Peter Meldrim was one of the most successful men in Savannah, Georgia’s history. He was a lawyer, judge, educator, politician, and military officer. Meldrim was born in Savannah in 1848, just 13 years before the beginning of the “War of Northern Aggression”. Meldrim saw the horrors of the Civil War firsthand as he helped defend Savannah from General Sherman as a 16 year old in 1864. Later he would attend and graduate with honors from the University of Georgia and return to Savannah to practice law.
As a lawyer Meldrim was known for his oratory skills and his ability to dissect complex cases. He served on the board of the American Bar Association and served as its President from 1914-15. He also served as a Superior Court Judge from 1917-1933.
Sometimes called Professor Meldrim, he was very concerned about education in the state of Georgia and frequently traveled the state giving speeches and discussing educational topics with local leaders. He was particularly concerned with the education of the poor and blacks. He was a co-founder and long time board member of Savannah State University, a historically black college in Savannah. One of the main administration buildings on campus at Savannah State is named in honor of Meldrim.
Meldrim was also a skilled politician. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia Senate. He served as a city alderman as well as the Mayor of Savannah. In addition, he was a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 1908. Meldrim also served on the board of many organizations and was involved in several civic clubs. He was president of the local Hibernian Society from 1887-1912. He also served as the President of the Georgia Agricultural Society for many years.
In addition to fighting for the Confederacy during the Civil War as a teen, Meldrim served in the Georgia National Guard and rose to the rank of Brigadier General.
From 1892 until his death in 1933 Meldrim and his family resided in the historic Green-Meldrim House in Savannah. The house was the most expensive mansion built in Savannah prior to the 20th century. It was occupied by General William T. Sherman and used as his headquarters during the Civil War for three and half months. The mansion is on the National Registry of Historic Houses and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Meldrim was married to Francis Casey for 52 years. Frances was known for her beauty and charm. She was a great hostess and involved in many civic projects. She was instrumental in the restoration of Robert E. Lee’s house at Arlington, Virginia, and was very involved in the Daughters of the American Revolution as well as the Daughters of the Confederacy. The couple had 4 daughters. Daughter Sophie Meldrim Shonnard owned a dress shop in Manhattan and made the pink dress for Jackie Kennedy that she was wearing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Peter Meldrim is buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia with most of his family. (Section H, 97)