Judge Augustin S. Clayton (1783-1839) has been described both as Athens’s “leading industrialist” (Gagnon, 2012, p. 24) as well as the University of Georgia’s “most zealous friend and patron” (Buckingham, 1842, p. 60). Certainly, Judge Clayton’s life of politics, industrial invention, and college boosterism exemplifies the interwoven histories of the University of Georgia and the Athens Factory.
Judge Clayton was one of Athens’ earliest proponents of Southern industrialization. He believed that manufacturing cotton cloth in the South would circumvent U.S. tariffs on Southern cotton and that an enslaved manufacturing workforce would be easy to control. Prior to building Athens’ first cotton mills, he organized Georgia’s largest anti-tariff meeting on UGA campus where “a thousand or more people crowded onto the campus” to hear Clayton and others rail against the tariff (Coulter, 1928, p. 188).