Whether you’re a Georgia Native or just passing through for a quick stay, there are some things about The Peach State you may not know. Since Georgia was the last of the original 13 British Colonies, here is a list of 13 things you probably didn’t know about the state that’s on everyone’s mind.
Let’s Start With The Peach State
Even though Georgia is called “The Peach State,” the moniker isn’t exactly true. Yes, Georgia does produce peaches, but it isn’t the nation’s top peach producer. California is the top peach producing state followed by South Carolina. In 2018, Georgia was actually the fourth peach producer in the nation. Who was number 3? That’s probably going to come as a shock. After California and South Carolina, the state of New Jersey was among the top peach providers.
We’re second in counties, though
If you’ve ever looked at a map of Georgia’s counties, you’ve probably been overwhelmed, especially if you’ve lived somewhere else. Georgia has a startling number of counties, clocking it at 159. It is second only to Texas, which has 254. Why does a state the size of Georgia need so many counties? Legend has it that Georgia’s lawmakers didn’t want residents of any county to have to travel more than one day roundtrip by carriage to get to the county seat.
It’s hotter than you think
Most of us who have lived here a while are used to summer days topping out somewhere between 100 and 102 degrees. We find that kind of weather to be sweltering. However, the Georgia oven has reached temperatures as high as 112 degrees before. That happened in 1952.
Initially, it wasn’t a slave state
If you know your Civil War history, you know that Georgia was part of the confederacy and was a big slave state at the time of the Civil War. However, it may surprise you to know that when the colony was first chartered, Georgia was specifically mandated not to have slaves. When he first founded the state, James Edward Oglethorpe outlawed the practice. The prohibition on slavery later broke down due to political pressures.
It wasn’t always a red state
Like most of the South, Georgia is known as a red state, meaning it votes republican in presidential elections. While The Peach State may seem deeply entrenched in republican politics, the state hasn’t always voted for republican presidents. In fact, it has gone for democrats in recent memory.
In 1992, Georgians voted to send Bill Clinton to the White House. In 1976 and 1980, the state was also blue, as Georgians elected their own former governor, Jimmy Carter. The state went for John F. Kennedy in 1960, Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and 1956. In fact, Georgia went solidly for the democrats from 1852 to 1964.
Democrats ruled the state for more than a century
Georgia trusted its state government to the democrats from 1873 to 2003, electing a democrat as governor for 130 years. It wasn’t until Sonny Perdue defeated Roy Barnes in the 2002 gubernatorial election that republicans were able to gain control of the governorship.
Georgia was a key player in the Civil War
While the Civil War itself was just five years of the nation’s history it left a big mark on the Southern states, including Georgia. Many well-known Georgians played a prominent role in organizing the confederacy. Robert Toombs of Wilkes County was the confederate government’s secretary of state for a brief period, Howell Cobb presided over the convention that began the confederacy in 1861 and Thomas R.R. Cobb — his brother — was the main author of the new government’s constitution.
27 Black Republicans won seats in the state legislature after the Civil War
You may think that the plight of African Americans after slavery lasted all the way from reconstruction to the repeal of Jim Crow laws. However, there was a brief moment right after reconstruction and before Jim Crow laws where 27 Black Republicans actually won seats in the state legislature. They were expelled from the legislature in 1868.
Georgia boasts the nation’s first state park
While it may not have been recognized as an official state park until 1931, the state of Georgia has owned and operated Indian Springs State Park near the city of Jackson since 1826, making it quite possibly the oldest state operated park in the United States.
The first college founded for women was in Georgia
Macon’s Wesleyan College was the first college in the world founded specifically to grant college degrees to women. At the time of its founding in 1836 it was named the Georgia Female College.
Savannah was the state’s first city
The city of Savannah was Georgia’s first city and was the state capitol at one time. However, despite its rich history, Savannah is now the 4th most populated city in the state.
Georgia used to be a lot bigger
At its founding as a colony, Georgia featured a narrow extension that went all the way out to the pacific ocean. This was a way for Britain to claim all of the land to the west even though it had not all been explored.
Georgia once had three governors at the same time
It was a unique moment in Georgia history known as the Three Governor’s Controversy. In 1946, governor-elect Eugene Talmadge died before he could take office. The state constitution was murky at best on whether or not a lieutenant governor who had not yet been sworn in would become the governor if the governor-elect died. That lieutenant governor-elect was Melvin E. Thompson.
The governor-elect’s son Herman Talmadge believed himself to be the rightful governor due to some write-in votes cast for him in the election and made a claim to the governorship. The existing governor, Ellis Arnall, claimed he should stay in office until a proper successor was chosen and sworn in.
In the end, the courts sided with Thompson, but called for a new election in 1948. Thompson’s victory was short-lived. Herman Talmadge won the 1948 election.