Herman Eugene Talmadge (August 9, 1913 – March 21, 2002)[1] was an American politician who served as governor of Georgia in 1947 and from 1948 to 1955 and as a U.S. senator from Georgia from 1957 to 1981. A Democrat, Talmadge served during a time of political transition, both in Georgia and nationally.[2] He began his career as a staunch segregationist known for his opposition to civil rights, including supporting legislation that would have closed public schools to prevent desegregation.[3] By the later stages of his career, following the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, which gave substance to the Fifteenth Amendment enacted nearly one hundred years before, and increased African American voter participation, Talmadge, like many other Southern politicians of that period, had modified his views on race. His life eventually encapsulated the emergence of his native Georgia from entrenched white supremacy into a multiracial political culture where many white voters regularly elect Black and other non-white candidates to the U.S. Congress and Georgia General Assembly.[4][5]

Herman Talmadge
Talmadge in 1966
Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
In office
January 21, 1971 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byAllen Ellender
Succeeded byJesse Helms
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byWalter F. George
Succeeded byMack Mattingly
71st Governor of Georgia
In office
November 17, 1948 – January 11, 1955
LieutenantMarvin Griffin
Preceded byMelvin E. Thompson
Succeeded byMarvin Griffin
In office
January 15, 1947 – March 18, 1947
LieutenantMelvin E. Thompson
Preceded byEllis Arnall
Succeeded byMelvin E. Thompson
Personal details
Herman Eugene Talmadge

(1913-08-09)August 9, 1913
McRae, Georgia, U.S.
DiedMarch 21, 2002(2002-03-21) (aged 88)
Hampton, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Katherine Williamson
Betty Shingler
Lynda Cowart Pierce
RelativesEugene Talmadge (father)
EducationUniversity of Georgia (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Years of service1941–1945
RankLieutenant Commander
Battles/warsWorld War II

When his father, Eugene Talmadge, won the 1946 Georgia gubernatorial election but died before taking office, Herman Talmadge asserted claims to be the 70th governor of Georgia, in what became known as the three governors controversy. He occupied the governor's office from January until March 1947, before yielding to a Georgia Supreme Court decision in favor of Lieutenant Governor Melvin E. Thompson. In 1948, Talmadge defeated Thompson by more than 6 percent in a special election to complete the elder Talmadge's unfinished four-year term. He was reelected in 1950, defeating Thompson by a narrower margin. Talmadge served until the end of his term in 1955.[6][7]

Talmadge, who first became governor at age 33, supported a new statewide sales tax during his second term to fund the construction of new schools and expanded state services. He also supported other infrastructure improvements and increased teachers' salaries.[8] In so doing, the younger governor Talmadge departed from his father's stingy, low-tax and low-spending philosophy while remaining steadfastly opposed racial desegregation and political equality for Black Americans. He left the governor's office as an incredibly popular executive who's administration earned praised from the traditionally liberal outlets such as the Atlanta Constitution and even Harper's Magazine.[7][2][9][10]

Herman Talmadge was elected to the United States Senate in 1956 when Walter F. George, Georgia's senior senator and the President pro tempore of the United States Senate, declined to seek reelection. In the Senate, Talmadge was a long-serving member of the Senate Agriculture Committee as well as the Senate Finance Committee. During the latter part of his career, he also served as a member of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (better known as the Senate Watergate Committee). As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he oversaw the passage of numerous pieces of important legislation, including the expansion of the Child Nutrition Act and the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act of 1972, the first major legislation dealing with rural development since the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The Senate later denounced Talmadge for financial irregularities revealed a Senate Ethics Committee investigation following a contentious divorce from his second wife.[2] The investigation, as well as Georgia's changing demographics, helped Republican Mack Mattingly defeat Talmadge during his 1980 reelection campaign. Following his defeat, Talmadge retired from public life.

Early life, education and military service edit

Herman Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913, on a farm near the small town of McRae in Telfair County in southeastern Georgia. He was the only son of Eugene Talmadge and his wife, Mattie (Thurmond), and through his mother, he was a second cousin of South Carolina Senator and 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidate Strom Thurmond.[11][12][13] Herman attended public schools in Telfair County until his senior year of high school, when his family moved to Atlanta and he enrolled at Druid Hills High School, graduating in 1931.[14] In the fall of 1931, he entered the University of Georgia for his undergraduate degree and was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity. After completing his undergraduate studies, Talmadge enrolled in the University of Georgia School of Law. He received his law degree in 1936 and joined his father's law practice.[15]

In 1937, Talmadge married Katherine Williamson. The marriage ended in divorce after three years. In 1941, he married Betty Shingler, and they had two sons, Herman Eugene Jr. and Robert Shingler.[15]

When World War II broke out, Talmadge volunteered to serve in the United States Navy. He served as an ensign with the Sixth Naval District at Charleston, and with the Third Naval District in New York after graduating from midshipman's school at Northwestern University. In 1942, Talmadge participated in the invasion of Guadalcanal aboard the USS Tryon. He served as flag secretary to the commandant of naval forces in New Zealand from June 1943 to April 1944 and then as executive officer of the USS Dauphin. Talmadge participated in the battle of Okinawa and was present in Tokyo Bay for the Japanese surrender. He attained the rank of lieutenant commander and was discharged in November 1945.[16]

After his service in World War II, Talmadge returned to his home in Lovejoy, Georgia. While continuing to practice law and to farm, he took over publishing his father's weekly newspaper, The Statesman, and started a ham-curing business.[17]

Three Governors Controversy edit

After returning from the war, Talmadge became active in Democratic Party politics. He ran his father's successful 1946 campaign for governor. Eugene Talmadge had been ill, and his supporters were worried about his surviving long enough to be sworn in. They studied the state constitution and found that if the governor-elect died before his term began, the Georgia General Assembly would choose between the second and third-place finishers. The elder Talmadge ran unopposed among Democrats, so the party officials arranged for write-in votes for Herman Talmadge as insurance.

In December 1946, Eugene Talmadge died before taking office. Melvin E. Thompson, the lieutenant governor-elect; Ellis Arnall, the sitting governor; and Herman Talmadge all arranged to be sworn in and concurrently tried to conduct state business from the Georgia State Capitol. Arnall relinquished his claim in favor of Thompson. Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Georgia supported Thompson.

Georgia Gubernatorial Career edit

Talmadge as governor.

Talmadge prepared to run for the special gubernatorial election in 1948, and defeated Thompson. He was elected to a full term in the 1950 election. During his tenure, Talmadge attracted new industries to Georgia. He remained a staunch supporter of racial segregation even as the civil rights movement gained momentum.

Talmadge was barred by law from seeking reelection in 1954. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, and advised school systems to integrate.

United States Senate Career edit

As part of Talmadge's 1956 Senate campaign,[18] he published the infamous segregationist pamphlet You and Segregation,[19] arguing that desegregation was a communist plot, that the use of federal power to ban segregation was unconstitutional, and that, in the now-infamous phrase, the United States was a "Republic not a Democracy", since democracy was communist.

Talmadge was elected to the United States Senate in 1956. Most Black people in Georgia were still disenfranchised under state laws passed by white Democrats and discriminatory practices they had conducted since the turn of the 20th century. As a U.S. senator, Talmadge continued to oppose civil rights legislation, even as the civil rights movement gained media coverage and increasing support. After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Talmadge, along with more than a dozen other southern senators, boycotted the 1964 Democratic National Convention.[20]

With the help of Senator Richard Russell, Talmadge had been appointed to the Agriculture Committee during his first year in Washington and to the Senate Finance Committee shortly thereafter. As a junior member of the Agriculture Committee, he worked to address the nation's farmers' changing needs in an evolving global economy. Talmadge also worked to expand support for both farmers and children and families in hunger through his work on the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, but most significantly in 1969 and 1970 as part of the reauthorization and expansion of the 1946 School Lunch Act, which Russell had authored and considered his greatest legislative achievement.

Talmadge was a great admirer of the work Russell did on the 1946 act but recognized that significant improvements were needed. After noting that only a third of American children living in families making less than $2000 a year were able to participate in the program, Talmadge said: "We must use food as a tool of education. A child cannot learn if he is hungry. It has been the experience of school administrators in economically deprived areas that there is a marked improvement in school attendance when children can look forward to the prospect of a good meal at school." Major goals of Talmadge's new proposal were to provide funding for equipment; increase the required level of support from states; allow the "lunch to follow the child", letting students from low-income families that lived in higher-income areas remain eligible for the program; establish the National Advisory Council on Child Nutrition; and give needy children special assistance. The amendments for these purposes became law on May 14, 1970.[21][22]

When Allen Ellender assumed chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee after Russell's death in January 1971, Talmadge became chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, a position he held until leaving office in 1981.[23]

Talmadge's elevation to Agriculture Committee Chairman came at a time when many analysts were forecasting that the world's need for food would soon outstrip its productive capacity. Under Talmadge's leadership, the Senate Agriculture Committee confronted these problems throughout the 1970s. Talmadge oversaw the passage of several bills that more than doubled spending on farm programs by the end of the 1970s. In addition to the Rural Development Act of 1972, the Agriculture and Consumer Protection Act of 1973 (also known as the 1973 U.S. Farm Bill), which provided for commodity price support, soil conservation, and food stamp expansion for four years, passed under his chairmanship. The four-year period established a cycle that ensured the next three farm bills appeared on the congressional agenda after presidential elections, thereby preventing them from becoming entangled in election-year politics. The Food and Agriculture Act of 1977 continued the market-oriented loan and target-pricing policies of its predecessor. Title XIV of the Act confirmed the USDA's historic role in agricultural research under the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act. The bill also made major modifications to food stamps and solidified the program as a part of the Farm Bill.

