Second Ward Alderman: 1903, 1904, 1905
A native of Liberty County, Georgia, Charles Howard Girardeau was born in 1861, a son of John Edward and Jane (Warnott) Girardeau. His father, a Confederate soldier, died during the war and both the 1870 and 1880 U.S. federal censuses found Charles on his widowed mother’s farm in Liberty County near McIntosh, a now defunct post office.
Charles was in Atlanta’s Second Ward by 1883 when a city directory listed him as a clerk living with his mother at 75 Smith Street. Still living with his mother in 1884, he worked as a clerk for Thomas C. Mayson, an Atlanta grocer and later councilman.
He married native Atlantan Minnie Corinne Hall in June 1889 and began work as a realtor soon after with A. L. Delkin in the firm, “Delkin & Girardeau.” He continued his work in real estate for the next two decades, keeping offices in several prominent buildings, including the Kimball House, the Prudential Building, and the Empire Building, and teaming up with several different business partners.
The 1900 U.S. federal census located him living with his wife, children, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law at 403 Rawson Street (approximately located in G6 on this map; now just south of I-20 in Mechanicsville). This southside neighborhood, later called Rawson–Washington, was demolished in the 1950s.
After an unsuccessful run for councilman in 1900, Charles served as Second Ward Alderman in 1903, 1904, and 1905. He was called “one of the most serious-minded members . . . much given to sobriety and thoughtfulness.” Counted among his efforts as an alderman was an anti-baseball ordinance which was intended “to deal a death blow to Brisbane park.”
The 1910 U.S. federal census enumerated him in the same southside neighborhood, living with his wife, children, and wife’s mother, aunt, and sister at 540 Washington Street. He secured a commission from the governor to serve as justice of the peace for the 1026 district in January 1912. He next worked as the record clerk at the Bellwood convict labor camp (now the newly opened Westside Park) and was appointed warden of Fulton County convicts in February 1914. Evidently, Charles’s appointment did not sit well with Silas H. Donaldson, superintendent of public works for the county:
Mr. Girardeau had heard that Mr. Donaldson had attacked him before the public works committee on Saturday morning, telling that body that the activities of Mr. Girardeau in office had caused such confusion that he (Mr. Donaldson) was being greatly hampered in his work as superintendent of public works.
Mr. Girardeau encountered Mr. Donaldson in the Kistner market that night and asked him whether he had made this accusation before the public works committee, and when Mr. Donaldson replied that he had done so, Mr. Girardeau informed him that he had spoken falsely when he did it.
This opinion of Mr. Girardeau’s having been expressed further argument ensued, which Mr. Donaldson sought to terminate by the statement that he “was not going to stand there and argue with an idiot.”
Mr. Girardeau resented this, and struck Mr. Donaldson, who then laid aside a package of fish he had just purchased and joined battle in sprightly fashion.
At this juncture both combatants were invited out of the market to do their fighting.
Mr. Donaldson, it is said, went outside, while Mr. Girardeau stayed inside and bought some meat.
When Mr. Girardeau left the market the fight was not renewed.
In this role, Charles supervised the Bellwood, Roseland, Adamsville, and East Point labor camps. He was next appointed deputy warden of Atlanta’s U.S. Penitentiary in June 1918. When Alexander Berkman, a Russian-born anarchist, was released from that prison in October 1919, he released a statement to the Constitution condemning the deputy warden:
Making a bitter attack upon Deputy Warden Girardeau, whom he charges with hypocrisy and brutal tactics toward prisoners, Berkman declares the official to be a man of “low mentality, who believes in the old time methods of brutality and suppression.”
. . . .
“The deputy warden is the most hated man in the prison,” Mr. Berkman declares. “He encourages the most brutal tendencies of the guards and frequently protests and nullifies the warden’s more humane attitude. The inmates regard him as a religious hypocrite, narrow-minded and mean-spirited. It is his custom after leading Sunday services to go down and chain men up to the doors.”
Charles was still serving as deputy warden in January 1920 when the U.S. census enumerated him and his family. After he left the post, they located at 751 Saint Charles Avenue which still stands.
He died at Brawner’s Sanitarium in Cobb County from senility in 1928. His wife continued to live at their home in Virginia–Highland until her death in 1940. Members of Trinity Methodist Church, both are buried at Oakland Cemetery. They were the parents four children: John Edward Girardeau (1890–1895), an infant who died of scarlet fever; James Lewis Girardeau (1891–1939), a veteran of World War I and vice president of the Campbell Coal Company; Charles Howard Girardeau, Jr. (1897–1964), a veteran of World War I and president of the Atlanta Builders Supply Company; and Sarah Louise Girardeau (1906–1991), a teacher at the Lovett School and wife of Thomas J. Cook.
Atlanta Constitution. “In the Race for Alderman.” May 7, 1902.
———. “Girardeau’s Platform.” September 24, 1900.
———. “In the Race for Alderman.” May 7, 1902.
———. “Some Doings and Saying in the City Hall Circle.” March 8, 1903.
———. “Councilman Girardeau on His Ball Ordinance.” March 22, 1903.
———. “Girardeau Is Justice of Peace.” January 5, 1912.
———. “Girardeau Given Place.” February 27, 1914.
———. “Si H. Donaldson Resigns After Having Fist Fight With Charles Girardeau.” May 19, 1914.
———. “Berkman Charges Brutal Methods in Atlanta Pen.” October 2, 1919.
———. “C. H. Girardeau, Sr., Local Realtor, Dies.” June 12, 1928.
———. “Mrs. Girardeau Is Dead Here At Age of 71.” November 12, 1940.
Avrich, Paul. Anarchist Portraits. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Cooper, Walter G. Official History of Fulton County. Atlanta, GA: Walter W. Brown Pub. Co., 1934.
Davis, Johnna Josey. From Coosawhatchie to Liberty: The Descendants of Reverend James Smart and Levi Long. Knoxville, TN: Tennessee Valley Pub., 1995.
Dombrowsky, James A. Alumni History and Directory of Emory University. Atlanta, GA: Alumni Council of Emory University, 1926.
Garrett, Franklin M. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1880s–1930s. Vol. 2 of Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1969.
Register of the Department of Justice and the Courts of the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1919.