Button Gwinnett, born in England in 1735, became a merchant and emigrated to America in 1762. By 1765, he had given up his mercantile pursuits and owned a plantation in Georgia. He was elected to the Provincial Assembly in 1769 and became a strong advocate of colonial rights. He served as the second governor of Georgia for a brief period.
Gwinnett was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and, of all those men who signed it, his signature is the rarest and most valuable. It is perhaps because Gwinnett died of wounds received in a duel in 1777 that there are not many examples of his signature to be found.
And while I've occasionally brought it up as a "fun fact" over the years, I don't think I've ever seen anything about him in print.
But now I've just finished reading The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, a new entry in the series about bookshop owner and gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr by Lawrence Block. It was an enjoyable read, as all the books in the series are, even if I did figure out ahead of time that Mr. Gwinnett's role in the past would play a part in the story.
It's just as I tell my writing students every summer: An interesting fact you come across can lead to an entertaining work of fiction. And here's a case where it happened more than once.