Henry Woodfin

Henry Woodfin

Grady, Henry Woodfin, 1850-89, American journalist and orator, b. Athens, Ga. In 1879 a gift from Cyrus W. Field enabled him to buy into the Atlanta Constitution. He gained fame with his editorials and addresses, which attempted to reconcile North and South, and particularly with his stirring speech "The New South," delivered in New York in 1886. His speeches were posthumously published in The New South and Other Addresses (1904) and Complete Orations and Speeches (1910).

See study by J. C. Harris (1972).

Henry Woodfin Grady (May 24 1850December 23 1889) was a journalist and orator who helped reintegrate the states of the former Confederacy into the Union after the American Civil War. As a teenager he witnessed probably the fiercest fighting of that war in his home state and lost his father to a Yankee bullet.

Early life

After his father's death he was raised by his mother in Athens, Georgia. He was educated in the classical tradition of a southern gentleman of the time at the University of Georgia (Bachelor of Arts in 1868) where he was a charter member of Eta Chapter of the Chi Phi Fraternity. In 1867 he became a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society, and later attended the University of Virginia to study law, but became especially interested in Greek and Anglo-Saxon languages, history, and literature, which led to a career in journalism.

Grady was a life-long devoted member of the Chi Phi Fraternity. He was a charter member of the Eta Chapter of Chi Phi at the University of Georgia. In 1882 he was elected as the first Grand Alpha (National President) from the south after the union of the Northern and Southern Orders of Chi Phi in 1874.


Upon graduation he held a series of brief journalistic jobs with the Rome Courier, the Atlanta Herald, and the New York Herald. After New York, Grady returned to the South as a reporter-editor for the Atlanta Constitution. In 1880, with borrowed money, he bought a one-fourth interest in the paper and began a nine-year career as one of Georgia's most celebrated journalists. On the business end, he quickly built the newspaper into the state's most influential with a national circulation of 120,000.

In the tumultuous decades following the war when hatreds lingered in many, it was a conciliatory Grady who sought to establish a New South in which the past was put to rest. "There was a South of slavery and secession - that South is dead. There is now a South of union and freedom - that South, thank God, is living, breathing, and growing every hour," he said in an 1886 speech before a dinner audience that included J. P. Morgan and H. M. Flagler at Delmonico's Restaurant before the New England Society of New York.

He popularized an antithesis between the “old South” which “rested everything on slavery and agriculture, unconscious that these could neither give nor maintain healthy growth,” and a “new south” – “thrilling with the consciousness of growing power and prosperity”.

From 1882 - 1886, along with Nathaniel E. Harris, he promoted the creation in Atlanta of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a state vocational-education school.

Orator and Spokesman for the "New South"

Grady was also praised for his great passion for political oratory (he supported Prohibition and a Georgia veterans' home for disabled or elderly Confederate soldiers), commitment to the new peace, and well-known sense of humor.

That sense of humor and quick wit got Grady through more than one difficult situation. Once at a banquet of northern elites, he was waxing eloquently about the brilliant prospects for northern investments in a New South determined to rise from the ashes of defeat. Grady spotted General William T. Sherman in the audience, the celebrated Yankee soldier who was credited with defeating and burning much of Georgia, and particularly Atlanta, on his infamous march to the sea. Without missing a beat, Grady acknowledged the general by noting that the people of Georgia thought Sherman an able military man, "but a might careless about fire."

In another speech, Grady wanted to chastise gently his Southern audience for what he believed to be Georgia's economic shortcomings. Rather than pounding them with statistics, he entertained them with stories that made the points. He said,

"Once I attended an unusually sad funeral in Pickens County. The deceased was an unfortunate fellow of the one-gallus brigade, whose breeches struck him underneath the arm-pits and hit him at the other end at about the knee...They buried him in the midst of a marble quarry. They cut him through solid marble to make his grave, and yet the little headstone they put above him came from Vermont. They buried him in the heart of a pine forest and yet the rude pine coffin was imported from Cincinnati. They buried him within touch of an iron mine, and yet the nails in the coffin and the shovel they used was imported from Pittsburgh. They buried him by the side of the best sheep-grazing country on earth, and yet the wool inside the coffin and the wool bands they used in lowering his body were brought from the North. The South furnished nothing for that funeral but the hole in the ground and the corpse."

Grady's prestige reached such a height that he became the only non-member ever to adjourn the Georgia Legislature. It occurred on the election of Grover Cleveland to the presidency. News of the close contest arrived at 11 a.m. during the Legislature's session. In his exuberance, Grady rushed to the Capitol with the announcement. He brushed past the door keeper and into the chamber shouting in senatorial tones, "Mr. Speaker, a message from the American people." Sensing the purpose of the intrusion, the Speaker offered Grady a place by his side. However, Grady strode up the aisle to the Speaker's desk, grabbed the Speaker's gavel, and cried out, "In the name of the American people, I declare this House adjourned in honor of the election of the first Democratic President in twenty-five years."


On December 12 1889 he delivered a speech in Boston at Faneuil Hall, on "The Race Problem in the South." Grady was already ill, and where weather in points north was terrible, his condition worsened to the point that he barely made it back to the state of Georgia. By the time his weakened form made it to the depot at Atlanta, he was too exhausted to appreciate the reception prepared for him and had to be shielded from the crowd and escorted home by his physician. On December 23, he had descended to pneumonia and was dead by the end of the day. He was buried on Christmas Day 1889, because of family finances first in a friend's crypt at Oakland Cemetery but his body was moved to Westview Cemetery when it opened soon after.

Grady County, Georgia and Grady County, Oklahoma are named for him, as well as Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools' Henry W. Grady High School, and the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. The journalism school annually awards the George Foster Peabody Awards.


Further reading

External links

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