Georgia in the last quarter of the 20th century has continued to be a place of contrasts and contradictions. On one hand it is a state of remarkable promise, an economic powerhouse with a thriving economy. On the other hand it remains a state with immense social problems, where opportunity is often far from equal for those in rural areas or inner cities.
Atlanta has continued to symbolize modern, progressive Georgia. As far back as the 1920s, visionary Atlantans promoted the development of the city’s airport as the key to future growth. Following World War II, as air traffic increasingly supplanted passenger trains, the Atlanta airport grew into one of the nation’s busiest. The end of segregation allowed Atlanta in the 1960s to become the home of major league sports teams, first in baseball, then football and basketball. In the 1970s blacks rose to political power. In 1972 Andrew Young, one of Martin Luther King’s chief lieutenants, became the state’s first black congressman since Reconstruction, and he was elected from a majority-white district. The next year Maynard Jackson became Atlanta’s first black mayor. When Carter became president, he named Young to represent the United States at the United Nations, where the former civil rights leader gained international influence.
The most visible example of modern Atlanta business leadership has been Ted Turner, who inherited a small outdoor advertising company and turned it into a communications empire, first through a cable television station, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), then through the Cable News Network (CNN).
In the meantime Turner became owner of two of the town’s sports teams, the Braves and the Hawks. While CNN carried Atlanta’s name abroad, state and local leaders put much money and energy into attracting foreign companies to the Atlanta area. In large part due to Atlanta’s success in becoming an international city and to the prestige throughout the world of leaders such as Carter, King, and Young, the Georgia capital was able to attract the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The event was held during July and August 1996. The Olympic Games were generally considered a success, despite some logistical problems and a still-unsolved bombing that killed two people.
While Georgia has grown in prosperity, it has also experienced with the rest of the South an amazing political transformation away from one-party rule by the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party generally dominated state and local politics in Georgia after Reconstruction. Successful candidates in Democratic primary elections were often assured of winning office. However, the perceived liberalism of the national Democrats on race issues was part of white Georgians’ alienation from the party.
The South’s economic recovery produced a more affluent, better educated population, with more people living in suburbs. These voters tended to identify with the Republicans’ commitment to low taxes. They favored limiting the growth of federal welfare programs, and they considered the Republicans to be more pro-family than the Democrats.
The Republican Party became important in presidential politics in the state in the 1960s. Republican Barry Goldwater carried Georgia in the 1964 presidential election and that same year Howard (“Bo”) Callaway became the first Republican elected to Congress from Georgia since Reconstruction. In the 1968 presidential election Georgia supported George C. Wallace of Alabama, the candidate of the ultra-conservative American Independent Party. Republican Richard Nixon won Georgia in the 1972 presidential election. In 1976 Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate and a former Georgia governor, carried both the state and the nation, becoming the first native Georgian to win the presidency. In the 1980 election, however, Georgia was one of only six states to support Carter. In that election, Republicans achieved their next major breakthrough in Georgia. Mack Mattingly defeated Georgia’s senior U.S. senator, Herman Talmadge. Georgia went for Republicans Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George Bush in 1988 but supported Democrat Bill Clinton of Arkansas in 1992. Although the Republicans lost their Senate seat in 1986, they won it back in 1992 with the election of Paul Coverdell. Greater success came in 1994 when Republicans captured 7 of Georgia’s 11 seats in the House.
The Republicans not only seized control in Georgia, but for the first time in 40 years gained national control of Congress. Georgian Newt Gingrich, who helped mastermind the Republican takeover, became Speaker of the House.
In 1995 the state’s U.S. congressional districts were redrawn for the second time in three years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the 11th District, which had been gerrymandered to produce a black majority, was unconstitutional. The 11th had been redrawn in 1992 to link black communities after the U.S. Justice Department told Georgia it was not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The high court, however, disagreed with the Justice Department and held that race could not be used as a predominant factor in drawing district boundaries. In 1996 the court upheld Georgia’s new districting map, which reduced the number of majority-black districts from three to one. Despite the redrawing, Georgia’s three black U.S. congressional representatives all won reelection in November 1996. "Georgia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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