Jonathan Perry Knight (1872-1953)
Jonathan Perry Knight was born in Ray’s Mill, GA. in Berrien County on March 14 1872. A son of John Graham Knight and Mary A. Davis, he was the middle of three children. His grandfather, Levi J. Knight, served as a major in the Indian War, a major-general in the state militia, and as a captain in the Confederate army.
In his basic education Jonathan P. Knight attended the schools of Berrien County. When he was 16 he was presented with a prize by his teacher, W.L. Patton, “For Your Merit in School.” The prize was a book, “The Life of Daniel Webster“, which was to have a profound and lasting affect on the young man.
Jonathan Perry Knight went on to study at North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega, GA (now the University of North Georgia). The college was a military academy and military duty was obligatory for all male students over the age of 15. The cadets drilled daily in artillery, infantry and other exercises.
Knight later attended Law School at Mercer University in Macon, GA. He was a teacher in Berrien and Lowndes Counties, “and considered the teaching profession as a sacred trust.”
On November 6, 1896 at the age of 23, he married Ada Parrish at Lois, Georgia. That same year he was elected Clerk of the Superior Court of Berrien County for the term beginning in 1897, and moved to the county seat in Nashville, GA. To Jonathan and Ada a son was born on May 1, 1898. This was the same day in which Commodore George Dewey led US Naval forces to a decisive victory over the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manilla Bay. Just a few weeks earlier, the Spanish-American War had broken out and the newspapers of the time were full of sensationalism. No where was there greater fervor than in Georgia. “When the United States became involved in war with Spain, Georgia furnished according to population more volunteers than any other State of the Union.”
It seems that the war was paramount in the minds of the Knights, as they expressed their patriotism by naming their new son Dewey Knight, in honor of the nation’s new naval hero. The couple had three additional children, Thelma, Jonathan, and Nell.
Jonathan Perry Knight continued to serve as the Clerk of the Superior Court in Berrien County until 1900, when he aspired to higher political office. In February, 1900 The Atlanta Constitution reported:
“It is also very probably that Mr. John P. Knight, at present clerk of Berrien superior court, will offer as a candidate for representative in the general assembly. It is not known as yet who will oppose him, but there likely will be one or more opponents.”
As expected J.P. Knight did contend for the house seat, and his opponents in the short campaign were W.L. Kennon and H. K. Hutchinson of Adel. Ballots were cast on May 15, 1900 and a large voter turn out was reported for Berrien County. On the morning of May 16th, The Atlanta Constitution reported that Knight was elected to the Georgia General Assembly as the Representative from Berrien County.
Representative Knight took to his new office with relish. During the passage of the Depot Bill, his sensibilities were apparently offended by the “lobbyism and the use of whiskey.” “J.P. Knight, being disgusted with the way things were going, sent to the speaker’s desk a privileged resolution to have the hall cleared of all save those entitled to seats, which when read by the speaker, was refused recognition.” Apparently, when it came to a question of whiskey, the other legislators didn’t see eye to eye with the freshman representative from Berrien. Later, Knight would write a letter charging that there was lobbying and outright “drunkeness” in the Georgia House of Representatives on the day the Depot Bill was passed.
Among his other legislative activities, he was on the legislative committee that visited Dahlonega, GA in December 1901 to inspect the North Georgia Agricultural College. His position on that committee was fitting, since he attended college in Dahlonega. Georgia’s Public Men 1902-1904 noted, “He took a prominent part in the deliberation of the House during his first term and also in the recent campaign for the governorship.”
In a report filed from Tifton, GA, The Atlanta Constitution of March 4, 1902 announced that Knight would seek re-election. Among his expected opponents was Joseph A. Alexander, who had three years earlier represented Ray City murder defendant, J. T. Biggles.
