July 31, 1731
1731 Corpus Christi College at Oxford University awarded James Oglethorpe a special Masters degree. Oglethorpe had attended Corpus Christi but had never graduated. History books universally have attributed the honorary degree a recognition of Oglethorpe’s humanitarian work--particularly with respect to prison reform. However, in 1996, Corpus Christi College president Sir Keith Thomas revealed that such honorary degrees were a common practice for "gentleman commoners" in Oglethorpe’s time--if they kept their name on the books long enough.
July 31, 1816
1816 George H. Thomas was born in Southampton County, Va. Thomas graduated from West Point, then served in the Mexican War before returning to teach at West Point. When the Civil War began he sided with the Union, eventually serving under General Ulysses Grant and General William T. Sherman, and attaining the rank of General himself. At the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, the Union forces were on the verge of being routed when Thomas rallied his troops for a stand on Snodgrass Hill. He was able to hold the line until darkness fell and the Union forces could retreat in orderly fashion. This feat earned him the nickname "The Rock of Chickamauga."
July 31, 1864
1864 Union Maj. Gen. George Stoneman having failed in his goal to free 30,000 Federal prisoners being held in Macon, retreated back to join Sherman when his cavalry force ran into three cavalry brigades under Confederate Gen. Joe Wheeler. The Confederates prevailed in the Battle of Sunshine Church, forcing Stoneman to surrender.
July 31, 1871
1871 Henry Grady is often credited with the "New South" movement. But, on this day fifteen years prior to Grady’s famous speech in New York City, former Confederate senator Benjamin Hill issued the first call for a new South in a speech to the University of Georgia Alumni Society as part of commencement activities. Hill’s address, which was reprinted in part in the Aug. 2 issue of the Atlanta Constitution, had a mixed reception in Georgia.
July 31, 1906
1906 Gov. Joseph Terrell approved a joint resolution of the General Assembly proposing a constitutional amendment to create Ben Hill County. Because there were then 145 counties -- the maximum allowed by the Georgia Constitution then in effect -- the creation of Ben Hill County would first require approval of a constitutional amendment to exceed that limit. The new county was to be created from portions of Irwin and Wilcox counties and was named for former U.S. and Confederate senator Benjamin H. Hill. On Nov. 6, 1906, voters approved the constitutional amendment making Ben Hill Georgia’s 146th county.
July 31, 1906
1906 Gov. Joseph Terrell approved a proposed constitutional amendment creating a state Court of Appeals to hear appeals from lower courts in those cases where the constitution did not specifically confer jurisdiction on the state Supreme Court. Georgia voters ratified the amendment on Nov. 6, 1906.
July 31, 1913
1913 On day four of the Leo Frank trial, R.B. Barrett, a machinist at the factory, provided new information when he testified that he had found Mary Phagan’s empty pay envelope and bloodstains near a machine on the factory’s second floor. Until now, no mention had been made of the missing pay envelope. The main witness of the day was Harry Scott, Pinkerton detective in charge of their investigation of the case. He angered both sides during his testimony. He said Frank did not appear nervous on the Monday following the murder (it was Frank who brought Scott into the case), but was uneasy after his arrest. This angered prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, who argued that Scott had told him previously Frank was nervous at the factory on Monday. Scott then angered defense attorneys when he asserted one of them had asked him to forward all police evidence to the defense. Also testifying was former factory employee Monteen Stover, who said she had arrived at the factory at 12:05 PM to receive her pay, had waited in Frank’s office for him for five minutes, then left. This contradicted Frank’s statement that he had been in his office the entire time in which the murder took place. Click here for a detailed accounting of the case.
July 31, 1920
Georgia cities and towns first incorporated by acts approved on July 31:
1920 Alpharetta (Milton later Fulton County) and Poctaligo (Madison County)
July 31, 1942
1942 Albany-born Harry James and his band recorded the Columbia Records million-seller "I’ve Heard That Song Before."
July 31, 1954
1954 In a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Milwaukee Brave first baseman Joe Adcock hit four home runs and a double for a total of 18 bases in a game -- a Major League record.
July 31, 1960
1960 Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole in 1897 in Sandersville, Georgia), leader of the Nation of Islam, called for creation of a Black state in America at a meeting in New York.
July 31, 1962
1962 D.B. Carroll, Vassa Cate, Sam Glassman Sr., Billy Henderson, Jim Nolan, and George O’Kelley were inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
July 31, 1982
1982 The Atlanta Braves management ordered Chief Nokahoma to take down his teepee, (which was then located on a platform in the field seats). The Braves were on a winning streak, and team officials wanted to free up the seats blocked by the large platform that supported the teepee. After the teepee came down, the Braves lost 19 out of the next 21 games. Officials then directed that Nokahoma’s teepee be erected again, and the Braves went on to win the division.
July 31, 1996
1996 This was the thirteenth day of the 1996 Summer Olympics -- and day 12 of Olympic competition.