Lucian Lamar Knight—State Historian Emeritus of Georgia

While climbing our family tree, we meet our ancestors and relatives in many varied ways. We met Lucian Lamar Knight on the cover of the book Georgia’s Roster of the Revolution (a list of the state’s soldiers of the American Revolution)—he is its author [1]. It took only minutes to confirm he is one of our Knights, but not through our Knight branch. It took a few days to understand the role he played and continues to play in Georgia’s history—in preserving it.

Lucian Lamar Knight, State Historian Emeritus of Georgia. [2]

Lucian was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1868. He earned the degree of A.B. at the University of Georgia, where he was class valedictorian, and the degree of A.M. at Princeton where he studied theology. He was on the editorial staff of the Atlanta Constitution (1892–1902), and was editor of the Atlanta Georgian (1908–1910). [2]

In 1913, Lucian was appointed compiler of state records for the state of Georgia. He found Georgia’s historical records were not being preserved—and some were literally being burned in the basement of the state capital as fuel. General Sherman’s army never did as much damage.

Lucian personally began a five year campaign to convince the Georgia General Assembly and the Governor to create the first Georgia Department of Archives.

I am not an alarmist, but I come to sound an alarm. If the perishing records of Georgia are to be saved from destruction, the most vital need of our state at this time is a Department of Archives …

Lucian Lamar Knight, 30 Jun 1917 [3]

Careful what you wish for! Lucian was appointed the first head of the department and served for six years until his retirement in 1925, when he was designated state historian emeritus for life.

The State Department of Archives and History was created by an act signed by Governor Hugh Dorsey in 1918. In 1931, oversight of the Georgia archives was transferred to the Secretary of State. In 2013, it was transferred again, to the University System of Georgia.

The Georgia Archives moved to its current home in Morrow, Georgia, in 2003. The Southeast Regional Branch of the National Archives opened next door in 2004.

Georgia Archives in Morrow, Georgia.

Lucian was not content to just create a place to preserve Georgia’s history. He was a prolific author, co-author, editor, and co-editor; his more than twenty works include:

  • Reminiscences of Famous Georgians (two volumes)
  • editor with Joel Chandler Harris (author of the Uncle Remus stories) of the Library of Southern Literature series
  • first publication of the Statistical Register of Georgia
  • Georgia’s Colonial Records (volumes 22-26)
  • Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials, and Legends
  • A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians (six volumes)

Lucian’s biography appeared in Men of Mark in Georgia, …, Volume VI [2]. His obituary appeared on the front page of the Atlanta Constitution, and Evelyn Ward Gay wrote an account of his life [4].

Scholar, Historian, Orator, Poet, First State Historian of Georgia, Founder of the State’s Department of History, and Author of Many Important Works Relating to the History of the Commonwealth.

Here lies one who loved Georgia, every page of her history, and every foot of her soil.

Gravesite tablet of Lucian Lamar Knight, St. Simons Island, Georgia

Lucian Lamar Knight (1868–1933) is 5th cousin 5x removed of MKS in the Spratlin branch.

[1] Lucian Lamar Knight, Georgia’s Roster of the Revolution, … (Atlanta: Index Printing Co., 1920).
[2] William J. Northen, editor, Men of Mark in Georgia, …, Volume VI (Atlanta: A. B. Caldwell, 1912), 182.
[3] Lucian Lamar Knight, Shall Our Records be Lost? Georgia’s Most Vital Need: A Department of Archives, Report of Lucian Lamar Knight, Compiler of State Records, to the Governor, June 30, 1917 (Atlanta: Byrd Printing Company, 1917).
[4] Evelyn Ward Gay, Lucian Lamar Knight: The Story of One Man’s Dream (New York: Vantage Press, 1967).