William E. Simmons, one of Gwinnett County's foremost citizens, was born in Lawrenceville on August 26, 1839. After graduating at the top of his class from Emory College, he assumed editorship of the Lawrenceville News. In 1861, he became an officer in the 16th Georgia Infantry Regiment, gallantly leading his men in over 20 battles during the War Between the States. In 1863, he rose to second in command of the 3rd Georgia Sharpshooters, an elite unit comprised of soldiers from Major General W. T. Wofford's Brigade. He was captured in the Shenandoah Valley in August 1864 and spent eleven months at Fort Delaware Prison. After the War, he returned home to practice law. In 1869, he wed Mary Ambrose of Lawrenceville. The following year, he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly, serving in the first session after re-admission of Georgia to the Union. In 1894, Governor W.Y. Atkinson appointed Simmons to State University Board of Regents, where he served over a period of 32 years, receiving an honorary LLD degree from the University of Georgia in 1919. He died in 1931.