Benjamin Franklin Grady of Duplin County
Educator, Patriot, Statesman
United States Congressman Benjamin Franklin Grady
One of the most distinguished sons of Duplin County is Benjamin Franklin
Grady (pronounced “Graddy”), an accomplished author and one who served his
region as an educator, Justice of the Peace, Superintendent of Public
Instruction, and United States Congressman from 1891-1895.
Grady was born on October 10, 1831 near Serecta in the Albertson Township,
the descendant of a great-great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland in 1739.
He was the oldest son of Alexander Outlaw and Anne Sloan Grady.
The Grady and O’Grady’s genealogy is traced back to Ireland in the 4th Century,
and in 1365 a John O’Grady is found as Arch Deacon of Cashell; in 1405 another
John O’Grady was Bishop of Elfin---the cathedral founded by St. Patrick in the
mid-5th Century. A Standish O’Grady was appointed Attorney General of Ireland
in May, 1803 and later served as a Justice and Chief Baron of the Exchequer.
The first Grady to settle in Duplin County was John, who acquired fertile land
at the fork of the Northeast River and Burncoat Creek in 1739. He was to marry
Mary Whitfield. Two sons of this union, John and Alexander, were to fight at
the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge in 1776; the former losing his life there
and for whom the lone monument memorializes.
After the Revolution, Alexander Outlaw Grady and wife Nancy Thomas lived on
the family farm, and his son Henry, referred to by the Grady family as “Lord
Harry,” married Elizabeth Outlaw on January 6, 1799. This last marriage
produced Alexander Outlaw Grady on February 17, 1800.
Alexander would marry Anne Sloan, daughter of Gibson and Rachel (Bryan) Sloan
in 1830, and the following year would witness the birth of Benjamin Franklin
Grady's Early Years:
Alexander Outlaw Grady was a slaveowner with “twenty-five or thirty slaves”
who were Grady’s playmates and friends during his childhood, and Grady related
that “as I grew up I hunted and fished with the Negro boys, and worked with
them in the fields and woods except during about three months each winter when
I attended the “old field schools.” He states that “My boyhood days were spent
on the farm, where I worked with the slaves during nine months of the year…”
As was common in antebellum North Carolina, his father and neighbors employed
a classical scholar to teach their children ten months in each year from which
Grady. benefited, and in 1851 he was under the instruction of Rev. James M.
Sprunt who taught in the Grove Academy in Kenansville.
Grady entered the University of North Carolina in September 1853 and graduated
four years later, returning to Kenansville to teach two years at the Grove
Academy under Dr. Sprunt’s supervision. He obtained the position of professor
of mathematics and natural sciences at Austin College, located at Huntsville,
Texas, beginning work there in the summer of 1859. Grady continued in his
position until classes were suspended by impending invasion in 1861, and in
his words, “soon afterwards typhoid fever prostrated me and unfitted me for
military service until May 1862.” Grady married Olivia Hamilton (a grandniece
of Alexander Hamilton) of Huntsville, Texas and they had one son named
Olivia passed away in 1863 whilst Grady was a prisoner of war, and he later
married Mary Charlotte Bizzell of Clinton, North Carolina in 1870. This
marriage produced nine children.
In his own brief biography in 1898, Grady writes of his father’s prevalent
“By intermarriages his (my great-great-grandfather’s) blood in my veins was
intermingled with that of the Whitfield’s, Bryans, Outlaws and Sloans. All
hese families were Whigs during the Revolutionary War; and they were advocates
of “strong government” in 1788-1789. Most of them, however, if not at all,
gradually drifted toward Jefferson’s exposition of the powers of the Federal
Government; and my father, Alexander Outlaw Grady, became a disciple of John
C. Calhoun in 1832-1833, after hearing that statesman defend his position
before the General Assembly of North Carolina, of which my father was a member.
In 1860-1861, he was a secessionist.”
Grady enlisted in a local unit which eventually became K (troop) of the 25th
Texas Cavalry Regiment under General (Thomas C.) Hindman, but was soon
dismounted leaving him to serve as infantry. He served as an Orderly Sergeant
during the war and twice refused the captaincy of a company in order to carry
a rifle, often detailed as a sharpshooter.
Grady reported of his capture by Northern forces:
“On January 11, 1863 we were captured at Arkansas Post---about 3000 of us and
45,000 of the enemy with 13 gunboats---and carried to Camp Butler near
Grady wrote of the inhuman treatment at the hands of his Northern captors,
writing that Southern prisoners were shot at by guards for refusing to remove
their caps in the presence of Northern officers, robbed of any personal
effects and exposure to the cold winters with only a blanket as protection.
