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Georgia Government Documentation Project: A

A guide to the Georgia Government Documentation Project oral history collection.

Series A. Georgia Governors

Series A. Georgia Governors (P2000-05)

Interviews in this series are with former governors of Georgia.  Most of the interviews were conducted by the Georgia Government Documentation Project between 1986 and 1988, in the aftermath of a November 1985 conference on Georgia's governors sponsored by Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, and featuring four of the state's then seven living governors.  Papers presented at this conference were later included in Harold P. Henderson and Gary W. Roberts, eds., Georgia Governors in an Age of Change (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988).  Interviews with former governors Marvin Griffin and M.E. Thompson were conducted by Gene Gabriel Moore in 1976 for Georgia Public Television and were aired at the time of their death.  The original interviews are part of the Georgia Public Television Collection of the Georgia Government Documentation Project.  Most of these interviews are biographical in nature, covering the narrator's background, entry into politics, and career before and after becoming governor, in addition to the narrator's gubernatorial career.  One interview with Ernest Vandiver, conducted by Cliff Kuhn, focuses on the October 1960 arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the subsequent involvement of John and Robert Kennedy in the matter.  Another interview with Carl Sanders discusses the gubernatorial race between Sanders and Jimmy Carter.

For Availability Information, see the Finding Aid.

Series A Oral Histories

Arnall, Ellis (P1986-03)              

Interviewed by: James F. Cook

March 25, 1986, April 17, 1986

85 pp.

Ellis Arnall (1907-1992) served as state representative from Coweta County from 1933‑1937, attorney general from 1939‑1943, and governor of Georgia from 1943 through 1947.

SEE also Arnall interviews in series F, G, and M.

Among topics discussed:  Family background; education; early political career; Governor William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray of Arkansas; voter registration; 1942 governor's race; William Yates Atkinson's business interests; abolition of poll tax; Cocking affair; freight rate issue; prison reform; 1945 Georgia constitution; amendment to allow succession of governor; state finances; political appointments; Agricultural and Industrial Development Board; race issue; James M. Cox; Arnall's support for Jimmy Carmichael in the 1946 governor's race; three‑governor controversy; presidential aspirations; lecture activities; Arnall as Price Stabilization Director for Truman; Arnall's insurance and legal practice interests; 1966 governor's race; Lester Maddox; Arnall's law firm as training ground for politicians; religious views; marriage; Jimmy Carter's governorship and presidency; Arnall's second marriage.



Busbee, George (P1987-03)

Interviewed by: James F. Cook

March 24, 1987, March 31, 1987

89 pp.

George Busbee (1927-2004) served as state representative from Dougherty County from 1957‑1975 and as governor of Georgia from 1975 through 1983.

Among topics discussed:  Childhood and family background; education; values; early law career; early political career; influence of Walter F. George; rural roads controversy; Sibley Commission; law partners following governorship; Jimmy Carter's contested 1962 legislative election; political positioning in the General Assembly; county unit system; reapportionment; Arthur Bolton; George L. Smith; Maddox Hale; assessment of various governors; power of various political appointments; Carter's government reorganization; Robin Harris; influence of Dot Wood; strategy in 1974 governor's race; finances; main programs while governor; political appointments; government reorganization; prisons; style of administration; Jesse Bowles affair; Busbee's pension; racial policies; current interests and activities.



Carter, Jimmy (P1987-01) 

Interviewed by: Gary Fink

February 17, 1987

39 pp.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) served in the Georgia Senate from 1963 to 1967, as governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975 and president of the United States from 1977 to 1981.

Among topics discussed:  Father's interests and influence on Carter; civic interests after Navy; Carter's reasons for running for state senate; early political career; CCC and REA programs; father's attitudes toward Franklin Roosevelt and Walter George; mother's political interests; racism in 1964 presidential election; racial discrimination; chairman of school board; obstacles to voter registration; Georgian attitudes on discrimination; Joe Hurst voting fraud; county unit system; Carter's approach to politics; 1966 governor's race; Carter's agenda as governor; accomplishments and disappointments of governorship; George Busbee; George Wallace; multi‑racial committees to solve racial differences; 1970 decision to run for governor; 1970 problems with Atlanta newspapers; newspapers during administration; Hal Gulliver; Lester Maddox; Ed Muskie; methods of getting programs through legislature; Tom Linder Jr.; Richard Russell.


Griffin, Marvin (P1976-10) 

Interviewed by: Gene Gabriel Moore

June 1976

34 pp.

Marvin Griffin (1907-1982) served as Georgia's adjutant general from 1944‑1948, as lieutenant governor from 1949‑1955, and as governor of Georgia from 1955 to 1959. This interview was conducted for Georgia Public Television.

SEE also Griffin interview in series M.

