Many golf fans from Ireland flock to Augusta every spring and this year will be no different. Those who do arrive in Augusta Georgia may not realize that a Limerick man holds a special place in the southern city.
Patrick Walsh is the only Limerick born man to become a United States Senator and later, a much loved Mayor of Augusta Georgia.
Walsh was born in Ballingarry on New Year's Day 1840. Before the Great Famine swept through County Limerick, Ballingarry boasted a healthy linen and weaving industry but it was decimated during the lean years of the Great Hunger. The famine saw families in Ballingarry leave on emigrant ships across the Atlantic Ocean, including the Walsh family.
Patrick Walsh was 12 when he left Limerick with his family to go to America. They settled in Charleston South Carolina where Walsh would become a printer at the age of 17.
Walsh was a bright lad and attended night school which would then see him progress to third level education. He worked tirelessly as a printer, saving up money to advance his studies.
Walsh studied at Georgetown University in Washington DC from 1859 to 1861. He graduated at a tense time in American history as the Civil War was brewing in Walsh's adopted homeland.
After graduation, Walsh returned to Charleston and joined the State Militia. He became Lieutenant in the Confederate Meagher Guards of the First Regiment, Carolina Rifle Militia. It was named in honor of Fenian Thomas Meagher but, the name was later dropped when Meagher chose to fight with the Union side!
Walsh resigned from his Confederate post when his two brothers joined the army. The reason for this was the welfare of his elderly parents and his sisters. He became their breadwinner working as a printer on the Charleston News but, his heart was never in the bitter conflict, Walsh was a press and politics man.
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Walsh moved to Augusta Georgia after the Civil War where he became editor of The Augusta Chronicle. He became the beating heart of southern press, becoming treasurer and general manager of The Southern Associated Press.
In the years after the Civil War Walsh used the opinion pages of his newspaper to denounce the treatment of slaves and urged those in Georgia, especially in Augusta, to put aside Civil War differences to build a new South.
He married Ann Isabella MacDonald and took a route into politics, becoming a member of Augusta city council in 1870. Walsh joined the State House of Representatives in 1872 and was a member of the Democratic National Executive Committee.
In 1894 Walsh became the first and to date the only, Limerick-born person to become a senator when he was appointed to fill a vacancy upon the death of A.H Colquitt. Walsh served as Democrat senator from April 1894 to March 1895. Unfortunately, he failed to get re-elected and he returned to his press interests in Georgia.
Walsh did not abandon his political life and in 1897 he became Mayor of Augusta, Georgia.
In 1898 the Governor of North Carolina refused to base a regiment of black men in the state capital. When Walsh heard this, he offered them a base in Augusta as a token of reconciliation.
The Ballingarry born man served as Augusta Mayor until his unexpected death at the age of 59, 120 years ago on March 19th, 1899. His funeral drew thousands and he was laid to rest in the City Cemetery where he lives with his wife under a simple limestone cross.
In 1913 a bronze statue of the Limerick man was erected in Augusta where he is remembered today as a man of peace and practicality.
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