Black History Month: Horace King

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 6:25 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - What you see today of the Dillingham Street Bridge may not be Horace King’s masterpiece, but its foundation below is still relevant.

Along with his legacy, King was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1807.

A slave trader sold him to a man who saw something special in King. His owner, John Godwin, taught King to read and write as well as how to build at a time when it was illegal to teach slaves.

“In 1832, the city of Columbus commissioned the first formal bridge to cross the Chattahoochee River. The contract for its construction was awarded to John Godwin,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Walden.

In 1832, Godwin moved his family and slaves to the Chattahoochee Valley, letting Horace King manage construction of what was then called the Columbus City Bridge.

King worked with Godwin even after buying his freedom in 1846. The two men later designed and built the original courthouses of Muscogee and Russell County.

Between 1863-1902, King constructed two wooden bridges in Columbus, but weather destroyed them both. However, through trial and error, his talents helped him gain more jobs.

“Horace built many bridges and buildings throughout the Columbus area. He was sought out throughout the south from various cities,” said Walden. “He actually served for two terms on the Alabama House of Representatives.”

King eventually settled in LaGrange, still building until his death in 1885 at the age of 78.

His talents and impact while bridging racial barriers make Horace King part of Black history.

“He was sought after and renowned and continues to be that today.”

Horace King was married twice and had five children. He’s buried at the Mulberry Street Cemetery in LaGrange, Georgia.