“J.P Knight announces himself for reelection to the house, and it is said that he will be opposed by either Joseph A. Alexander formerly senator, John R. McCranie , former representative, or F.M. Shaw, Jr., chairman board of county commissioners, who has represented Berrien in the legislature several years ago. All are prominent and popular and the race for representative should be lively indeed.”23
In fact, the strongest challenge to Knight’s re-election bid was M.S. Patten. As voters went to the polls in June 1909, The Atlanta Constitution printed Berrien election reports filed from from Tifton, GA:
“The race is very close between J.P. Knight and M.S. Patten for representative, with chances in favor of Knight. When all the votes were counted J.P. Knight was re-elected to the House of Representatives in the Georgia General Assembly. He was appointed to serve on the committees for: Immigration, Invalid Pensions; Mines and Mining; Roads and Bridges; and, Wild Lands. In the description of the Honorable J.P. Knight given in Georgia’s Public Men, his occupation was given as “farmer and cotton buyer. “
In September of that year, Honorable John P. Knight was in Macon, Georgia where he was entering the study of law at Mercer College. He was hailed in the newspapers as ” one of the most influential members of the next house. His past record in the legislature is highly creditable to him.” Nine months later, in June of 1903 J.P. Knight was among 37 new attorneys who were graduated from Mercer. The newspaper announcement observed that 24 of the 37 students had college degrees. Knight was one of two married men in the graduating class. The paper noted that as a member of the Georgia legislature, “he has kept the class and professors posted on the acts of Georgia’s lawmakers.” In the individual records of men, Knight was honored thus,
“Hon. J.P. Knight, representative of the state legislature from Berrien county, will receive his diploma with all honor and glory. Mr. Knight, like all modern politicians, gets along with all the boys. He is one of the highest men in the class. He attended college at Dahlonega. In 1896 he was elected clerk of the superior court of Berrien County and held that office until 1900, when he was elected to the state legislature, where he has been ever since. In spite of the fact that the gentleman from Berrien attended to his legislative duties during the last session, he will be honored with a degree. His friends at Nashville, Ga. will be glad to know that he intends returning home to practice his profession.”
Knight was admitted to the Bar of Georgia in April of 1903, and began to practice law in Nashville, the courts of Georgia, and in Federal Court.
In the Georgia state election of 1904, Knight put in for a third term in the term in the House of Representatives in the Georgia General Assembly. Challenging for the seat was C.W. Fulwood. With votes being cast on April 20th, the Atlanta Constitution called the election for the challenger, ” incomplete returns from one of the hardest fought campaigns ever held in Berrien indicate the election of C. W. Fulwood over J.P. Knight for representative by about 200 majority.” But the next day, with all votes counted Knight was declared the winner.
That year J. P. Knight also served on a local Berrien county committee to solicit and collect funds for the construction of a monument to the confederate general John B. Gordon.
Back in the Georgia Assembly for 1905, Knight served on several standing House Committees. “Knight of Berrien” served on the House standing Committees on Corporations, Education, Penitentiary, Immigration, Manufacturers, Blind Asylum, Auditing, and the Western and Atlantic Railroad.
With the following election of 1906, he was elected to a term in the Georgia Senate. In an interesting note, the Nashville Herald reported on August 13, 1909, “Hon. Jon P. Knight and County Treasurer D.D. Shaw went to Atlanta Tuesday night to help sing the Doxology at the closing of the Georgia Legislature.”
In 1907 J.P. Knight presided as Mayor of Nashville. He was a member of the state Democratic executive committee, and attended the committee meeting of April, 1908. In October he was back in Atlanta.
Atlanta Georgian and News, Oct. 23, 1908 — page 11
Senator Knight Here.
Senator John P. Knight, of Berrien county, who figured prominently in the settlement of the convict lease legislation when that matter was before the state senate, was a visitor at the capitol Friday. He came on business connected with a pardon and was in consultation with both the members of the prison commission and the governor.
In 1909 it was rumored in local politics reported in the Atlanta Constitution that he would run for Solicitor General of the Circuit Court in Nashville, a position being vacated by Will Thomas in a bid for the judgeship of the court.
Atlanta Georgian and News, Oct. 1, 1909 — page 15
Hon. J.P. Knight Ill.
Nashville, Ga., Oct. 1 Hon J.P. Knight, who has represented Berrien county in the lower house and in the state senate, is very ill at his home in Nashville.
He was a Judge of the City Court of Nashville, Judge of Alapaha Judicial Circuit, and he served as Chairman of the Trustees of the City Schools of Nashville, GA for many years.
