George Walton, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1740 in
Frederick County, . Any "glory" that came to him was due to his own making because his "parentage" was "quite obscure." He had limited education and was apprenticed to a carpenter when he was fourteen years old. He had "an inquiring mind" and "an ardent thirst for knowledge," but he was not able to study as much as he would like because of his apprenticeship. His "master" was an ignorant man and considered studious boys to be idle and reading to be a waste of time. George was allowed no time for reading during daylight hours and no lights to study at night. George wanted to study so badly that he used "torch-wood for light" so that he could study in the evenings. He was so diligent in his studies that he had a "well-stored mind" by the time he completed his apprenticeship. He moved to Virginia where he began studying law with a Mr. Young. Georgia
When George started practicing law in 1774, the patriot cause of liberty was "ablaze." Residents of
, however, were either "very apathetic" or "very timid" because they did not agree on the necessity of holding a Continental Congress and did not send any delegates to it. Georgia
George soon became acquainted with Doctor Lyman Hall and other patriots and became "an apt pupil in the school of patriotism." George's law tutor was "an ardent patriot" and had great influence on George also. Due to these influences and his "own natural bias, George grasped the cause of liberty with "hearty zeal." He was so bold in his opposition to the movements of the people loyal to the crown that he was denounced by the "ruling powers." He worked diligently to convince the residents of
Georgia to join the cause of liberty along with the parish of , but his labors were in vain. Finally, in the winter of 1776, St. John joined the patriot cause and appointed five delegates to the Continental Congress. George Walton and Doctor Lyman Hall were two of the five delegates appointed. The "royal governor" of Georgia was so upset with this act of treason that he threatened to send the military against them. The patriots did not pay the governor any concern and simply organized a new government. Georgia
George joined the session of the Continental Congress in
Baltimore where the delegates had moved due to the threat of an attack on by British Lord Cornwallis. Within three days he was appointed to join Robert Morris and George Clymer to go back to Philadelphia and "act as circumstances might require." This committee had almost unlimited power and was a position of "great trust and danger;" they were entrusted with all the finances of Congress. Philadelphia
When the discussion turned to independence, George was strongly in favor of the proposition and used his influence in support of it. He voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence; he used his fortune and honor freely in support of gaining independence. George remained a member of the Congress until the end of 1778 when he was appointed by the legislature to be a colonel of a
George "hastened to join his regiment" as
was threatened with a British invasion from the sea. He arrived in time to join General Robert Howe in defending Georgia Savannah when British Colonel Campbell landed there from . General Howe was commanding about eight hundred men and might have defended New York successfully if it weren't for a "treacherous negro" who showed the enemy an unknown path to the rear of the Americans. The Americans were then surrounded and forced to surrender themselves as prisoners of war. George was shot in the thigh and fell from his horse. He was taken prisoner but was soon exchanged. Due to his military rank and the fact that he signed the Declaration of Independence, a brigadier general was demanded in exchange for him. Eventually, he was exchanged for a naval captain. Savannah
The Legislature of Georgia appointed George to be the governor of the state in October 1779, but he held the position for only a short period of time. In January 1780 he was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress for two years. He resigned the position in October and was again elected to be governor of
and held the position for a full term. Near the end of his term as governor, the Legislature appointed him to be Chief Justice for the State; he held this office until his death. Meanwhile, he was elected to the U.S. Senate where he served for one year before retiring to private life except for his service as a judge. He died on February 2, 1804, at age 64. He left his widow, Dorothy Camber Walton, and an only child, a son named after his father. The son was a "great solace" to his father in his older years and served as Secretary of State when General Andrew Jackson was governor of Georgia West Florida.
"Judge Walton was universally beloved by those who knew him intimately, and the carpenter's apprentice became the most exalted citizen of the Commonwealth in which he resided. Even at this late day, the remembrance of his services and exalted character, is fresh in the hearts of the people."
Facts and quotes are from Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, pp 234-237.