Athens, Georgia-born Henry W. Grady rose to national prominence in the late nineteenth century as a correspondent and editor of The Atlanta Constitution. He also earned a reputation as a public speaker whose speeches one contemporary critic described as "a cannon-ball in full flight, fringed with flowers."
According to the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Grady
"... was a resourceful reporter, a vivid writer, a pioneer of the interview technique, an astute editor, and a successful salesman of his newspaper and his community. Moreover, he was recognized as the symbol of the New South based on the development of industry, diversification of agriculture, and reconciliation with the national government. Raymond B. Nixon [Grady's biographer] and others are clearly justified in referring to him as 'the Spokesman of the New South.'"
Son of a successful Athens merchant who was killed in the Civil War, young Henry Woodfin Grady excelled in oratory at the universities of Georgia and Virginia, where he incorporated his own affecting humor and vivid imagery into the grand style of "old South" Georgia politicians like Benjamin Harvey Hill and Robert Toombs. According to Raymond Nixon's biography of Grady, after he suffered a disappointing defeat in an 1869 college political contest at the University of Virginia, Grady tried his hand at "a newsy letter," in the manner of Charles Dickens and Bret Harte.
Inspired by the compelling way in which sentimental prose writers could spin a tale, Grady developed a literary style that mixed the rhetorical flourishes of antebellum oratory with the techniques of post-Civil War journalism. A born conversationalist, he also mastered the relatively new practice of the news interview, and over the years he would practice it to great effect. Grady's "stringer" reports for newspapers were refreshingly clear, vivid, and -- consequently -- very popular. Editors encouraged him, and Grady took his first regular newspaper position soon afterward, as associate editor with the Rome [Ga.] Courier.
Grady's first full-time job in journalism consisted primarily of covering Georgia politics, particularly in launching attacks on Radical Reconstructionists and the Republican administration of Governor Rufus Bullock. Grady soon became the owner-editor of a competing local paper, the Rome Commercial, a venture he soon followed by buying a second paper, the Rome Daily. By 1872, the ambitious Grady had moved to Atlanta and purchased a half-interest in the Atlanta Herald, a morning newspaper that lasted until 1876. When the Herald closed, he was financially strapped and forced to "string," eking out a living as the New York Herald's Atlanta correspondent.
On the strength of his stories about the controversial 1876 presidential election, Grady won an editor's job with the Constitution, and by 1880 the fledgling newspaper was thriving under his editorial leadership. Grady not only edited but also contributed regular "Man About Town" columns on political and civic affairs, as well as news stories and editorials on politics, temperance, and other issues. He also personally covered the local games of Atlanta's first professional baseball team.
In 1886, a speech on "The New South" that Grady delivered before the New England Society of New York City launched the slogan of a movement of which he became the de facto spokesman. His speeches "The South and Her Problem" (1887), and "The Farmer and the Cities" (1889) display Grady's exceptional talent as "evangel" of this "new gospel." According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Grady
... endeavoured without shadow of turning to draw attention to the material resources of the South and to develop her industries. In his speeches he displayed even greater brilliancy, fervour, and versatility in presenting the various phases of the topic. Incapable of rancour himself, he with magnanimous sincerity and a whole heart endeavoured to remove the barriers to harmony and co-operation between the sections. In short, he became the orator of the peacemakers.... In character and disposition Grady belonged with the Old South [but] in vision and purpose he was the herald of the New.
On a speaking trip to Boston in December 1889, however, Grady developed pneumonia and died soon after his return to Atlanta. His death was reported nationally: "One of the South's most brilliant sons," read the New York Times' obtiuary headline. In Georgia, the tributes to his brief but luminous career would continue for generations. Atlanta named its new hospital for Grady in 1892, and the atate's legislature named Georgia's newest county for him in 1905. In 1921 Grady's alma mater, the University of Georgia, named its college of journalism for the Constitution editor.
The following titles may be found in the Hall of Fame Library:
The Complete Orations and Speeches of Henry W. Grady. New York: Hinds, Noble & Eldredge, .
The Complete Orations and Speeches of Henry W. Grady. [Austin, Texas]: South West Pub. Co., [c1910].
Joel Chandler Harris' Life of Henry W. Grady, Including His Writings and Speeches. A Memorial Volume Comp. by Mr. Henry W. Grady's Co-workers on "The Constitution" and Ed. by Joel Chandler Harris. New York: Cassell Publishing Co., [c1890]. The New South, and Other Addresses. New York : Maynard, Merrill & Co., .
The New South; with a Character Sketch of Henry W. Grady by Oliver Dyer. New York: Robert Bonner's Sons, 1890.
The New South: Speech Delivered before the New England Club, New York, December 21, 1886. [S.l. : s.n., 1962?].
The New South: Writings and Speeches of Henry Grady. Savannah: Beehive Press .
[Prospectus] Rome Land Company, Rome, Ga. Atlanta: James P. Harrison, 1887. ("Mr. Henry W. Grady's speech on 'The New South'" : p. 32-36.)
The Race Problem: a Lecture [delivered to the Boston Merchants' Association, Boston, Dec. 12, 1889.] Chicago: G.L. Shuman [c1900]. The Race Question : [an address] before the Boston Merchants' Association, in Boston, Massachusetts, December 12, 1889. Birmingham: DeBardeleben Coal Corporation, .
The Speeches of Henry W. Grady, with a Short Biographical Sketch of His Life. Atlanta: Chas. P. Byrd, 1895.
The Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, holds a collection of Grady's correspondence, diaries, manuscripts and Grady family papers.
Other, smaller collections of Grady manuscript materials are held by the University of Georgia's Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library and other repositories listed in Harold E. Davis's book, Henry Grady's New South.