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Bio 1 -Capt. James Warren English (b.1837 LA) of Fulton Co. GA
migration: parish of Orleans, Louisiana to Fulton Co., GA

James Warren English

Capt. James Warren English

Capt. Jas. W. English stands among the conspicuous figures of the incomparable pluck and courage of Atlanta citizenship. He was one of the originators of the Cotton States and International exposition; he is chairman of the executive committee, a member of the board of police commissioners, president of the American Trust and Banking company, one of the largest financial institutions of the city; president of the Chattahoochee Brick company, one of the largest industrial enterprises of the south; a member of the board of education of Atlanta's public school system, and is largely interested in many other industrial institutions which play no small part in the general development of Atlanta and its section.

Capt. English was born October 28, 1837, in the parish of Orleans, state of Louisiana, and was left a penniless orphan at the age of thirteen; he came to Georgia in 1852, and located at Griffin, where he remained until the breaking out of the civil war in 1861, when he enlisted as a private in the Confederate service. His company was ordered to Virginia on the 18th of April, 1861, where it was consolidated with one from Columbus and two from Macon, Ga., forming what was known throughout the war as the Second Georgia battalion.

Capt. English remained with the army of northern Virginia, serving with the Second Georgia battalion, Gen. A. R. Wright's brigade. It is said of him by his old comrades that he was only absent thirty days from active service in the field during the entire war. Gen. Lee surrendered him at Appomattox, on the 9th of April, 1865, with the rest of those faithful followers who had borne the brunt of the entire struggle from beginning to end, and on that ever-memorable day, when he began his weary march toward home, the same conditions environed him as confronted every other Confederate soldier that was present at the surrender--poverty in abundance, and poor prospects.

It was then that he came to Atlanta, making it his home May 14, 1865. He was united in marriage with Miss Emily Alexander, of Griffin, Ga., on July 26, 1866. Their family consists of five children: James W., Jr.; Harry L., Edward, Emily and Jennie. Theirs indeed was a happy home.

Capt. English entered the service of the city as a member of the general council in 1887, and for the two succeeding years was the chairman of the finance committee of that body, his work in that capacity for the good of the city being marvelous. He found the city's finances in woeful shape, weighted down with a ruinous financial system, with a floating debt of over $500,000, bearing interest at from 12 to 24 per cent. per annum. He went to work to remedy the situation, and by a bold and honest effort placed the debt upon a basis of payment that was easy, satisfactory and safe, and reduced the rate of interest on said debt to 7 per cent. His work along that line is still remembered to-day in graceful acknowledgment by older citizens.

It was also while a member of that body that the present state constitution was adopted. Among other questions submitted to the people of the state, was the permanent location of the state capital, Milledgeville and Atlanta being competitors for that honor. The preponderance of sentiment and the press of the state seemed to be very largely in favor of Milledgeville. When this fact was fully realized by the mayor and council of Atlanta, they requested Capt. English to take charge of Atlanta's interests, which he reluctantly consented to do, realizing that it was leading a forlorn hope, and the great responsibility that would rest upon such a committee. He called together a number of Atlanta's public-spirited citizens; they organized a committee and elected him their chairman; they soon perfected a thorough organization of their friends throughout the entire state, and without a single penny of the city's money appropriated for the purpose of the work, they succeeded in carrying the election favoring Atlanta for the permanent capital by a majority of over 46,000 votes. The only campaign fund, for postage and various incidental expenses of such a campaign, was raised by his appeals to the people of Atlanta for individual subscriptions. This was perhaps the most important work he has ever done for Atlanta, the result being the permanent location and erection of the present magnificent state capitol building in that city.

Capt. English retired from public service in 1879, for two years, when he was again called to renew his services to the city as mayor, in 1881-82. This was at a time when Atlanta was about to take her first long step to greatness, it being the year when the first cotton exposition was held, an era that stands pre-eminently replete with renewed energy, life an industry in the history of the town that Sherman burned. While mayor he inaugurated the splendid system of street and sewer improvements that has been carried on to the present degree of excellency. He established the present fire department, changing from the old volunteer service to the paid service; he purchased for the city the real estate and fire apparatus of the volunteer department, consisting of the three department houses, two on Broad and one on Washington street, which proved to be a splendid investment for the city; he established the present fire, signal and telegraph system.

