Thomas Slaughter Candler was born December 15, 1890 in Blairsville, Union County, Georgia, the seventh and last child of William Ezekiel Candler and Elizabeth Mary Haralson Candler. His father was a local lawyer. Did W. E. Candler have dreams that his new son would grow up to follow in his footsteps as a lawyer, and go even farther to become a Georgia Supreme Court Justice?
When Thomas Slaughter Candler was born December 15, 1890, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States was in office. Called “the little president” because of his short stature of five feet six inches in height, he dealt with labor strikes in manufacturing areas, and saw passage of the McKinley Tariff Act that put a high tax on goods shipped to America from abroad. It was also the year the Sherman Antitrust Act passed, intended to deal a blow against monopolies. On the very day of little Thomas Slaughter Candler’s birth in Blairsville, the famed Sitting Bull, Sioux Indian Chief, and eleven other Sioux, were killed at Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota by U. S. soldiers called Indian Police assigned to keep order there. To say the least, the Candler baby was born in a time of unrest. Who knows? Maybe the situation called for growing up a lawyer and judge who could make a difference in the future.
Our Blairsville Thomas Slaughter Candler was well-connected descendancy-wise to other famous Georgians with the Candler surname. Let’s look at Thomas’s ancestors. Thomas’s great, great grandfather William Candler was born in Ireland in 1738. William was brought as a child to Virginia where he grew up and married Elizabeth Anthony in 1761. Eventually, the Candlers migrated to North Carolina and then southward before the Civil War to Columbia County, Georgia. Daniel Candler, born in 1779 in Columbia County, was Thomas’s great grandfather. In 1779 Daniel married Sarah Slaughter, the forebear whose surname was used as the middle name of several of the Candler descendants. Daniel and Sarah Slaughter Candler had several children, among whom were these named ones: Milton Anthony Candler, 1837; Ezekiel Slaughter Candler, 1838; Noble Daniel Candler, 1840; Florence Julia Candler, 1842; Sarah Justiana Candler, 1845; William Beall Candler, 1847; Elizabeth Frances Candler, 1849; Asa Griggs Candler, Sr., 1851; Samuel Charles Candler, 1855.
Of the above-listed children of Daniel and Sarah Candler, all “turned out well,” as we say in the mountains. Some made a name for themselves in business, politics and religion.
Milton Anthony Candler was a Georgia congressman. Asa Griggs Candler bought out Dr. John Pemberton’s recipe for Coca-Cola for $2300 and made a fortune manufacturing that popular soda. He used his wealth to found Emory University and for many other philanthropic causes, including the Candler Missionary College in Cuba. Samuel Charles Candler held public offices in Cherokee and Carroll counties. Warren Akin Candler became a bishop in the Methodist Church in Georgia and left a legacy of good in institutions of that denomination.
Daniel and Sarah’s son, Ezekiel Slaughter Candler (1838-1869) married Jane Williams. They lived in Milledgeville, Georgia when their youngest child, William Ezekiel Candler was born. The Civil War came when W. E. (as he was known) was only eight. His parents sent him from Central Georgia to live with his older sister who resided in Blairsville, hoping that the child could escape death as Sherman’s army marched through Georgia. While young W. E. was still in Union County, his father Ezekiel died in 1869. He remained on in Union at the home of his sister and got his education in one-teacher schools, later reading law and passing the bar examination. According to Union County marriage records, W. E. Candler married Elizabeth Mary Haralson on June 11, 1879, with then-noted Methodist minister, the Rev. Thomas M. Hughes performing their ceremony. Elizabeth Mary’s parents were Thomas J. and Mary Haralson. This marriage joined two families interested in law as a career.
Thomas Slaughter Candler had six siblings. His sister June, the oldest, married Clabis Lloyd. His sister called “Pick” married Pierce Matthews. These two older girls moved to Gainesville and Smyrna respectively. Nellie (1880-1893) and Ruth (1897-1928) died and were buried in the Blairsville Cemetery. Alwayne married Garnett Butt and remained in Union.
William Ezekiel, Jr. married and lived in Blairsville. The last-born child of W. E. and Elizabeth Candler was Thomas Slaughter Candler. On April 16, 1916, he married Augusta Beulah Cook, daughter of Joe and Sarah Cook.
To Thomas and Beulah were born four children: Sarah (died 1992) married Jason B. Gilliland; William Ezekiel (called “Buck” died of diphtheria in 1921); Nell married Walter McNeil; and Thomas Slaughter Candler, Jr. married Blanche Patton.
Thomas Slaughter Candler was educated in small schools in the Blairsville area and graduated as valedictorian of his 1913 class from Young Harris College. He went to the University of Georgia where he graduated summa cum laude in 1915 with an LLB degree. He passed the Georgia bar and worked with his father, William Ezekiel Candler, in his law office until his father died in 1927. Thomas served as a local lawyer, on the School Board, and mayor of Blairsville.
In 1939, Governor Ed Rivers appointed him as Georgia Superior Court Judge for the Northeastern District. He became a Justice of the Georgia State Supreme Court in 1945, appointed by Governor Ellis Arnall, and subsequently elected three more times, holding that office through 1966.
His other achievements included assisting in rewriting the Georgia Constitution.
He gave generous portions of his land for Vogel State Park and for the area around the spring at Bald Mountain State Park. He was instrumental in getting electricity to Union County through Tennessee Valley Authority and in gaining grants for highway construction in the area.
A Christian gentleman, lover of the Constitution—both Georgia and US—supporter of people’s rights, honest, fair and intellectually gifted, this man from Union County stood tall wherever he served. He died June 15, 1971 and his beloved wife Beulah died in 1983. They were interred in the Union Memory Gardens. The Candler surname means “one who lights candles or one who makes candles.” Certainly, Judge Tom Candler lived up to his name and was a shining light in the mountains.
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 15, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.