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Abraham Baldwin

Abraham Baldwin (November 23, 1754 – March 4, 1807) was an American politician, Patriot, and Founding Father from the U.S. state of Georgia. Baldwin was a Georgia representative in the Continental Congress and served in the United States House of Representatives and Senate after the adoption of the Constitution.

Early life

Baldwin was born at Guilford, Connecticut. He was the second son of a blacksmith who fathered 12 children by two wives. Besides Abraham, several of the family attained distinction in life. His sister Ruth Baldwin married the poet and diplomat Joel Barlow, and his half-brother Henry became an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Their ambitious father went heavily into debt to educate his children.

After attending a local village school, Abraham graduated from Yale University in nearby New Haven in 1772. Three years later, he became a minister and tutor at the college. He held that position until 1779, when he served as a chaplain in the Continental Army. Two years later, he declined an offer from Yale for a divinity professorship. Instead of resuming his ministerial or educational duties after the war, he turned to the study of law and in 1783 was admitted to the bar at Fairfield.

After Baldwin turned down a prestigious teaching position as professor of divinity at Yale, Georgia governor Lyman Hall persuaded him to accept the responsibility of creating an educational plan for both secondary and higher education in the state. Baldwin strongly believed that education was the key to developing frontier states like Georgia. Once elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in the state legislature, he developed a comprehensive educational plan that ultimately included land grants from the state to fund the establishment of the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia. Through Baldwin's efforts, UGA became the first state-chartered school in the nation when UGA was incorporated on January 27, 1785. Baldwin served as the first president of the institution during its initial planning phase, from 1785 to 1801. In 1801, Franklin college, UGA's initial college, opened to students with Josiah Meigs succeeding Baldwin as president to oversee the inaugural class of students. The school was architecturally modeled on Baldwin's alma mater, Yale.

Continental Congress

Within a year, Baldwin moved to Georgia, won legislative approval to practice law, and obtained a land grant in Wilkes County. In 1789 he sat in the assembly and the Continental Congress. Two years later, his father died after a heart attack. He later also sat in the Constitutional Congress and helped in the bringing down of the Articles of Confederation and signed the Constitution which helped shape America into the form of government it has today.

Death and legacy

His remains are interred at Rock Creek Cemetery.

Baldwin County, Alabama, Baldwin County Georgia and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC pronounced A-Back) in Tifton Georgia are named in his honor.

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