On August 6, 1911, Dr. George Thaddeus Brown of the Georgia House of Representatives and his wife Avis welcomed a baby girl.
The Georgia General Assembly promptly passed a resolution stating that the baby would be named Georgia after the state.
They then presented Avis with a certified copy of the resolution and a “magnificent silver loving cup” whose inscription noted that Georgia was “named by this body August 11th 1911.”
Georgia’s obituary in the Miami Herald noted that she was the inspiration behind the jazz standard “Sweet Georgia Brown” (1925):
According to family legend, it was her father who immortalized her when he met composer Ben Bernie in New York. A medical student at the time, George Brown told the composer about his family, including his youngest daughter with one brown eye and one green eye. Bernie whipped up lyrics to a melody by Kenneth Casey and Maceo Pinkard.
There’s no way to know if the story is true. (One part doesn’t quite work: Dr. Brown attended post-graduate medical school in New York in the 1890s, long before his daughter was born.) But the last line of the chorus does seem to refer to Dr. Brown’s daughter: “Georgia claimed her, Georgia named her, sweet Georgia Brown.”
A whistled version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” recorded by Brother Bones in 1949 became world-famous after it became the theme song of the Harlem Globetrotters in 1952. According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), “Sweet Georgia Brown” was one of the most-performed songs of the 20th century.
- “First Picture of Baby Named by Georgia General Assembly.” Atlanta Constitution 24 Mar. 1912: A15E.
- Knight, Lucian Lamar. A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians. Vol. 5. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1917.
- Melville Carroll Brown – Obituary
- “‘Sweet’ Georgia Brown, 90, Was the Inspiration for Song.” Miami Herald 20 Jan. 2002: 4B.
- Zinsser, William. Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs. Jaffrey, New Hampshire: David R. Godine, 2006.
P.S. Georgia is the second baby I know of named by a state legislature.