Horace King was born in 1807 in South Carolina. He was tri-racial, being Caucasian, African, and Indian. His father was a mulatto named Edmund King; his mother, Susan was the daughter of a full-blooded Catawba Indian and a black female slave. At an early age he learned his trade from his owner John Godwin. Many reference show that Horace was a well-liked, outgoing, enthusiastic man. From letters we have learned that his mother was also owned by John Godwin and that he often called her by the name Lucky.
In 1832 John, Horace’s sister, mother, and he moved to Columbus Georgia.
It was there that he worked on the first bridge connecting Alabama and Georgia with Godwin. This is the bridge a lot of people know King for because it was the first to connect the two states. The bridge crosses over the Chattahoochee River. At completion, the bridge reached approximately 900 feet long and was built in the Town truss mode. This earned Godwin and King reputations as master bridge builders.
The flood of February and March 1841, destroyed a large portion of the bridge south of Columbus Georgia, and swept away almost all of the main city bridge in Columbus.
Godwin repaired both bridges quickly. The first bridge was reopened to traffic by April of that same year, and Godwin rebuilt the main city bridge within only five months. Horace King’s skill helped them a lot in the rebuilding process. He was even able to salvage parts of the old bridges that had washed down stream to rebuild these bridges.
Horace made friends with a man by the name of Robert Jemison. This connection would come to serve him in many ways. It was his connection with Jemison that in some ways gained him his freedom.
Jemison actually placed a $1000 bond in King’s name to show that he would not be a burden on the state as a free man. As well as working on bridges, King worked on building houses and buildings as well. On one occasion Horace helped to build a large textile mill in Georgia. One of the main reasons Horace was able to build these structures so well was the use of heavy timber beam construction. This form of construction was used for bridge building as well as in the large warehouses like structures.
Horace King married in his 30’s which was considered late for a man during that time. He married a young woman named Francis. Francis was of the same racial background as Horace. She was only fourteen at the time they got married. Francis had her free papers when they married. She was educated as well, which may have drawn Horace to her. She bore him five children, four sons, and one daughter. Of his sons, three of them became a large part of King Brother’s construction. Horace married a second time to another multi-racial woman.
Both of his wives were buried side by side. Horace King served two terms in the Alabama General Assembly, from 1868-1872. Both the Black and White members of the community respected him and found him to be a good leader. They trusted him. It was also helpful that he was a Mason. Being a Mason helped King in many ways. It is said once before the civil was confederate men came around and collected his mules from him. It wasn’t until he showed that he was a Mason that they were returned to him.