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Thomas Bailey "Tom" Murphy (March 10, 1924 – December 17, 2007) was an attorney and American politician from the U.S. state of Georgia. Murphy was the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1973 until his defeat in the general election of 2002, making him the longest serving House Speaker of any U.S. state legislature.[1] He was a member of the Democratic Party.

Tom Murphy
The Speaker enjoying a cigar in his famous office 2013-09-06 18-10.jpg
69th Speaker of the
Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 14, 1973 – January 13, 2003
GovernorJimmy Carter
George Busbee
Joe Frank Harris
Zell Miller
Roy Barnes
Preceded byGeorge L. Smith
Succeeded byTerry Coleman
Member of the
Georgia House of Representatives
from the 18th district
In office
January, 1961 – January 13, 2003
Succeeded byBill Heath
Personal details
Born(1924-03-10)March 10, 1924
Bremen, Georgia, U.S.
DiedDecember 17, 2007(2007-12-17) (aged 83)
Bremen, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materNorth Georgia College
University of Georgia Law School
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Navy
Years of service1941–1945
Battles/warsSecond World War


Murphy was born in Bremen, Georgia, where his father was a telegraph operator for the railroad.[2] Murphy graduated from Bremen High School in 1941 and enrolled in North Georgia College in Dahlonega, Georgia.[3] During World War II Murphy served in the Navy in the South Pacific. After leaving the Navy Murphy attended the University of Georgia Law School, graduating in 1949. That same year he was elected to the Bremen Board of Education. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1960, serving in both positions simultaneously until 1965 when he left the Board of Education.[4]

From 1967 until 1970 Murphy was the House majority leader under Governor Lester Maddox. From 1970-1973 he was the Speaker pro tem of the House. In 1973, he was elected to the position of Speaker in the House of Representatives where he remained until his general election defeat in 2002. Murphy quickly rose to a position of unsurpassed influence in state government.[5] He became so politically powerful during his speakership, that he is largely credited with helping his legislative protégé, Joe Frank Harris, get elected governor in 1982.[3]

During his tenure, Murphy was a key figure in Georgia's economic development and throughout statewide politics; and was considered by many to be the best friend Atlanta ever had in the legislature despite his rural residency and upbringing.

In 2000, speaking of Murphy, noted political columnist Bill Shipp wrote, "In his 26 years as presiding officer of the House, he has become as powerful and important in the General Assembly as the governor."[6]

When Murphy died, Georgia Republican U. S. Senator Johnny Isakson said, "Tom Murphy was a giant in Georgia politics, and his legacy is everywhere. Without Tom Murphy there would be no World Congress Center, or Georgia Dome or MARTA." Isakson went on to say, "As tough as he was on the outside, he had a soft spot in his heart for children, the poor and the sick. He was a product of the Depression and it left a lasting impression on him. In many a speech Speaker Murphy would reflect on the days of his youth and would vow never to let a Georgia child face the conditions he did."[7]

Murphy's brusque manners could be off putting, and often required the more diplomatic intervention of his speaker pro tempore, Jack Connell. U.S. District Judge Dudley Bowen Jr observed that Tom Murphy was a powerhouse, and he was an administration unto himself. And Connell knew how to be nice to people. Connell knew how to work with people.[8]

Reapportionment and DownfallEdit

Fiercely partisan, Murphy described himself as a "yellow dog" Democrat, or one who would rather vote for a yellow dog than vote for a Republican.[9] U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland, who served in the state house from 1993 to 2005–the last four years as minority leader–put it bluntly: "Tom Murphy wasn't fair, he wasn't bipartisan and he didn't light up a room with his smile."[10] In 1991 and 2001 Murphy presided over the reapportionment process which redrew congressional and legislative lines.[2] The resulting district maps were criticized as pro-Democratic gerrymanders.[2] Murphy acted to redraw the congressional seats of high-profile Republicans Newt Gingrich (1991), and Bob Barr (2001), in what was viewed as typical of his "hardball" application of political power.[2] Gingrich remarked that "The Speaker, by raising money and gerrymandering, has sincerely dedicated a part of his career to wiping me out."[9]

Murphy frequently skated to reelection, but faced increasingly competitive races from the late 1980s onward as Atlanta's northern suburbs bled into his district. Indeed, Republican candidates began winning up and down the ballot in the district during this time. In 2000, he faced his closest race yet against Republican Bill Heath.[11][12] Murphy only held on by 505 votes, a margin of less than two percentage points.[13]

