Randolph County History

Randolph County was created from Lee County by an act of the state legislature on December 20, 1828. Georgia's 75th county was named for Virginia congressman John Randolph (1773-1833) of Roanoke, one of the more controversial statesmen of the early federal period.

The land lottery of 1827 had opened the southwest Georgia lands to settlers, who continued to have troubles with the Native Americans until the Creek Indian War of 1836, part of which was fought on Randolph County soil.

The 1828 legislation creating Randolph County did not specify a county seat or provide a mechanism for designating one. The next year, the legislature named a seven-member commission to select a county seat for Randolph County. Until the site was named, court sessions and elections were to take place at locations directed by the county's inferior court.

The legislature designated Lumpkin as county seat on Dec. 2, 1830, and incorporated the town. Exactly three weeks later, the legislature created Stewart County from the northern half of Randolph County. As Lumpkin lay in the area transferred to Stewart County, Randolph County was without a county seat again.

On Dec. 26, 1831, the legislature directed that the 76th land lot in the sixth district serve as Randolph County's seat of government. The act further provided that the new county seat be incorporated as the town of Cuthbert, so-named to honor former U.S.. congressman and Indian commissioner John Cuthbert

Agriculture became the mainstay of the region. By 1850 the population of Randolph County totaled 12,868. During this decade two colleges, Baptist Female College (1852) and the United Methodist–affiliated Andrew Female College (1854), later as Andrew College, were established. By 1859 the railroad had come to Randolph County, opening the doors for better transportation and quicker trade.

Some minor skirmishes occurred in Randolph County during the Civil War (1861-65), but the region was spared much military action. Many refugees came to the area for protection. Both of the colleges were used as hospitals during the war years.

After the Civil War, Randolph County continued its educational reputation when Howard Normal School, established by the American Missionary Association, opened its doors to area African Americans in 1867. Richard R. Wright became the first black headmaster in 1876. During his four-year tenure, he organized the Georgia State Teacher's Association and edited the Weekly Journal of Progress. Fletcher Hamilton Henderson Sr. became the headmaster in 1880 and remained until 1942.

Henderson's son, bandleader Fletcher Henderson, was one of Cuthbert's most famous natives. He received his education at Howard Normal School and eventually went to New York, where he signed with W.C. Handy's music firm. The band Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra served as the principal model for the Big Band style. The Fletcher Henderson Jazz Festival, held every spring in Cuthbert, celebrates this innovative band leader and his legacy.

In the 20th century Randolph County was the home of two Georgia Supreme Court justices, Charles William Worrill and Jesse Groover Bowles Jr., as well as one U.S. congressman, Bryant T. Castellow. The county also produced two internationally known athletes -- Roosevelt Grier, known as one of the "Fearsome Foursome" of the Los Angeles Rams football team in the 1960s, and Larry Holmes, who has held the World Boxing Council heavyweight title.