In the middle of April 1863 Grady was freed in an exchange for Northern
prisoners held by Southern forces, and sent to General Braxton Bragg’s
command near Tullahoma, Tennessee. He fought with Bragg’s army as it moved to
North Carolina near the end of the war, serving in (General Hiram B.)
Granbury’s Brigade of (General Patrick R.) Cleburne’s Division in (General
William) Hardee’s Corps. Grady was lucky to survive the war in Cleburne’s
division as every officer above lieutenant rank had been killed by the end of
the war, including Cleburne and Granbury.
He participated in all the engagements of his brigade (excepting Nashville
and Bentonville): Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, New Hope Church, and
Atlanta; and witnessed the deaths of his commanders Granbury and Cleburne at
the Battle of Franklin in November of 1864.
Grady writes: “On the 19th of March 1865, while the cannon were booming at
Bentonville, and my command preparing to leave the railroad for the scene of
action, I was sent by our surgeons to Peace Institute Hospital in Raleigh
where typhoid fever kept me till May 2.”
Grady would lose two brothers in the war, one killed at Bristoe Station and
the other at Snicker’s Gap; his remaining brother would lose a hand. He was
himself wounded twice, suffering a hand wound and one to the face that left a
deep scar near the right eye.
Grady describes his view of the South’s war for independence in the following
passage from his “Case of the South Against the North”:
“I did not agree with my father regarding the policy of nullification or of
secession. While I subscribed to the doctrine that no State in the Union had
ever relinquished the right to be its own judge of the mode of measure or
redress whenever its welfare and it peace should be put in jeopardy by the
other States, acting separately or jointly,
I doubted whether the nullification of a Federal act was consistent with the
obligations imposed by the “firm league of friendship” with the unoffending
States, if any….”
“As to secession, I believed it to be the best for the Southern States to
remain in the Union, and trust to time and the good sense of the intelligent
people of the Northern States for justice to themselves and their children.
This hope was strengthened by the circumstance that the interests of the
expanding West being identical with those of the South, the time was not far
distant when that section would join the South in the struggle for riddance
of the burdens imposed by the shipping, fishing, commercial and manufacturing
States of the East.”
Grady concludes by stating:
“this was the stand I took and held until Mr. Lincoln compelled me to choose
whether I would help him to trample on the Constitution and crush South
Carolina, or help South Carolina defend the principles of the Constitution
and her own “sovereignty, freedom and independence.” I went with South
Carolina as my forefathers went with Massachusetts when “our Royal Sovereign”
threatened to crush her.”
Postwar Life and Teaching:
“without money, without decent clothing, and suffering from the effects of
the fever, I went to my father’s (home) and obtaining employment in the
neighborhood at my chosen profession, I waited on him in his last sickness
and saw him die of a broken heart in the year 1867, having survived the war
and lived to see the dark shadow of “reconstruction” and government by the
ex-slaves hovering over his beloved Southland.”
Thus Grady returned to his hometown of “Chocolate” at war’s end.
His father would die of a broken heart, the family servants had scattered and
the farm was in ruinous condition.
He returned to education and after organizing a school in Moseley Hall (today
LaGrange) and teaching for two years, he established the Clinton Male Academy
with fellow teacher Murdock McLeod at nearby Clinton (Sampson County). There
Grady taught until failing health in 1878 forced him to return to his Duplin
County family homestead to farm where he, his father, grandfather, and
great-grandfather were born.
Grady continued to teach at his home, and provided instruction for young men
unable to attend the university; and additionally conducting Sunday school at
Sutton’s Branch School House. In 1867 he published a school textbook entitled
“An Agricultural Catechism,” and would go on to write two more books at the
end of the century.
The mid-1870’s would see Grady begin a long career of public-service beginning
with Justice of the Peace (1878-1889); appointed a Trustee of the
re-established University of North Carolina in 1874 (serving until 1891 when
congressional duties limited his time); and elected Superintendent of Public
Instruction for Duplin County in 1881, serving in that capacity for eight
years. While serving as Superintendent, brother Stephen Miller Grady held the
post of Chairman of the Board of Education as both advanced the cause of
education in Duplin County.
Grady was elected twice as a United States Representative to Congress from the
Third District (Democrat), serving in Washington City from March 1891 to
March 1895 in the 52nd and 53rd Congresses. He was known by his congressional
colleagues as “the encyclopedia as his mind remembered everything. He
campaigned for repeal of the Sherman Act of 1890, writing the New York Times
on June 11, 1893 from Wallace, North Carolina:
“I prefer a cheap money of our own. I will vote to repeal the Sherman law
with a free coinage substitute and a tax on State banks. Let the people
rather than the Government control money volume.”
