Historical Highlights

The Life of Former Speaker Charles Crisp of Georgia

October 23, 1896
The Life of Former Speaker Charles Crisp of Georgia Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Speaker Charles Crisp, a Democrat from Georgia, was often at odds with Republican leader Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine.
On this date, former Speaker Charles Crisp of Georgia died in Atlanta. A Confederate soldier at the age of 16, Crisp was captured by Union forces at the Battle of Spotsylvania and spent a year in a federal military prison. After studying law, he received his start in politics in the Georgia judicial system. He served as solicitor general of Georgia's southwestern judicial circuit for five years before being elected judge of the circuit's superior court in 1877.  He left that post in 1882 to a campaign successfully for the 48th Congress (1883–1885). During his seven terms in the House, Crisp served as chairman of both the Committee on Elections and the Committee on Rules. A staunch Democrat, he found himself at odds with Republican Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine. In the 52nd and 53rd Congresses (1891–1895), Crisp was elected Speaker of the House and quickly reversed the rules created during Reed’s tenure, which had greatly enhanced the powers of the office; however, realizing the value of Reed’s rules, Crisp later reinstated many of the regulations. In 1894, Crisp declined an appointment to the U.S. Senate, writing in a letter, “I wanted to go to the senate, but the conditions in the house are such that after careful consideration I felt it was my duty to continue in the position I now hold, for the present, at least.” Nominated by his party to both the House and the Senate in 1896, Crisp died before the election. His son, Charles Robert Crisp of Georgia, filled his seat in the special election to the 54th Congress (1895–1897).

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