Joseph E. Brown, Governor, U.S. Senator

Is your surname Brown?

Research the Brown family

Joseph E. Brown, Governor, U.S. Senator's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Joseph Emerson "Joe" Brown, Governor

Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: - Governor Of GA 1857-65, U.S. Senator 1880-91 -
Death: November 30, 1894 (73)
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States
Place of Burial: Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Mackey Browning Brown and Sally Brown
Husband of Elizabeth Brown
Father of Elijah Alexander Brown; Joseph Mackey Brown, Governor; Julius Lewis Brown; Charles McDonald Brown; Mary Virginia Connelly and 1 other
Brother of Edna Elizabeth Turner; William Carroll Brown; John Mackey Brown; James Rice Brown; George Washington Brown and 6 others

Managed by: Scott David Hibbard
Last Updated:

About Joseph E. Brown, Governor, U.S. Senator

Joseph Emerson Brown (April 15, 1821 – November 30, 1894), often referred to as Joe Brown, was the 42nd Governor of Georgia from 1857 to 1865, and a U.S. Senator from 1880 to 1891. Governor Brown was a leading secessionist in 1861, taking his state out of the Union and into the Confederacy. A former Whig, and a firm believer in state's rights, he defied the national government's wartime policies. He resisted the Confederate military draft, and tried to keep as many soldiers at home as possible (to fight off invaders, he said). He denounced Confederate President Jefferson Davis as an incipient tyrant. Brown challenged Confederate impressment of animals, goods, and slaves. Several other governors followed his lead.


Brown was born in Pickens County, South Carolina. At a young age he moved with his family to Union County, Georgia. In 1840, he decided to leave the farm and seek an education. Brown, with the help of his younger brother James and his father's plow horse, drove a yoke of oxen on a 125-mile trek to an academy near Anderson, South Carolina, where the impoverished Brown exchanged the oxen for eight months' board and lodging. In 1844, Brown moved to Canton, Georgia, where he served as head-master of the academy at Canton. He went on to study law, and in 1847, he opened a law office in Canton. Brown was elected to the Georgia state senate in 1849 and soon became a leader of the Democratic Party in Georgia. He was elected state circuit court judge in 1855 and governor in 1857. As governor, he diverted state railroad profits to Georgia's public schools. He became a strong supporter of secession from the United States after Lincoln's election and South Carolina's secession in 1860.

Once the Confederate States of America was established, Brown spoke out against expansion of the Confederate central government's powers. He denounced Davis in particular. Brown even tried to stop Colonel Francis Bartow from taking Georgia troops out of the state to the First Battle of Bull Run. He objected strenuously to military conscription by the Confederacy. After the loss of Atlanta, Brown withdrew the state's militia from the Confederate forces to harvest crops for the state and the army. When Union troops under Sherman overran much of Georgia in 1864, Brown called for an end to the war.

After the war, Brown was briefly held as a political prisoner in Washington, D.C. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia from 1865 to 1870, when he resigned to become president of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He supported President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policy, even becoming a Republican "scalawag" for a time. After Reconstruction, he became a Democrat again and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880 by the state legislature, according to the laws of the time. Soon after his election to the Senate, Brown became the first Georgia official to support public education for all children—not a popular position at the time. He was re-elected in 1885, but retired in 1891 due to poor health. He died in 1894 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

His son, Joseph Mackey Brown, would also become governor of Georgia (twice).

Joseph E. Brown Hall on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens is named in his honor. The building was completed in 1932

Governor of Georgia four terms 1857-1865
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia 1868-1870
United States Senator from Georgia 1880-1891
Founder of Charles McDonald Brown Fund at the University of Georgia
view all

Joseph E. Brown, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

April 15, 1821
- Governor Of GA 1857-65, U.S. Senator 1880-91 -
Age 26
Age 29
Canton, Cherokee, Georgia, United States
September 4, 1857
Age 36
Georgia, United States
Age 37
November 30, 1894
Age 73
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States
Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, United States