Also in 1977, as a result of Senate committee reorganization and in recognition of the Agriculture Committee's increased role in addressing hunger and nutrition, growing spending for federally supported child nutrition (which rose from $2.4 billion to more than $8 billion during the decade), and increase of staff size (rising from seven in 1971 to 32 in 1980), the committee's name was changed to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. This was the first change to the committee's name since adding “Forestry” in 1884.[24]

In 1968, Talmadge faced the first of his three Republican challengers for his Senate seat. E. Earl Patton, later a member of the Georgia State Senate, received 256,796 votes (22.5 percent) to Talmadge's 885,103 (77.3 percent). A real estate developer, Patton was the first Georgia Republican to run for the U.S. Senate since the Reconstruction era, when most Republicans were African-American freedmen.[25] He was a sign of the shifting white electorate in the South, as white suburbanites moved into the Republican Party.

Talmadge ran a disciplined office, requiring his staff to respond to every constituent letter within 24 hours of receipt.[26] In 1969, he hired Curtis Lee Atkinson as an administrative aide, making Atkinson the first African-American hired to work on a Southern senator's personal staff since Reconstruction.[27]

In 1973, Talmadge was appointed to the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (better known as the United States Senate Watergate Committee), which investigated members of the Nixon administration. He served on the committee until its final report was issued in June 1974. Talmadge's service on the committee is generally considered the high-water mark of his time as a U.S. senator.[28]

Talmadge on the Watergate Committee, 1973

Denunciation edit

Late in his Senate career, Talmadge became embroiled in a financial scandal. After an extensive Senate investigation, on October 11, 1979, the Senate voted 81–15 to "denounce" Talmadge for "improper financial conduct" between 1973 and 1978. He was found to have accepted reimbursements of $43,435.83 for official expenses not incurred, and to have improperly reported the "expenses" as campaign expenditures.[29][30][31][32]

After the trial, he faced significant opposition in the state's Democratic primary for the first time in 24 years. Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller challenged Talmadge in the primary with the support of liberals disenchanted with Talmadge's conservatism.[33] Though Talmadge won the primary runoff against Miller, his ethical conduct was a significant issue and he was defeated by the Republican nominee, former state GOP chairman Mack Mattingly.[34] It was believed that the bruising primary battle with Miller left Talmadge weakened for the general election.[33]

Divorce edit

in 1977, following a long period of personal troubles, including self-admitted alcoholism, which spiraled out of control after his son, Bobby, drowned in 1975, Talmadge filed for divorce from his wife, Betty.[35] The Talmadges reached a divorce settlement in 1978, with Betty receiving $150,000 in cash and 100 acres of their Lovejoy plantation.[36] She was also allowed to use the remaining 1,200 acres on the plantation.[36] Betty testified against Talmadge in 1980 during the Senate investigation into his finances.

Later life edit

After his defeat, Talmadge retired to his home; his plantation and mansion were now in his ex-wife Betty's possession. In 1984, he married Lynda Pierce.[37] He lived on for more than two decades, dying at 88. Talmadge and Betty, who eventually reconciled and remained on respectful terms, had had two sons together, Herman E. Talmadge Jr., and Robert Shingler Talmadge. Betty Talmadge died in 2005, surrounded by family, on her estate.[38] At the time of his death, Herman Talmadge was the earliest serving former governor.

