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Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr


Herman Talmadge
Herman Talmadge

During the early 1930s, Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr., was instrumental in reorganizing some branches of the state government. One major change was the placing of all of the separate state-supported institutions of higher learning under the administration of a single state board of regents. Eugene Talmadge, who succeeded Russell as governor in 1933, was the major figure in Georgia politics for the next 12 years. In his first two terms he strenuously opposed the attempt of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration to establish its New Deal programs of economic relief in the state. However, Talmadge’s successor, Eurith D. Rivers, was a Roosevelt supporter, and various federal and state relief programs were carried out in Georgia during his two terms. The state’s revenues failed to meet the cost of its relief services, however, and Talmadge was elected again in 1940 on a platform of economy in state government. He continued most of Rivers’s programs despite his past opposition to them.

After Governor Ellis Arnall took office in 1943, Georgia entered a period of progressive change. It became the first state in the nation to lower the voting age to 18. Before most Deep South states, Georgia in 1945 abolished the poll tax. A merit system was instituted for jobs in state government, and a new constitution was adopted. Arnall went to the U.S. Supreme Court with a case against the railroads, forcing them to charge the same freight rates in the South as they did in other parts of the nation. Between 1943 and 1947, Arnall achieved the most remarkable record of progressive reform that Georgia had seen to that time.

Rapid change, however, was not favored by all, and provoked a backlash in “Gene Talmadge country,” the rural areas of south Georgia. Talmadge was elected governor for the fourth time in 1946, but died before inauguration.

Herman Talmadge


The legislature then chose his son, Herman, as governor on the grounds that he had received the largest number of write-in votes in the election. Arnall, maintaining that the governorship should go to the lieutenant governor-elect, Melvin E. Thompson, refused to leave his office on inauguration day. Talmadge then forcibly occupied the office. Thompson set up a government in exile in downtown Atlanta, and for 67 days Georgia had two governors. Finally the state supreme court ruled in favor of Thompson, and he was sworn in. In a special election in 1948, however, Herman Talmadge defeated Thompson and served the last two years of his father’s term. Talmadge was reelected in 1950, and later represented the state in the U.S. Senate for 24 years. "Georgia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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