Among topics discussed:  Griffin's charisma; political controversy; Griffin as executive secretary under E.D. Rivers; Eugene Talmadge; 1954 governor's race; M.E. Thompson; Fred Hand; Tom Linder; Charles Gowan; Brown v. Board of Education; Herman Talmadge's influence on 1954 governor's race; stump campaigning; Griffin's contributions as governor; Rural Roads Authority; Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Rural Electrification Act; importance of paved roads; Stone Mountain; improvements in teachers' benefits; University of Georgia and Georgia Tech; museums; Brunswick's deep water port; renovation of the state capital; Ben Fortson; campaign speaking style; barbecue; political idols; Clifford Walker; Hoke Smith; Tom Watson; Eugene Talmadge; the Atlanta press; history of accomplishments; mistakes in appointments; relationship with Ernest Vandiver; Ellis Arnall; M.E. Thompson; three‑governor controversy; Arnall‑Talmadge rivalry; Herman Talmadge; sales tax; Carl Sanders; Lester Maddox; Jimmy Carter; the people and Marvin Griffin.



Harris, Joe Frank (P1988-04) 

Interviewed by: James Cook

June 6 and August 5, 1987

31 pp. and 23pp.

Joe Frank Harris (b. 1936) served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1965‑1982 as a representative from Bartow County, and served as Governor from 1982‑1990.

Among topics discussed: Family background; childhood; high school activities, jobs; education at Asbury College and University of Georgia; early religious conversion; memories of parents; impressions of University of Georgia; military service; Harris Cement Products, Inc.; marriage to  Elizabeth Carlock; early political career, Bartow county, service in Georgia legislature; death of Sloppy Floyd; Harris's promotion to chairman Appropriations Committee; comparison of George T. Smith, George L. Smith, and Tom Murphy as speakers of the House.

Among topics discussed:  Relationship with George Busbee; primary issues of Appropriations Committee with Harris as chairman; service on Highways and Motor Vehicles Committee; development of an independent legislature; 1982 gubernatorial campaign; campaign advisors Joel Cowan, Geer Phillips, and Mike DeBeckter; financial cost of campaign; campaign strategy; gubernatorial appointments; minority appointments; Robert Benham and other black judges appointed by Harris; Dr. Warner Rogers; Colonel Curtis Arp; Quality Basic Education; economic development; environmental protection; other programs implemented by Harris.




Maddox, Lester (P1989-11)

Interviewed by: John Allen

November 22, 1988, July 26, 1989

222 pp.

Lester Maddox (1915-2003) served as governor of Georgia from 1967 to 1971, and as lieutenant governor from 1971 to 1975.

SEE also Maddox interview in series F.

Among topics discussed:  Childhood memories; family background; childhood business dealings; Home Park Elementary School; heroes; Depression era; black/white neighborhood relations; memories of parents; religious influence; Franklin Roosevelt; WPA work; Virginia Maddox; working at Atlantic Steel; Bessemer Galvanizing Works; attack at Pearl Harbor; work  injury ; return to Atlanta; Bell Aircraft;  first restaurant; sale of restaurant; buying grocery store; becoming a real estate agent; 1945 auto accident; the Pickrick Restaurant; desegregation; Harry Truman; Dwight Eisenhower; Earl Warren; Pickrick ads; politics; William Hartsfield; 1957 mayoral campaign ; Archie Lindsay; the Bloody Fifth ward; 1988 presidential campaign; Governor Michael Dukakis; serving as governor; 1961 mayoral campaign; Atlanta law enforcement; racial segregation; George Wallace; Ivan Allen; Mills Lane; Jim Aldredge; Charlie Brown; Muggsy Smith; grand jury service; 1962 lieutenant governor campaign; statewide campaigning; media coverage during campaign; Governor Joe Frank Harris; 1966 governor's race; James Gray; efforts to persuade Maddox to withdraw from campaign; raising campaign funds; campaign goes to legislature; philosophy as governor; appointments; "People's Day"; impressions of Jimmy Carter; Tommy Irvin; Morgan Redwine; assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.;  Maddox seeks 1968 Democratic presidential nomination; Democratic liberalism; record as governor; penal system reform; sales tax increases; term as lieutenant  governor; Jimmy Carter; opposition to Carter; Carter's tactics as governor; reorganization; strong local government; Carter as president; 1974 governor's race; salary increases; state merit system; 1988 presidential campaign; Democratic Party; Sam Nunn; Joe Frank Harris.


Sanders, Carl (P1986-06) 

Interviewed by: James F. Cook

August 5, 1986, August 12, 1986

78 pp.

Carl Sanders (b. 1925) served in the Georgia House of Representatives from Richmond County from 1955‑1963, and as governor of Georgia from 1963 to 1967.

