The legend of the Toombs Oak tells us that a gifted, rowdy and recently expelled Robert Toombs (1810-1885) delivered an impromptu speech beneath an oak on commencement day at the University of Georgia, 1828. His powerful speaking lured the entire audience away from the official program in the nearby campus chapel. Despite never graduating from UGA, Toombs had an illustrious career as a lawyer, politician, general and Secretary of State for the Confederacy. Legend also states that the same oak tree was struck by lightning at the very same hour of Toombs' death.
Toombs did not give a graduation speech beneath any tree. The oak was actually hit by lightning a year before Toombs’ death. Toombs was, however, a great orator capable of speaking persuasively on both sides of the national secession debate in the years leading to the Civil War.
When the Toombs Oak died in 1908 a section of the trunk was placed beneath the lectern of the campus debating society.