Awards edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Henderson, Harold Paulk (August 25, 2004). "Eugene Talmadge (1884-1946)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
  2. ^ a b c Buchanan, Scott E. (August 1, 2019) [2002]. "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2021-06-04.
  3. ^ Clymer, Adam (22 March 2002). "Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  4. ^ Frug, Stephen (2008-07-07). "Accepting Equality: Rhetorical Reactions to the Changing Politics of De Jure Segregation". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Obituary: Herman Talmadge". the Guardian. 2002-03-25. Retrieved 2021-06-05.
  6. ^ "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  7. ^ a b Write, C.C. Wilson III, Rome News-Tribune Staff. "As governor, senator, Talmadge leaves powerful legac | Local New". Northwest Georgia News. Retrieved 2018-09-24.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Mayhew, Paul (July 23, 1956). "The Talmadge Story". The New Republic. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  9. ^ Cook, James F. (1995). The Governors of Georgia, 1754-1995 (Revised and Expanded ed.). Macon, GA: Mercer University Press. pp. 255–256. ISBN 0-86554-537-5.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  10. ^ McMillan, George (December 1954). "Talmadge–the best southern governor?". Harper's Magazine: 34–40.
  11. ^ "Herman Talmadge, 88; Georgia Senator". March 22, 2002 – via LA Times.
  12. ^ "Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition. Senator Herman Talmadge Recalls His Early Involvement in Georgia Politics, His Father's Political Legacy, and His Rise to Prominence".
  13. ^ Browning, Joan C.; Burlage, Dorothy Dawson (March 2002). Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820324197.
  14. ^ "Famous Alumni". druidhillshs.dekalb.k12.ga.us. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  15. ^ a b Hackbart-Dean, Pamela (1993). "Herman E. Talmadge: From Civil Rights to Watergate". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 77 (1): 145–157. ISSN 0016-8297. JSTOR 40582658.
  16. ^ Reynolds, Clifford P. (1961). Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1961: The Continental Congress, September 5, 1774, to October 21, 1788 and the Congress of the United States, from the First to the Eighty-sixth Congress, March 4, 1789, to January 3, 1961, Inclusive. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 1688.
  17. ^ Hackbart-Dean, Pamela (1993). "Herman E. Talmadge: From Civil Rights to Watergate". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 77 (1): 146. ISSN 0016-8297. JSTOR 40582658 – via JSTOR.
  18. ^ Times, W. h Lawrence Special To the New York (1956-05-10). "TALMADGE ENTERS SENATE CAMPAIGN; Former Governor Acts After George's Announcement TALMADGE OPENS SENATE CAMPAIGN Talmadge Is in Florida". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-07-07.
  19. ^ Herman Talmadge (1955). You And Segregation By Herman Talmadge.
  20. ^ Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) "The 'Southern Strategy', fulfilled" Archived 2011-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Salon.com
  21. ^ Gay, James Thomas (1996). "Richard B. Russell and the National School Lunch Program". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 80 (4): 871–872. JSTOR 40583600 – via JSTOR.
  22. ^ Hearings, Reports and Prints of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1969. p. 3644.
  23. ^ Talmadge: A Political Legacy, A Politician's Life. Herman Talmadge with Mark Royden Winchell
  24. ^ "A Brief History of the Senate Committee on Agriculture". United States Capitol Historical Society. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  25. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1441
  26. ^ Clymer, Adam (March 22, 2002). "Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2014.
  27. ^ Farlow, Emily. "Curtis Lee Atkinson, 83: Assistant secretary of state for Max Cleland". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  28. ^ Hackbart-Dean, Pamela (Summer 1999). "" 'The Greatest Civics Lesson in Our History': Herman Talmadge and Watergate from a Twenty-five-Year Perspective"". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 83 (2): 321. JSTOR 40584148 – via JSTOR.
  29. ^ "Expulsion and Censure". United States Senate. Retrieved May 31, 2006.
  30. ^ "Trial Of a Lion: Talmadge fights for survival". Time. Vol. 113, no. 20. May 14, 1979. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  31. ^ "U.S. Senate: The Censure Case of Herman e. Talmadge of Georgia (1979)".
  32. ^ B. Drummond Ayres Jr. (October 12, 1979). "SENATE DENOUNCES TALMADGE, 81 TO 15, OVER HIS FINANCES". The New York Times.
  33. ^ a b Harris, Art (August 23, 1980). "Drawlin' and Brawlin'". The Washington Post.
  34. ^ Senate Historical Office. "The Censure Case of Herman E. Talmadge of Georgia (1979)". senate.gov.
  35. ^ "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  36. ^ a b "Settlement Ends Talmadge Suit At Last Minute". Washington Post. 1978-12-12. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  37. ^ "Account Login | Whitepages Premium". premium.whitepages.com. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  38. ^ Ayres, B. Drummond Jr. (13 June 1979). "Mrs. Talmadge Tells of a Coat Stuffed With $100 Bills". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-14.
  39. ^ "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  40. ^ "Former Ga. Gov. Talmadge Dies". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2021-06-06.

External links edit

Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia
1948, 1950
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
(Class 3)

1956, 1962, 1968, 1974, 1980
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Richard B. Russell Jr., David H. Gambrell, Sam Nunn
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by