SEE also Sanders interview in series F.

Among topics discussed:  Youth in Augusta; Camp Dixie for Boys; military career; University of Georgia football; law school; law practice; Cracker Party; Independent Party; election to Georgia House of Representatives; law firm of Sanders, Thurmond and Hester; Talmadge and Griffin factionalism; school desegregation; nullification; 1962 governor's race; administrative emphasis on education; Bowdoin Commission; failure to adopt new state constitution; reapportionment; personal views on segregation; black appointees; Hosea Williams; Julian Bond; Lyndon Johnson's presidential campaign in Georgia; shift in power from governor to general assembly; Peter Zack Geer; relationship with media; 1970 governor's race; assessment of governorship; tension between Atlanta and rural Georgia.


Sanders, Carl (P1986-06)

Interviewed by: Randy Sanders

March 28, 1989

17 pp.

Among topics discussed:  Supreme Court decision that made the county unit system unconstitutional; 1962 governor's race; barbecues and rallies; Jimmy Carter's campaign style; rural "anti‑Atlanta" voters; anti‑establishment movement; Carter's promises; Carter's failure to be reelected governor or president; Lester Maddox; Sanders as moderate governor; efforts to elevate education; busing; Carter's campaign tactics; evaluation of the electorate; county unit system; changes in the Democratic Party; Republican Party in Georgia; political advertisements in the 1970 governor's race; Gerald Rafshoon; C.B. King; Carter's claim that Sanders was a white segregationist; importance of Carter's relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr.; Senator Richard Russell; Carter's broken promises; Carter's election to the state senate; post‑political life; assessment of current politics; U.S. Senate and Congress; assessment of racial policies during Sanders administration; Leroy Johnson; Jones Wayne; Julian Bond case; Carter's hypocrisy; comparison of Jimmy Carter and George Wallace; refusal to close schools; lack of prejudice in background; refusal to make race central issue in 1970 governor's race; Carter's lack of influence in Georgia and in nation; lack of trust in Carter's word; Carter was "phony."


Talmadge, Herman (P1988-03)

Interviewed by: Harold Paulk Henderson

June 26, 1987, July 17, 1987

105 pp.

Herman Talmadge (1913-2002), son of Eugene Talmadge, was his campaign manager in 1940 and 1946.  He served as governor of Georgia from 1949 to 1955, and was U.S. senator from 1957 to 1981.

SEE also Talmadge interview in series F.

Among topics discussed:  Family genealogy; childhood; youthful interest in debate; law practice; work on Eugene Talmadge campaigns; World War II experiences; E. D. Rivers; Roy Harris; Ellis Arnall; M.E. Thompson; three‑governor controversy; 1948 governor's race; white primary bill; farm agricultural policy; administrative style; county unit system; campaign methods; school desegregation; Senator Walter George; Tom Linder; rural versus urban vote; Ralph McGill; black voters; Ernest Vandiver; Jim Gillis; Hughes Spalding; Wiley Moore; Robert Woodruff; 1950 governor's race; campaign finance; Marvin Griffin; Thompson v. Talmadge; Peters v. Morris; Brown v. Board of Education.


Thompson, M.E. (P1976-10)

Interviewed by: Gene Gabriel Moore

Summer 1976

35 pp.

M.E. Thompson (1903-1980), elected lieutenant governor in 1946, served as governor of Georgia from 1947 to 1949 after the death of Eugene Talmadge.

This interview was conducted for Georgia Public Television.

SEE also Thompson interview in series M.

Among topics discussed:  Three‑governor controversy; purchase of Jekyll Island; Ku Klux Klan; Ellis Arnall administration; 1948 governor's race; E. D. Rivers; white primary; sales tax issue; assessment of Herman Talmadge, Marvin Griffin, Ernest Vandiver, Carl Sanders, Lester Maddox, and Jimmy Carter; comparative styles of campaigning.


Vandiver, S. Ernest (P1986-02)

Interviewed by: Charles Pyle

March 20, 1986, July 28, 1986

73 pp.

S. Ernest Vandiver (1918-2005) served as lieutenant governor  from  1955 to 1959 and as governor of Georgia from 1959 to 1963. He unsuccessfullly ran for US Senate, losing to Sam Nunn in 1972.

Among topics discussed:  Childhood; Camp Dixie for Boys; appointment to Adjutant General; 1954 lieutenant governor's campaign; John Greer; Bill Dean; Billy Barrett; Rural Roads Program; Koinonia farm; 1958 governor's race; Bill Bodenhammer; Red Williams; "No not one" pledge; anti‑corruption measures; Billy Bowden; Dixon Oxford; Jim Gillis; Charles Collier; George Hearn; Ray Shirley; Bob Jordan; George L. Smith; Frank Twitty; Carl Sanders; relationship with state legislature and federal judiciary; Southern Democrats for Kennedy; Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1960 arrest and release; integration of University of Georgia; Sibley Commission; Garland Byrd; Marvin Griffin; Senator Richard Russell; thoughts about entering 1966 governor's race.


