The Baptist Encyclopedia: Edited by William Cathcart. (1883) pp 724-5
Lumpkin, Ex-Gov. Wilson, of Georgia was born in Pennsylvania Co., Va., Jan. 14, 1788 and died at Athens, Ga., on the 28th December, 1870, at the age of eighty-seven.
In 1786 his parents moved to Georgia, bringing with them the infant destined to fill so many conspicuous positions in the State of his adoption. At eighteen years of age his mind became awakened to the great importance of salvation, and he experienced peace through faith. Personal investigation of the Scriptures led to his adoption of Baptist views, although his parents were Methodists, and his predilections were towards the Presbyterians. In the course of time his parents, affected by his baptism, became Baptists themselves, after searching the Scriptures. Subsequently, others of the family followed the parents into the waters of baptism, and in a short period all the adult members of the family united with a Baptist church. “God made me a Baptist,” said Gov. Lumpkin to a friend, in after-life, “and I can never be anything else. I must be of this faith, if I am the only person in the world professing it,” and to the end of his long life he remained steadfast to his convictions.
Hardly had he attained his twenty-first year before he was elected a member of the Legislature of Georgia, which met in 1804, and he discharged his responsible duties so satisfactorily that he was elected for several consecutive sessions. In 1814 he was chosen to represent his district in the national councils, and took his seat at Washington the same year,-a year memorable for the destruction of the national capital by the British troops.
For several sessions Mr. Lumpkin was returned to Congress, bearing off the prize from all competitors. In 1831 he was so prominent with his party – the old Union party, as it was then termed – that he received the nomination for governor, and his election followed. Having served the State for two years, he was triumphantly re-elected in 1833. On retiring from the gubernatorial chair he received, from Gen. Jackson, an important commission in connection with Indian affairs, after the discharge of which duty he became, in 1838, a United States Senator.
He had now enjoyed all the political honors the State could bestow, and being nearly threescore years of age, he sought retirement; and, purchasing a comfortable home in the vicinity of Athens, Ga., he spent in that locality the remainder of his days. The only public service he afterwards rendered was as a member of the board of trustees of the State University, of which he was the senior member and honored president for many years.
Few men have lived in Georgia more universally popular than Gov. Lumpkin. He never failed to secure any office for which he was a candidate before the people. For forty consecutive years he was retained in positions of high trust and honor, and for a much longer period, if we include his service as trustee of the State University. His popularity was due, in a good degree, to his unswerving fidelity to the trusts he had received. If not a bold and dashing leader, he was a prudent officer, and the people felt that the public interests were safe in his hands. He was always ready to serve his friends at any reasonable sacrifice, whilst towards his political opponents he deported himself with so much courtesy that he was constantly disarming their opposition and winning them to his support.
He was endowed by nature with an active and inquiring mind. He early learned to think for himself, and by this process his fine intellectual gifts were drawn out or educated. There were few subjects of importance connected with the science of government which had not been carefully examined by him, and his opinions were promptly forthcoming whenever required. His official papers while governor, and his speeches while a member of Congress, are able and statesmanlike, evincing a thorough knowledge of the subjects discussed; and they are written with the perspicuity and good sense characteristic of a man who has something to say and is intent only in lodging his meaning in the minds of those whom he addresses.
But it was the elevated moral and religious character dignifying and adorning the life of Gov. Lumpkin which constituted his highest excellence. He was a Christian statesman, not indifferent to the approbation of his fellow-men, but far more anxious for the honor which comes from above. With some honorable exceptions, politicians make poor church members; but Gov. Lumpkin never furled his religious colors for fear it might lose him the votes of those who were of a different religious faith. Whether at his country home, where he first professed faith in Christ, or at Milledgeville, or in Washington City, or Athens, he always took his stand for Christ, identifying himself with his Baptist brethren, however obscure they might be. Assuming nothing on account of the high honors he had received from the State, he took his place among the humblest members of the church, ever counting it a privilege to be even a door-keeper in the house of God. When the work of the Lord was revived, no one rejoiced more than he; and it was a touching sight to see him exhorting the youthful converts to be faithful to their vows, when they presented themselves for church-membership. His silvery locks and tearful eye and tremulous voice emphasized his pious advice with a power and pathos which subdued every heart.
He courted the confidence of his brethren more than the praises of politicians. Late in life he attended a meeting of the Sarepta Association, and, quite unexpectedly to himself, was elected moderator. His heart was touched by the respect thus expressed, and he subsequently remarked that no office which worldly men had conferred ever gave him such pleasure as the confidence thus exhibited by his brethren in calling him to preside over their deliberations. He was a man of great faith and large heart, and with a nature as tender and sensitive as a woman’s. Afflictions severe and frequent kept his heart soft. ” He had,” said one who knew him most intimately, “as much real, heart-breaking, continued trouble as any one I have ever known, yet such was his faith in God that he could rejoice at all times.” He was accustomed to say, “I would rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light. My dear Lord appoints all my troubles, and I brush away the coming tears when I think that it is his will.”
At the time of his death he was probably the oldest Baptist, as he was certainly among the oldest citizens, of the State. He served his generation faithfully, by the will of God, and then fell asleep,- that ” blessed sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep.”