He put his hat in the ring in 1910 to run for U.S. congressman for the Second Congressional District to fill out the unexpired term of the late James M. Griggs. He won the Berrien County vote by a landslide but it wasn’t enough to carry the district.
Ada Parrish Knight died February 1913 in Berrien Co., Ga.
Children of Ada Parrish and Jonathan Perry Knight:
- Dewey Knight 1898 – 1983 Spouses: Laura FRASEUR
- Thelma Knight 1901 – 1983 Spouses: Joseph Stanley UPCHURCH
- Nell “Nellie” Knight 1905 – 1996 Spouse: George ERICKSON
- Jonathan P. Knight 1907 – 1984 Spouses: Elizabeth BAKER
Jonathan Perry Knight again ran for state office and was elected the Berrien Representative to the Georgia Assembly for the 1915-1916 term. He returned again for the 1919-1920 term.
In the 1920’s, Jonathan Perry Knight and his son, Dewey Knight, had a law practice together in Nashville. It was not unusual to see the law firm of Jno. P. and Dewey Knight mentioned in the legal advertisements in the Nashville Herald as representing the plaintiff in some divorce action, or offering to negotiate farm loans.
In 1924 he returned to the bench to served out an unexpired term as Judge of the Superior Court, and later that year he was elected to a subsequent term serving until December 31,1928.
Following the loss of his first wife Ada in 1914 J. P. Knight married again, to Gladys Brooks. They had one son, Jack Knight, who served as an Air Force Colonel.
Jon P. Knight died December 28, 1953.
In retrospection, the Historical Notes of Berrien County observed, “He enjoyed traveling, fishing, gardening, reminiscing with old friends, and the radio; he loved Georgia, Berrien County, family, and friends with deep devotion; he despised hypocrisy, snobbery and laziness. He lived in Berrien County all his life – was a real Berrien County product, boy and man.”
|Cite: Georgia. (1927). Georgia’s official register. Atlanta: The Dept.].pg 117-118SUPERIOR COURTSALAPAHA CIRCUITJONATHAN PERRY KNIGHT, Nashville, Judge. Born Mch. 14, 1872 at Rays Mill, Berrien Co., Ga. Son of John Graham Knight (born June 23, 1832 in Berrien Co., Ga.; lived at Rays Mill, Ga.; served the four years of the War Between the States in Stonewall Jackson’s Corps; died May 8, 1908) and Mary (Davis) Knight (born near Tallahassee, Leon Co., Fla.; died Sep. 19,1902). Grandson of Levi J. Knight (born Sep. 1, 1803; senator. Lowndes Co.. 1832, 1834, 1837, 1838, 1839, 1840, 1853/54, 1855/56; senator, 5th Dist., 1851/52; member. Constitutional Convention 1868; major-general, 6th Div., Ga. Militia, Dec. 4, 1840-; died Feb. 23, 1870) and Ann D. Knight, and of James and Rena Davis, who lived near Valdosta, Ga.Educated in local schools. North Ga. Agr. College, and Mercer University (law course). Began the practice of law July 13, 1903 at Nashville, Ga.
Married (1) Nov. 3, 1896 Ada E. Parrish (Nov. 1880-Feb. 12, 1914), dau. of John A. Parrish; married (2) June 21, 1915 in Jacksonville, Fla.,Gladys Brooks (born Nov. 5, 1893). Children by first marriage: Dewey of Miami, Fla.; Thelma (Mrs. J. S. Upchurch), Thomasville, Ga.; Nell of Miami, Fla.; John of Miami, Fla.; by second marriage, one child. Jack, age 6 years.Baptist. Democrat. Clerk, Superior Court, Jan. 1, 1897-Oct. 20, 1900; member. House of Rep., Berrien Co., 1900-01, 1902-03-04, 1905-06. 1915-15 Ex.-16-17 Ex., 1919-20; senator, 6th Dist., 1907-08-08 Ex; chairman, board of education, Nashville, eight years; judge, Alapaha Cir. Oct. 21, 1924-date (term expires Jan. 1, 1929).