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William Franklin Jenkins

William Franklin Jenkins, 1917-1937


WILLIAM FRANKLIN JENKINS served on the Court of Appeals for 20 years, 1916-1936. From latter date to 1946 he was a Justice on the Supreme Court and thereafter until 1948 served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, on the last date becoming Chief Justice Emeritus. He was born September 7, 1876, in Webster County, Georgia, and died December 4, 1961.

He attended the public schools of Eatonton and the University of Virginia, earned a law degree from the University of Georgia, and began law practice with his father in Putnam County in 1896.

He married Susie May Thomas of Eatonton in 1899. They had two children, Leila May and George Thomas. For details as to family history, life, and career of Judge Jenkins, see the memorial in 217 Georgia Reports, pages 880-894.

He was president of the Board of Trustees of Eatonton Public Schools; president of the Board of Education of Putnam County; a trustee of Mercer University; Mayor of Eatonton for two terms; member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Chairman Pro Tem of the State Democratic Convention, and vice-chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee of Georgia. He declined the Governor's tender of appointment as Solicitor-General of Ocmulgee Circuit.

He had a profound interest in literature. He wrote a complete and controversial exposition of the possibility and probability that Christopher Marlowe authored the matchless plays historically attributed to William Shakespeare, but it was not accepted for publication. He wrote an article for the Ten Club entitled "The Common Law and Its First Codification by Thomas R. R. Cobb," which was published in the Georgia Bar Journal in November 1953. He also wrote for the Ten Club a treatise on the subject of Shakespeare's Sonnets, proving by a preponderance of evidence, that the sonnets were the work of Nicholas Breton, a contemporary poet, not Shakespeare. He wrote, too, for the Ten Club in 1929 a paper on Joel Chandler Harris.

He was a member of the Baptist Church at Eatonton, the Druid Hills Baptist Church and the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, where he taught the men's Bible class for many years.

After retirement he published a collection of poems entitled "Afterthoughts," which some have compared to Sidney Lanier. Also, he joined the faculty of the Lamar School of Law at Emory University and for 10 years taught legal ethics and Georgia legal history.

He regarded Central of Georgia Railway Co. v. Larsen, 19 Ga. App. 413, as "embodying his best work." His favorite verse was Genesis 15:6: "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Next to his family and his creator, his greatest love was the law.