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"Lawyer, state senator. Author of 1901 "London Libel Law." Editor of Chatham Record, 1878-1918. Home was here." Henry Armand London, a native of Pittsboro, was enrolled at the University of North Carolina from July 1862 until November 1864, when he left school to enter the Confederate Army at age eighteen. As a courier in Company I of the 32nd North Carolina Regiment, London delivered one of the last messages of the war—General Robert E. Lee’s orders to General William R. Cox issuing a cease fire due to the surrender. At the close of the war, students who had left UNC to serve in the military were given the opportunity to receive their degrees if they returned and gave a speech. London was one of only three students to take advantage of this offer.
London returned to Pittsboro where he studied law, earning his license in 1867. In 1878, while still practicing law, London founded a weekly newspaper, the Chatham Record, which he edited and published for the rest of his life. He served for forty years as a member of the state Democratic executive committee. In 1901 and 1903 London was elected to represent Chatham County in the state senate, serving as president pro tem during the latter term.
Henry A. London drew upon skills developed in both his editing and legal careers in 1901 to leave a legacy to free press in North Carolina and around the nation. While serving in the senate he crafted a statute now known as the “London Libel Law” (Chapter 99, North Carolina General Statutes). The statute, after Michigan’s only the second of its kind in the nation, became a model that many other states followed. It provided, essentially, that newspaper publishers would not be responsible for punitive damages in libel lawsuits as long as the paper printed a “full and fair correction, apology and retraction.” The only amendment to the law during its long existence was in 1943 when it was made to apply to radio and television stations as well as newspapers. London married Bettie Louise Jackson in 1875. They had eight children. London died on January 20, 1918, and was buried at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Pittsboro.
William S. Powell, Jr., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 85-86—sketch by Claiborne T. Smith, Jr.
(Raleigh) News and Observer, January 21, 1918 (obituary)
Henry Mauger London Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Archibald Henderson, ed., North Carolina: The Old State and the New, IV, 264-265
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.