Benjamin Franklin Grady held political views consistent with his North
Carolina roots, especially regarding the War Between the States. In May 1894
while serving as a US Representative he penned a response to a Pennsylvanian
in which he reflected upon the dismal outcome of that war. He condemned the
“cranks, fanatics and unscrupulous tyrants” who were in national political
power and regarded his own State of North Carolina as a conquered province of
the victorious North. He saw the unbridled military power of the Washington
government unleashed during the War as dangerous; and verbally attacked the
“advocates of imperialism” who viewed the globe as their own.
His viewpoint on the War Between the States as this: “the cause of the South
was the cause of Constitutional government, the cause of government regulated
by law, and the cause of honesty and fidelity in public servants. No nobler
cause did ever man fight for!”
Grady was wary of politicians and government, and saw that “Extravagance is
almost unavoidable when the method of taxation enables the Legislature to lay
unperceived burdens on the shoulders of the taxpayers.” He saw too the dangers
of unrestrained democracy and demogogues as: “written constitutions present
no effective barrier to the avarice of classes, the ambition of individuals,
the schemes of party, or the machination of fanatics; and so long as the mass
of the people are unable to understand the structure and administration of
their Government, they will continue to be dupes of callow statesmen and
professional office-seekers, and victims of misgovernment."
He looked to future generations of Americans to recognize misgovernment and
to strive for the vision of the Founders by stating:
“We cannot retrace our steps or right the wrongs of the past; but it is not
too much to hope that a more enlightened generation now entering upon the
duties of guarding themselves and their posterity from recurrences of the
mistakes of the past, may strive to restore and vivify the principles on
which alone any just government can be founded, and by reestablishing the
system of governments in and between these States which our fathers hoped
would be “indestructible, “insure domestic tranquility” and “secure the
blessings of liberty” to themselves and their posterity.”
Return to Teaching:
In 1899 Grady established the Turkey Academy (in Turkey, NC) with son Henry
Alexander who had studied law at the University of North Carolina.
Since 1896 Henry had been working as a law clerk with his half-brother
Franklin, an attorney in New York City, who had earned a law degree at
In 1900, Henry would leave the Academy in the summer of 1900 to pursue a
short law course at the University of North Carolina, and being licensed to
practice by the Supreme Court in September 1900. For three years he was a
member of the firm Faison & Grady of Clinton, his partner being the well-known
Henry Faison. He afterward became a partner of Archie McLean Graham, a
connection that was maintained for twenty years. In 1922 he was elected to
the bench of the County Court in Sampson County and continued to serve in
that capacity until January 1, 1939, when he retired and under law became
emergency judge of the Superior Court for life.
After Henry Alexander’s departure, Grady would spend his last years “teaching
and pursuing literary work.” His literary retirement gave him time to write
two exceptional books, the first published in 1899 entitled “The Case of the
South Against the North; and the second published in 1906, “The South’s
Burden.” Both are articulate and well-reasoned Constitutional arguments
regarding the Southern States struggle for independence from 1861-1865. They
are currently reprinted and available through www.confederatereprint.com.
Benjamin Franklin Grady died on the 6th of March, 1914 and is buried in the
Grady’s son Henry Alexander went on to legal success as mentioned above, and
the other siblings were Cleburne; James B.; Stephen S.; Benjamin; Louis D.;
Lessie R.; Mary Eva; and Anna B. Grady.
It is said that Benjamin Franklin Grady was a lover of literature and:
“as scholarly a man as ever lived (and a) first class man in Greek, Latin,
French, and mathematics at the university, a born teacher, (and) conveyed to
his son(s) his knowledge in such a way the son’s education is equal to that
of any college graduate.”
After his death, the Sillers Chapter of the United Daughters of the
Confederacy in Clinton wrote the following about Grady in their periodical,
the Southern Cross:
“Franklin, as he was called by the family, attended the old field schools and
was prepared for College by the Rev. James Sprunt. Among his classmates were
Colonel Thomas S. Kenan, Judge
A.C. Avery, Major Robert Bingham, Dr. D. McL. Graham, Captain John Dugger,
Honorable John Graham, and many others of like kind, who have helped to make
history honorable in North Carolina.
Two of his brothers had been killed in the war, one at Bristoe Station and
one at Snicker’s Gap; while the remaining brother had lost the use of a hand.
He saw that it was necessary to build up a New South upon the ruins of the
Teaching was his chosen profession and he believed that in the education of
the people lay the salvation of the country.”
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