Thomas Butler King (1800-1864)
Thomas Butler King is remembered primarily as a planter/politician from coastal Georgia who labored with mixed success to improve the nation's nascent transportation and communication networks.
Bitterly disappointed at not being appointed secretary of the navy under U.S. president Zachary Taylor, King accepted an appointment as Taylor's special agent to California. King stayed on in California as collector of the Port of San Francisco under U.S. president Millard Fillmore, failing twice in bids to represent the new state as a U.S. senator. King's travels from East Coast to West Coast and his long-time affection for internal improvements made him a natural proponent of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. Throughout the 1850s he worked tirelessly as its lobbyist and representative.
Finally, King returned to Georgia in 1859 to bury both his oldest son, Thomas Butler King Jr., and his wife, Anna. In 1861 he accepted the post of Georgia's representative to the courts of Europe and again left his plantation in the hands of his overseer and his fractured family. King returned to Georgia in 1862 and died in Waresboro (in Ware County) on May 10, 1864.
Edward M. Steel Jr., T. Butler King of Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1964).
Steven M. Stowe, "The Kings: Waiting for Father," in Intimacy and Power in the Old South: Ritual in the Lives of the Planters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).
Stephen W. Berry II, University of North Carolina, Pembroke
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