Felton, William Harrell, 1823–1909, American political leader, b. Oglethorpe co., Ga. After studying medicine he practiced for awhile, but gave it up for farming in 1847. Ordained a Methodist minister in 1848, he served occasionally in that capacity for the rest of his life. He was a surgeon in the Civil War. After the war he became the leading independent Democrat of Georgia, opposing reactionary machine politics. He fought corruption and advocated legislation for elementary schools, higher education, penal reform, and charitable institutions. In 1874 he was elected to Congress as an independent in a bitter campaign against the party organization and served three terms before he was defeated. Later, in the state legislature, he worked effectively for improved returns from the state-owned railroad. In his long political struggle, his chief aide was his second wife, Rebecca Latimer Felton, 1835–1930. Born near Atlanta, she wrote for the Atlanta Journal for nearly 30 years and was a champion of clean government, penal reform, temperance, and woman suffrage. She was the first woman to enter the U.S. Senate, where she served briefly in 1922 by appointment. Her writings include My Memoirs of Georgia Politics (1911).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.