collection of letters shows J. Z. and E. B.’s concern for their family and grandchildren. Elizabeth Brooks Young George passed away on July 29, 1897. J. Z. George followed his wife two weeks later and passed on August 14, 1894 at 2:40 p.m.