It was during his administration that the Georgia Pacific railroad was built, and to his person efforts is due much of the credit for the successful culmination of the scheme to open up the great coal fiends of Alabama advantageously to Atlanta. The city had subscribed and lost $300,000 in their efforts to secure the building of that road. It had been graded only a few miles from the city when the movement failed, and the roadbed and charter were sold to pay debts, and purchased by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad company, no doubt for the purpose of destroying competition, and without any intention of building the road. Capt. English and Mr. Anthony Murphey went to New York, by appointment, to confer with the board of directors of that company, and after twenty days of hard and persistent work succeeded in getting an option from them on that property, and placing it in the hands of others who were able, willing and did build it fro Atlanta to Birmingham, Ala. and eventually to Greenville, Miss., passing through the great Alabama coal fields. The completion of that road has added very largely to the wealth and population of Atlanta, in one item alone, viz., the reduction on the price of coal, which was formerly from $4 to $6 per ton for steam purposes, whereas now it can be purchased in any quantity at from $1.65 to $2.00 per ton.

It was also during his administration that the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia railroad was built, leading southwardly to Macon and northwardly to Rome. These two railroad properties have added many millions of dollars to Atlanta, and thousands of good citizens to her present population.

The Cotton exposition of 1881 was a great boom to the city, infusing new life and prosperity to all the arteries of trade and commerce. As mayor of the city, he contributed his full share to the success of that enterprise and the entertainment of the many visitors, and when the exposition ended, with the help of a few friends, he converted the old exposition buildings and grounds into an immense cotton manufactory, which is now one of the strongest manufacturing enterprises in that region of the south. He has always been enthusiastic in encouraging manufactories of every kind, believing it was the surest and safest foundation on which to build a city, thus furnishing abundant and remuncrative employment for all the city's population that are willing to work.

His work for the promotion of morality was striking and most noteworthy, and he is perhaps better known to-day for his achievements in breaking up gambling, which was rampant in Atlanta, than for any other specific work while mayor. With his usual determination, he gave orders to the police department to invade every gambling house in the city, seize their implements, by force, if need be, take it to the public square and burn it. He prosecuted the lawless ones. They carried their cases to the supreme court, without avail, Mayor English's warfare on them being thoroughly approved of by all the tribunals.

Speaking of his career as mayor, the Atlanta "Constitution," at the close of his term, Jan. 1, 1883, editorially remarked: "it is seldom that any officer retires from a trust so universally honored and esteemed as does Mayor English, this morning. The two years of his rule have been the most prosperous the city ever knew--much of which is due to the fact that he has been the best mayor within her memory. In every sense his reqime has been successful. He has put under control, at last, a lawless element that has heretofore defied city officials. He has restricted financial sense, the result has been quite as happy. The English administration closes its year without having one dollar of debt or a single bill payable. It leaves a sinking fund of $95,000, where it found only $40,000 two years ago. It had reduced the bonded debt $9,000. It has spent $101,200 on permanent investments, such as 453,000 on pumps, $28,000 on fire department, and $10,000 for a new school house. It has spent $70,000 on streets, besides a levy of $60,000 on citizens, against $40,000 a year ago. It has maintained every department well. It may be claimed that Mayor English has had the two best years to work. We grant that, and claim for him that the man and occasion met. He leaves office without a blot on his name or a stain on his record, and will have the confidence and affection of his people."

In March, 1893, Capt. English was once more called to the public service by being elected a member of the board of police commissioners, without his solicitation or knowledge. Here he continued his good work, building up the morality of the city, and has continued to serve on the board up to the present time. The benefits of his work for the police department have been marked and considerable. He secured the present telegraph system and was largely instrumental in securing the appropriation and building the present station house and police barracks. In October, 1893, he offered to resign from the board, but the mayor and general council petitioned him to remain in the work he had so long and faithfully pursued, and he consented. The good people of Atlanta will always appreciate his efforts to keep the police force out of local politics.

If there is one thing that characterizes Capt. English as a useful citizen more than any other, it is his public-spiritedness. He has been identified with all charitable work that is started or maintained for the good of Atlanta. He was on of the promoters of the Young Men's Christian association, which was established as the result of the first meeting held at his residence; an original promoter and subscriber to the Georgia School of Technology; a promoter of the Grady hospital, of which he was a trustee until his son succeeded him, upon his resignation; a pioneer promoter of the Confederate soldiers' home, and an early advocate and supporter of the Young Men's library.

Capt. English is an untiring worker for the upbuilding of Atlanta's best interests and the protection of her people from the vices of the day. But few men in few cities can be rightfully credited with having accomplished more good results than he has for Atlanta, and the people, rich and poor alike, hold him in high esteem.

James Warren English signature

source: Memoirs of Georgia
Vol. I, ch. 4; pgs 766-769
The Southern Historical Association
Atlanta, GA.; 1895

See also: James Warren English biography_ 2

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