Gerrymandering ultimately proved to be Murphy's downfall. The contorted districts that resulted from the 2001 remap both confused and angered voters, and is believed to have led to Murphy losing his own seat in 2002 in a rematch against Heath.[2][14]

Shortly after the controversial 2001 reapportionment process, and Murphy's own political defeat, political power shifted in favor of the Republicans, who gained control of both chambers of the Legislature, the Governor's office, and the majority of statewide elected offices.[10] A number of Murphy's lieutenants, including Lauren "Bubba" McDonald and Reapportionment committee Chairman Bob Hanner, who was Murphy's point man on efforts to re-draw district lines to favor Democrats, left the Democratic Party and joined with their former political rivals when power shifted to the Republicans.[15][16]

Personal lifeEdit

In May 2004, Murphy's grandson M. Chad Long, a lobbyist, and four others including former State Representative Robin L. Williams and former Atlanta Braves player Rick Camp were indicted on charges that they stole more than $2 million from the Community Mental Health Center of East Central Georgia. In 2005, in U.S. District Court, Williams was convicted on 17 counts related to conspiracy, bribery, theft, health care fraud and money laundering, while the others were convicted on fewer counts. Long was found guilty of conspiracy and health-care fraud. All were sentenced to federal prison terms.[17] Williams was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, Camp received a sentence of 37 months, and Long received a shorter sentence.[17][18] The group, except Long, appealed their convictions, but in March 2007 the appeal was turned down. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an unsigned decision that it found no merit to any of the arguments.[19]

Death and legacyEdit

Murphy suffered a stroke in 2004, which left him incapacitated. He died at 10:00 p.m. on December 17, 2007, in Bremen after years of declining health.

To honor his service to Georgia, Murphy lay in state at the Georgia State Capitol on December 21, 2007—first within the House chambers and then in the Capitol Rotunda.[10]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Thomas Bailey Murphy". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. December 17, 2007.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e "Tom Murphy (1924-2007)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Steely, Mel (February 15, 2014). "Oral history interview with Speaker Tom Murphy, October 14, 1997". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  4. ^ Members of the General Assembly of Georgia - Term 1965-1966. State of Georgia. February 1965. Retrieved May 12, 2018 – via Digital Library of Georgia.
  5. ^ Shipp, Bill (November 28, 2000). "Presidential battle harkens back to Georgia's 1966 governor's race". Athens Banner-Herald. Archived from the original on January 12, 2002. Retrieved 17 June 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  6. ^ Shipp, Bill (January 12, 2000). "How much longer will the party last for Speaker Tom Murphy?". Athens Banner-Herald. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ "Isakson Statement on the Passing of Former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy". Johnny Isakson. December 18, 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  8. ^ Kirby, Bill; Cooper, Sylvia (7 February 2013). "Former state Rep. Jack Connell of Augusta dies". Athens Banner-Herald. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  9. ^ a b Goodman, Brenda (December 20, 2007). "Tom B. Murphy, a Longtime Power in Georgia, Dies at 83". The New York Times. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c Pierson, Drew (December 18, 2007). "Georgia, Carroll, Haralson remember Tom Murphy". The Times-Georgian. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved February 4, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  11. ^ Pruitt, Kathey (2000). "Showdown in Haralson: Legendary Speaker Murphy Faces Stiffest Challenge". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. 3D.
  12. ^ Chapman, Dan (2000). "Taking on Mr. Speaker; A Political Newcomer is Giving Tom Murphy his Toughest Race in Years". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. 1F.
  13. ^ "State Representative - District 18". Georgia Election Results, Official Results of the November 7, 2000 General Election. Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  14. ^ "Tom Murphy Biography". WSB-TV. December 18, 2007. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ "Members Of The General Assembly Of Georgia First Session of 1989-90 Term". State of Georgia. January 1989. Retrieved April 27, 2019.
  16. ^ "Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Chairman". Georgia Public Service Commission. Retrieved April 28, 2019.
  17. ^ a b Hodson, Sandy; Corwin, Tom; Cooper, Sylvia (May 5, 2005). "Williams is guilty on all 17 charges". The Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2018.
  18. ^ Hodson, Sandy (September 25, 2011). "Trio of convicted Augusta politicians await release from prison". The Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on April 17, 2018. Retrieved April 16, 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  19. ^ "Rick Camp loses appeal". ESPN. Associated Press. March 13, 2007. Retrieved April 16, 2018.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit