Hall of Fame Honorees

Henry W. Grady

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 much-in-demand, admired public speaker, one 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 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 these  unequalled sentimentalist 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. As a result, his "stringer" reports for the Constitution 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 gathering experience in Georgia politics, experience that largely manifested itself in editorial attacks on the Radical Reconstructionists and the administration of Governor Rufus Bullock. Before long, Grady 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 eventually folded in 1876. Financially strapped and forced to "string" in order to make a living, Grady ended up 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. For his part, Grady not only edited but also contributed regular "Man About Town" columns on themes political and civic, as well as interpretative news stories and essays 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 spawned 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 talents as "the evangel of the new gospel to his own section," wrote Dudley Miles in his section on "New South" literature in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature:

In his newspaper [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.

This purpose in part explains the form of those addresses. He was delivering an appeal to his public, not conducting a legal argument. He was moving his auditors to a new point of view, not convincing them of a scientific truth. He threw into the effort all the ardour of a generous and enthusiastic nature. The pictures of his fancy, the constant balancing of phrases and ideas, the play of wit and humour and pathos were employed with the instinctive effectiveness of one who has learned to sway audiences.

"In character and disposition Grady belonged with the Old South," wrote Miles, but "in vision and purpose he was the herald of the New."

Stricken ill on a speaking trip to Boston in December 1889, 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. And in Georgia the tributes to his brief but luminous career would continue for generations. Atlanta dedicated its new hospital to his memory in 1892 and Georgia's legislature declared that the state's 139th county be named 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, [1910].

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., [1904].

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 [1971].

[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, [1956].

The Speeches of Henry W. Grady, with a Short Biographical Sketch of His Life. Atlanta: Chas. P. Byrd, 1895.

Additional Links

The Special Collections and Archives Division of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, has 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.

Manuscript Holdings

Henry W. Grady

Born: May 24, 1850
Athens, Georgia

Died: December 23, 1889
Atlanta, Georgia

University of Georgia Libraries | Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library