Vandiver, S. Ernest (P1994-02)

Interviewed by: Cliff Kuhn

January 25, 1994

64 pp.

This interview focused on the October 1960 arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr. and its aftermath.

Among topics discussed:  March on the Capitol; Sibley Commission; Judge Sibley; Griffin Bell; Herman Talmadge; Marvin Griffin; meeting with John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; Vandiver's experience with National Guard; role of Bobby Kennedy in 1960 presidential election; return of Martin Luther King to Georgia in 1960; 1960 meeting of Southern governors; effect of Atlanta sit‑ins on presidential election; Vandiver's communication with Mayor Hartsfield; Vandiver meeting with Herman Talmadge and black leaders; controversy surrounding Judge Mitchell's revocation of King's probation; intervention of Senator Kennedy; Bob Russell; George Stewart; legal issues; Bobby Kennedy phone call to Mitchell; impact on presidential election; Charlie Pou's Atlanta Journal article; 1972 Senate race between Vandiver, David Gambrell, Sam Nunn; Vandiver association with George Stewart; Stewart and Mitchell meeting with Bobby Kennedy; Theodore White's investigation of  Kennedy‑King affair; Vandiver's governorship; desegregation of schools; end of county unit system; desegregation of University of Georgia.


Vandiver, Sybil Elizabeth Russell (P2002-05)

Interviewed by:  Cliff Kuhn

January 25, 1999

This interview focused on Governor Vandiver and the 1960 arrest of Martin Luther King, Jr., and its aftermath, as well as personal reflections about Vandiver's administration.

Sen. Jack Kennedy calling Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver at the Governor's Mansion; Martin Luther King, Jr., in jail; Gov. Vandiver calling George Stewart and Bob Russell; Russell as Mrs. Vandiver's brother; Judge Oscar Mitchell; reference to Harold Henderson's forthcoming book about Gov. Vandiver; relationship between Gov. Vandiver and Russell; preparing the Vandiver children for school; Russell's death in 1965; Republicans gaining ground in Georgia; problems during Vandiver administration:  University of Georgia, Sibley Commission, county unit system, King; Judge Mitchell, DeKalb County, and King; inability of today's youth to comprehend living in early and mid-1900s; Mrs. Vandiver's reflections of history classes as a teenager; rationing during World War II; Russell serving as Marine in World War II; Gov. Vandiver's classmates at the University of Georgia; Griffin Bell; marriage during World War II; Mrs. Vandiver's reflections of how World War II changed Georgia and the United States as a whole.


Georgia Governors Roundtable (P1985-01)

Participants: Lester Maddox, Carl Sanders, Herman Talmadge, S. Ernest Vandiver

Moderated by: Frederick Allen

October 31, 1985

2 hr. VHS videotape; 2 U-matic ¾-in. videotape

Among topics discussed:  Talmadge claim that he represented views of people in the desegregation of schools; Vandiver regret of "no not one" statement; Vandiver response to being accused of being "middle of the road"; Vandiver's involvement in the creation of the Sibley Commission; Sanders 1962 campaign; Sanders view that the schools should not be closed due to forced desegregation; Sanders view of the invalidation of the county unit system; Sanders on the corruption of Marvin Griffin; Sanders relationship with Griffin; Maddox on the tradition of segregation in Georgia and the United States; Maddox view of the quota system and affirmative action; Maddox meeting with black leaders after his election; Maddox preparation for racial violence after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Maddox opinion of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen; Maddox opinion of politics and the media; Talmadge explanation of the three‑governor controversy; Talmadge opinion of progress during his administration; Talmadge explanation of tax increases during his administration; Vandiver on changes in the state budget; salaries paid to the governors; Sanders and Maddox discussion of the construction of the governor's mansion; Maddox and Vandiver on pensions for governors; Vandiver on the terrible conditions at Milledgeville mental hospital and efforts to change; Vandiver explains his blocking of Griffin's roads project; Sanders opinion of Jimmy Carter and the 1970 governor's race; Maddox opinion of Jimmy Carter; Sanders on the nature of politics; Sanders relationship with state legislator Cheney Griffin, brother of Marvin Griffin; Sanders comparison of a strong executive and a strong assembly; Maddox support of separation of the branches of government; Maddox on the unfairness of the press; Maddox explanation of his public image; Talmadge advice to current governor; Vandiver advice to current governor; Vandiver opinion of Joe Frank Harris's pledge not to increase taxes; Sanders advice to current governor; Maddox advice to current governor.



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