Herman Eugene Talmadge (August 9, 1913 – March 21, 2002) was a Democratic American politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1957 to 1981. A staunch segregationist and a controversial figure, he was censured by the Senate for financial irregularities, which were revealed during a bitter divorce from his second wife. He previously served as governor of the state from 1948 to 1955, taking over after the death of his father Eugene Talmadge, the governor-elect. Talmadge was well known for his opposition to civil rights, ordering schools to be closed rather than desegregated.
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||Walter F. George|
|Succeeded by||Mack F. Mattingly|
|71st Governor of Georgia|
November 17, 1948 – January 11, 1955
|Preceded by||Melvin E. Thompson|
|Succeeded by||Marvin Griffin|
January 14, 1947 – March 18, 1947
|Lieutenant||Melvin E. Thompson|
|Preceded by||Ellis Arnall|
|Succeeded by||Melvin E. Thompson|
|Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry|
January 21, 1971 – January 3, 1981
|Preceded by||Allen Ellender|
|Succeeded by||Jesse Helms|
Herman Eugene Talmadge
August 9, 1913
McRae, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||March 21, 2002 (aged 88)|
Hampton, Georgia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||3rd: Lynda Cowart Pierce|
|Children||Herman Talmadge, Jr.|
Robert Shingler Talmadge
|Alma mater||University of Georgia|
|Branch/service||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1941–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
The younger Talmadge had been a write-in candidate and was one of three competitors serving briefly as the 70th Governor of Georgia before yielding to a court decision in favor of the elected lieutenant governor. Talmadge was elected as governor in a special election in 1948, and elected again to a full term in 1950, serving into 1955. After leaving office, Talmadge was elected in 1956 to the U.S. Senate, serving four terms from 1957 until 1981. He gained considerable power over the decades. He gained chairmanship by seniority of the powerful Senate Agriculture Committee.
After being censured by the Senate in 1979 for financial irregularities, Talmadge lost the 1980 general election to Republican Mack Mattingly.
Talmadge, who became governor as a political novice at just age 33, supported the passage of a statewide sales-tax and the construction of new schools. Talmadge supported infrastructure improvements and increased teachers' salaries. He tried unsuccessfully to undo the reforms of his progressive predecessor. In the Senate, he dealt mainly with issues relating to farmers and rural Americans. He remains a controversial figure in Georgia history, especially due to his opposition to civil rights, and although some Georgians praised him for his infrastructure improvements brought about by the passage of the sales tax, historians often rank him as a below-average governor and senator.
Early life, education and military serviceEdit
Talmadge was born in 1913 in McRae in Telfair County in south central Georgia, the only son of Eugene Talmadge and his wife, Mattie (Thurmond). His father served as Governor of Georgia during much of the 1930s and the 1940s. Herman Talmadge earned a degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1936, where he had been a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity. Through his mother, he was a second cousin of South Carolina Senator and 1948 Dixiecrat Presidential Candidate Strom Thurmond.
Talmadge and his first wife, a professional model, were divorced in the 1930s after three years of marriage. She initiated the divorce after claiming that he stank of cigars, drank excessively, and neglected his family. In 1941, he married the former Betty Shingler, who was 18 years old at the time. The couple did not have a particularly close and affectionate marriage, but they remained on respectable terms and lived largely separate lives until their divorce in 1977. Talmadge's wife, a successful businesswoman, immersed herself in politics, partly due to the lack of marital affection, frequently campaigning for her husband and hosting several functions in both Georgia and Washington. Talmadge's wife and friends later pointed to his arrogant behavior, alcoholism, jealousy, unwillingness to spend time with the family, and occasional extramarital affairs as the reason for the bad marriage.
He returned to McRae to set up a law practice. When World War II broke out, Talmadge joined the United States Navy, serving in combat in the South Pacific. He reached the rank of lieutenant commander.
The Three Governors ControversyEdit
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 for the successor. The elder Talmadge ran unopposed among Democrats, so the party officials arranged for write-in votes for Herman Talmadge as insurance.
In December 1946, the elder Talmadge died before taking office. Melvin E. Thompson, the lieutenant governor-elect; Ellis Arnall, the prior governor; and Herman Talmadge as write-in candidate, all arranged to be sworn in and were concurrently trying to conduct state business from the Georgia State Capitol. Arnall relinquished his claim in favor of Thompson. Ultimately, Thompson was supported by the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Career after 1946Edit
Talmadge soon yielded to the state supreme court ruling. He prepared to run for the special gubernatorial election in 1948, and defeated incumbent Governor Thompson. Two years later, Talmadge was elected to a full term in the 1950 election. During his terms, Talmadge attracted new industries to Georgia. He remained a staunch supporter of racial segregation, even as the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the postwar years. Many African-American veterans began to seek social justice.
Talmadge was barred by law from seeking another full term as governor in 1954. That year the United States Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, and advised school systems to integrate.
United States Senate careerEdit
Talmadge was elected to the United States Senate in 1956. Most blacks 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. During his time as U.S. Senator, Talmadge continued as a foe of civil rights legislation, even as the Civil Rights Movement gained media coverage and increasing support across the country.
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. With the help of Senator Richard Russell, Talmadge had gained appointment to the Agriculture Committee during his first year in Washington and to the Senate Finance Committee shortly thereafter. Given his successive re-elections from the one-party state of Georgia, Talmadge gained the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Agriculture Committee by seniority. He sponsored bills to help white farmers, an important constituency.
