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1876 Colonel Tomilinson Fort

Tom Fort 1875(Lived April 26, 1839 – December 14, 1910)

Born in Milledgeville, Georgia, Tomlinson Fort graduated from Oglethorpe University in 1857, and moved to Savannah, Georgia to practice law.  Fort returned to his hometown to care for his father’s estate in 1859.  At the beginning of the Civil War, Fort joined the Georgia militia and served throughout the war. 

Fort moved to Chattanooga in 1865, and though he came to the city with very little, he quickly found work, and by the mid-1870s, was one of Chattanooga’s leading businessmen.  Fort served as city attorney, city recorder and served on the Board of Public Works before being elected Mayor in 1876.  Fort’s election to the office marked a turning point for the city, as he was the first ex-confederate elected mayor and was able to improve the city’s financial status. 

In his inaugural address, Mayor Fort asked the Board of Aldermen to abolish all city produced script, asked the citizens to advance the city their taxes so that the city debt could be paid, and asked that all city business be conducted in open meetings with the public invited.  In his address, Mayor Fort urged the Aldermen to work with him in securing a free public education system for the children of Chattanooga.  Mayor Fort’s interest in creating a school system was so great that he secured a loan for education using his own personal credit.

Photo by Phillip Stevens and Matt Lea