John Brown Gordon, son of the Rev. Zachariah Herndon Gordon and Mrs. Malinda Cox Gordon, was born in Upson County Feb. 6, 1832. He attended a rural school in Walker County, Pleasant Green Academy in Lafayette, and the University of Georgia. He left the University in his senior year to study law under the noted Logan E. Bleckley, but soon gave up the practice of law to join his father in coal mine operations in Northwest Georgia.
At the beginning of the War Between the States, John B. Gordon organized a company of mountaineers who wore coon-skin caps and called themselves "The Racoon Roughs." When his company was merged with the 6th Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army, Captain Gordon was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment. Early in 1862 he became a Colonel and later that year had fought up to the rank of Brigadier General. On May 14, 1864, he was promoted to Major General and had been recommended for the rank of Lieutenant General when the war ended, at which time he was in command of half of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Douglas Southall Freeman, in "Lee's Lieutenants," wrote: "If the final order of march had been arranged to honor those who had fought hardest and with highest distinction during the last days of the war, Gordon rightly would have been put first." In 1873 General Gordon was elected to the United States Senate. He was re-elected in 1878, but resigned in 1880 to develop mining and railroad interests. In 1886 he was elected Governor of Georgia and re-elected in 1888. At the end of his second term he was sent to the United States Senate for the third time, serving from 1891 to 1897. He died on January 9, 1904, while visiting his son, Hugh Haralson Gordon, in Miami.