In 1968, Talmadge faced the first of his three Republican challengers for his Senate seat. E. Earl Patton (1927–2011), later a member of the Georgia State Senate, received 256,796 votes (22.5 percent) to Talmadge's 885,103 (77.3 percent). Patton, a real estate developer, was the first Republican in Georgia to run for the U.S. Senate since the Reconstruction era, when most Republicans had been African-American freedmen. He was a sign of the shifting white electorate in the South, where white suburbans moved into the Republican Party.
Talmadge ran a disciplined office, requiring his staff to respond to every constituent letter within 24 hours of receipt.
In early 1973, Talmadge was appointed to the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (better known as the United States Senate Watergate Committee) which investigated the activities of members of the Nixon administration. He served on the committee until its final report was issued in June 1974.
Late in his Senate career, Talmadge became embroiled in a financial scandal. After an extensive investigation by the Senate, on October 11, 1979, Talmadge was censured by an 81–15 vote of the U.S. Senate 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.
Talmadge filed for divorce from his wife in 1977 against her will. Betty Talmadge, who did not want the divorce, fought her husband in courts, stating that he was guilty of habitual intoxication and cruel treatment. She eventually won a massive divorce settlement, including $150,000 in cash and 100 acres of their Lovejoy plantation. She was also allowed to use the remaining 1,200 acres on the plantation. His wife testified against him in 1980 during the investigation into his finances, contributing to the censure which effectively ended his political career and destroyed his public reputation. That year he had a tough primary challenge from Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller. Talmadge defeated Miller but lost the general election to Republican Mack Mattingly, marking the end of his family's political dynasty and the start of the rise of the Republican Party in Georgia. Mattingly was the first Republican to represent Georgia in the Senate since Reconstruction and was a conservative. Miller later served as a U.S. Senator from 2000 until 2005.
After his defeat, Talmadge retired to his home; his plantation and mansion were now in the hands of his ex-wife, Betty. In 1984, he married his third wife, Lynda Pierce, who was 26 years younger than he. He lived on for more than two decades, dying at the age of 88. Talmadge and his second wife, Betty, who eventually reconciled and remained on respectful terms after the divorce, had had two sons together, Herman E. Talmadge, Jr. (died 2014), and Robert Shingler Talmadge (died 1975). Betty Talmadge died in 2005, surrounded by family, on her estate. At the time of his death, Herman Talmadge was the second earliest serving former governor.
While at a fundraiser on June 18, 2019, presidential candidate Joe Biden said that one of his greatest strengths was "bringing people together" and pointed to his relationships with segregationist senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge as examples. While imitating a Southern drawl, Biden remarked, "I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me 'boy,' he always called me 'son.'” New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was one of many Democrats to criticize Biden for the remarks, issuing a statement that said, "You don't joke about calling black men 'boys.' Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity".
- "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
- Clymer, Adam. "Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
- "The Talmadge Story". The New Republic. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
- 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.
- "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-09-24.
- "Herman Talmadge, 88; Georgia Senator". March 22, 2002 – via LA Times.
- "Herman Talmadge (1913-2002)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
- Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) "The 'Southern Strategy', fulfilled" Archived 2011-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Salon.com
- Talmadge: A Political Legacy, A Politician's Life. Herman Talmadge with Mark Royden Winchell
- Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1441
- Clymer, Adam (22 March 2002). "Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
- "Expulsion and Censure". United States Senate. Retrieved May 31, 2006.
- "Trial Of a Lion: Talmadge fights for survival". Time. 113 (20). May 14, 1979. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- "Settlement Ends Talmadge Suit At Last Minute". Washington Post. 1978-12-12. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
- Minchin, Timothy J. (2015). "'An Historic Upset': Herman Talmadge's 1980 Senate Defeat and the End of a Political Dynasty". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 99 (3). Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- "Herman Talmadge during his last day as a Georgia senator, Atlanta, Georgia, December 5, 1980". Atlanta Journal-Constitution Photographic Archive, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library. Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
- "Account Login | Whitepages Premium". premium.whitepages.com. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
- Jr., B. Drummond Ayres. "Mrs. Talmadge Tells of a Coat Stuffed With $100 Bills". Retrieved 2018-09-14.
- Detrow, Scott (19 June 2019). "Democrats Blast Biden For Recalling 'Civil' Relationship With Segregationists". National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
- Cammarata, Sarah (19 June 2019). "Biden faces backlash for citing his work with two segregationists as a sign of 'civility'". Politico. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
- "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
- United States Congress. "Herman Talmadge (id: T000035)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Oral History Interviews with Herman Talmadge Herman Talmadge and Jack Nelson, conducted by Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)., Herman Talmadge and Jack Nelson, conducted by Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 29 and August 1, 1975. Interview A-0331-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)., Herman Talmadge and Jack Nelson, conducted by Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, December 18, 1975. Interview A-0331-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)., Herman Talmadge and John Egerton, conducted by Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990. Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007). from Oral Histories of the American South Oral History Interviews, 1985-1995. Georgia's Political Heritage Program, (University of West Georgia. Carrollton, Ga.
- A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Herman Talmadge is available at the Internet Archive
- Talmadge Plaza historical marker
| Governor of Georgia
Melvin E. Thompson
Melvin E. Thompson
| Governor of Georgia
Allen J. Ellender
| Chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee
Walter F. George
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Richard B. Russell, Jr., David H. Gambrell, Sam Nunn