Bridging Deep South Rivers
The Life and Legend of Horace King

John S. Lupold and Thomas L. French Jr.

The first full-length biography of the man who rose from slavery to become a master bridge builder


"Contains an astonishing amount of hitherto unpublished information and makes a very significant contribution to the history of the American South in general and to black history in particular. Horace King's interactions with his fellow southerners—first as a slave, then as a freedman, and finally during Reconstruction as a politician—will make reading the book a rewarding experience for general readers."
—Robert O. Mellown, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Alabama

"Meticulous research penetrates the myths and hearsay to at last give a true picture of the architect and engineer whose covered wooden spans bridged the Deep South."
—Richard Sanders Allen, Founder of Covered Bridge Topics, the journal of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges

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Horace King (1807-1885) built covered bridges over every large river in Georgia, Alabama, and eastern Mississippi. That King, who began life as a slave in Cheraw, South Carolina, received no formal training makes his story all the more remarkable. This is the first major biography of the gifted architect and engineer who used his skills to transcend the limits of slavery and segregation and become a successful entrepreneur and builder.

John S. Lupold and Thomas L. French Jr. add considerably to our knowledge of a man whose accomplishments demand wider recognition. As a slave and then as a freedman, King built bridges, courthouses, warehouses, factories, and houses in the three-state area. The authors separate legend from facts as they carefully document King’s life in the Chattahoochee Valley on the Georgia-Alabama border. We learn about King’s freedom from slavery in 1846, his reluctant support of the Confederacy, and his two terms in Alabama’s Reconstruction legislature. In addition, the biography reveals King’s relationship with his fellow (white) contractors and investors, especially John Godwin, his master and business partner, and Robert Jemison Jr., the Alabama entrepreneur and legislator who helped secure King’s freedom. The story does not end with Horace, however, because he passed his skills on to his three sons, who also became prominent builders and businessmen.

In King’s world few other blacks had his opportunities to excel. King seized on his chances and became the most celebrated bridge builder in the Deep South. The reader comes away from King’s story with respect for the man; insight into the problems of financing, building, and maintaining covered bridges; and a new sense of how essential bridges were to the southern market economy.

Published in cooperation with the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and the Troup County Historical Society

Page count: 352 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9.25

Read more about Horace King at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


List price: $36.95

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John S. Lupold is a professor of history at Columbus State University. Thomas L. French Jr., a surveyor and landscape architect based in Columbus, Georgia, is the foremost authority on Georgia’s covered bridges.