On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified by Congress - enshrining in our nation’s history these immortal words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These words have inspired Americans of all walks of life, and they continue to inspire my work on behalf of District 159.
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, three men represented Georgia and signed on her behalf: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, and George Walton. Button Gwinnett, a merchant and farmer of English descent, went on to serve in Georgia’s state legislature.
Gwinnett also wrote the original draft of Georgia’s first State Constitution. He rose to become Speaker of the Georgia Assembly and eventually was appointed Governor of Georgia in 1777 (then called “President”), serving only a few short months in this office before his death. Gwinnett is buried in Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah. Gwinnett County was named in his honor.
Lyman Hall, a physician and clergyman, born in Connecticut, also signed the Declaration of Independence on behalf of Georgia.
Hall was one of Georgia’s first Governors, elected in 1783 and served a little over a year.
One of his most important initiatives was leading the efforts to charter the University of Georgia in 1785. Hall County in northeast Georgia is named after Lyman Hall.
Finally, George Walton, one of Georgia’s most successful lawyers at the time and a native of Virginia, was the third signer of the Declaration of Independence on behalf of our state.
Like the other two Georgia signers, Walton was selected as Georgia’s Governor, although his first term was only two months long.
Walton served as Chief Justice of the state and a member of the Augusta Board of Commissioners.
In 1789, during Walton’s second term as Governor, a new state constitution was adopted and the state capital was moved to Augusta.
When one of Georgia’s United States Senate seats became vacant in late 1795, Walton was appointed to fill the vacancy until the successor was elected. Walton was a founder and trustee of the Franklin College, now known as the University of Georgia. Walton County is named after George Walton.
As your representative, the rights of all Georgians to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness will be at the forefront of my mind when reviewing and voting on proposed legislation.
I hope that you and your families have a safe and happy Fourth of July and will pause to honor the memories of all Georgians who risked their lives and property to support the independence of the United States.
Please do not hesitate to call (404) 656-5052, e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.