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Bio 2 -Capt. James Warren English (b.1837 LA) of Fulton Co. GA
migration: parish of Orleans, Louisiana to Fulton Co., GA
James Warren English
Captain James Warren English

Captain James W. English, a beloved citizen and builder of Atlanta for over half a century, was a financial genius and a leader in all lines of humanitarian endeavor. The splendid principles of honor, integrity, and usefulness permeated all his life's action, and produced in him a broad philosophy, a greatness of character, and a success in achievement which placed him in the forefront of the superior men of his day.

He was left an orphan at the early age of thirteen years, and entirely through his own efforts he builded his outstanding career of accomplishment. Coming to Georgia from Orleans Parish, La., where he was born October 28, 1837, the son of Andrew and Mary Warren English, he located in Griffin and established himself as a youth of sterling character and high ideals. When the call was made for volunteers for the Confederate Army he immediately enlisted with the Spalding Grays, and was actively engaged throughout the entire period of the war, serving as captain of his company. When in command of the skirmish lines he was chosen as special courier to receive from General Grant and deliver a formal demand upon General Lee to surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Captain English came to Atlanta immediately after the close of the war, possessed with a strength of conviction regarding justice and progress, and a strong determination to succeed. He became one of the leading spirits in the reconstruction of the government of the city and the state. He was diligent in business, and was a financier of ability, probably second to none. His lofty intelligence, sound judgment, and surpassing vision of possibilities were manifested in various enterprises, and he established a large fortune. His first business venture was the organization of the Chattahoochee Brick Company of which he continued to be president throughout his life. During the early part of his career he founded and became president of a state bank, American Trust and Banking Company, taking over the Traders Bank. In 1890 this institution was converted into a national bank and named the Fourth National Bank. Captain English was the first president of this new organization, and remained president until five years prior to his death, when he resigned, naming his successor. He was then elected chairman of the Board of Directors, which office was created at that time, and which he held the remainder of his life. Under his direction it became one of the largest and strongest financial institutions in the Southeastern States. In 1929 the Fourth National Bank of Atlanta & Lowry Bank formed a merger and became the First National Bank of Atlanta. He was in large part responsible for the organizing of the Atlanta Savings Bank, of which institution he was vice-president and a member of the Board of Directors.

He was the sort of civic leader whose intrepid courage, broad intelligence, and tenacious adherence to high ideals made him the center of outstanding events for more than three score years. He wanted Atlanta to be a happy and progressive city, and his career of usefulness in civic activities brought his desire towards its realization. In 1877 he was elected a member of the City Council, and from that time until his death his connection with various departments of the city government was almost continuous with the exception of a few intervening years. He was appointed chairman of the Finance Committee, and a member of the Tax Committee. Acting in this capacity he found that a number of floating bonds had been issued, and the city was badly in debt. He recalled these bonds, converted them into 6% bonds, and restricted the city's expenditures to actual income. He introduced the first ordinance in council which prohibits the city from creating a floating debt.

The location of the state capitol and projected removal to Milledgeville became a matter of urgent import, and Captain English wa prevailed on to form a committee in Atlanta's interest. There were no funds available and at that time there were neither telephones, stenographers, nor typewriters, so it involved a tremendous amount of initiative and energy to direct his campaign to a successful fruition. In appreciation of his services the citizens of Atlanta presented him with a silver waiter inscribed: "Atlanta progress, December 5th, 1877, for the capitol Atlanta, official majority 43,946, presented by his friends to Captain James W. English, Chairman Atlanta Campaign Committee, as a token of appreciation of his distinguished service."

In December, 1881, he was elected mayor and many notable events occurred during his administration. He was instrumental in perfecting plans and completing the Georgia Western Railroad which connected Atlanta with the coal fields in Alabama. The first Cotton Exposition has been conducted largely under his successful financial control; modern water pumping system was provided; the first permanent street paving of Belgian Blocks was laid; electric fire alarms, police signal systems, and salaried firemen were installed. His unfaltering determination and his daring courage and ability to copy with a crucial situation was revealed in his handling of the gambling element. Atlanta was fast becoming the mecca for this lawless group, and it was realized by the leaders that this mater must be settled. Accordingly, orders were given that all such places should close. Unable to get this done, the chief of police was removed by the administration, and a new man appointed. Within then days every gambling house in the city was closed and their fixtures and tools attached as evidence. Gradually the element crept in and opened their houses again. This time they were raided by Captain English in person and his aides and all their equipment was piled at Five Points where it was burned in a spectacular fire during a public demonstration. This ended the professional gambling houses in the city.

After his term as mayor, Captain English retired, but in 1883 he was urged to become a member of the police board. For over thirty consecutive years he continued to be a member of this board, much of that time being spent as its chairman, and his splendid integrity and dominant character were felt in its functioning.

Captain English had a vital interest in all matters pertaining to humanity. He was firm but tolerant and his lack of stoical indifference led him into active leadership in numerous philanthropic undertakings. He was a prominent factor in practically every undertaking of magnitude for many years. He was one of the first trustees of the Grady Hospital; chairman of the Building Committee of the first Y.M.C.A. and chairman of the Board of Directors for many years; a director and a guarantor of the Cotton States & International Exposition, and of the City Auditorium; instrumental with Mr. S. M. Inman and others in the building of the Atlanta Terminal Station and president of the Atlanta Terminal Company in 1905; chairman of the Finance Committee for the building of the First Presbyterian Church on Marietta Street, and late advisory member of the Building committee for the new edifice on Peachtree Street. In gratifying recognition of the great service he rendered the city he was given the beloved title of "Atlanta's Grand Old Man" during the latter years of his life.

Captain English was married July 25, 1865, to Miss Emily Alexander of Griffin. To this union were born a family of six sons and daughters; three of whom, James W., Edgar, and Edward A., are deceased. mes. English died in 1907 and Captain English passed away February 15, 1925. Surviving this honored couple are a son, Harry L., and two daughters, Emily, who is now Mrs. James D. Robinson, and Jennie, who is Mrs. Gordon P. Kiser. Their grandchildren are Mrs. Emily Robinson Head, Jennie Robinson, who is now Mrs. Allison W. Thornwell, James D. Robinson, Jr., Harry English Robinson, Gordon P. Kiser, Jr., and Jane English Kiser. Their two great-grandchildren are Arthur Dixon Head and Allison W. Thornwell, Jr.


Encyclopedia of Georgia Biography
Editor; Lucian Lamar Knight
Volume I, pgs. 109-111
Publisher; A. H. Cawston
Atlanta, Georgia; 1931


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