Harold Paulk (Hal) Henderson, Sr. Oral History Collection
Henderson, Harold Paulk (Hal), Sr.
Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Hal Henderson is a retired professor of political science from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in Tifton, Ga. His main research field is mid-twentieth century Georgia politics. The oral history interviews in this collection are the result of research Henderson conducted for two books, one on Ellis Arnall and the other on Ernest Vandiver. This collection also contains eight VHS recordings from a symposium on Georgia governors directed by Hal Henderson and Gary Roberts that was held at ABAC in 1985.
Reference copies of the audiovisual recordings are available upon request and are dependent upon the condition of the recordings.
Resources may be used under the guidelines described by the U.S. Copyright Office in Section 107, Title 17, United States Code (Fair use). Parties interested in production or commercial use of the resources should contact the Russell Library for a fee schedule.
Harold Paulk (Hal) Henderson, Sr., the collection's primary interviewer, is a retired professor of political science from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia. His main research field is mid-twentieth century Georgia politics, and he has written two monographs in this area: The Politics of Change in Georgia: A Political Biography of Ellis Arnall (1991) and Ernest Vandiver, Governor of Georgia (2000). With Gary L. Roberts, he also co-edited Georgia Governors in an Age of Change: From Ellis Arnall to George Busbee (1988).
Ellis Gibbs Arnall
Ellis Gibbs Arnall was born to Bessie Lena Ellis and Joseph Gibbs Arnall in Newnan, Georgia, on March 20, 1907. He attended public schools in Newnan until college. Arnall attended Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and transferred to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he majored in Greek. He graduated in 1928, enrolled at the University of Georgia Law School, and matriculated in 1931. While at UGA, Arnall was active in leading campus organizations, including his class, his legal fraternity, the student body, the Interfraternity Council, and the Gridiron Club. After law school, Arnall began to practice law in Newnan, Georgia.
Arnall began his political career in 1932, when he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives to represent Coweta County. As a freshman legislator, he was elected to Speaker pro tempore , a position to which he was reelected in 1935. In 1937, Governor Eurith D. (E.D.) Rivers appointed him as assistant attorney general and in 1939, to attorney general. In 1939, Arnall was the youngest attorney general in the country at thirty-one years old. In 1940, he was elected attorney general.
In 1942, Arnall was elected governor, defeating Eugene Talmadge. He was the youngest governor in the country at that time. Arnall served from 1943 to 1947 with a progressive program that included reforming the prison system, repealing the poll tax, lowering the voting age, revising the state constitution (1945), establishing a teachers' retirement system, and paying off the state debt, as well as helping Georgia colleges regain accreditation. Arnall's reforms brought attention to the South, and his fight against discriminatory railroad freight rates helped boost the region's industrialization and economic prominence on the national scene.
In 1947, Arnall was involved in the “three-governor controversy” when governor-elect Eugene Talmadge died before he could take office. Arnall, Lieutenant Governor M.E. Thompson, and Talmadge's son, Herman, all laid claim to the office, which officially was given to Herman Talmadge by the Georgia legislature.
Unable to serve more than one successive term as governor by mandate of the state constitution, Arnall started a book lecture tour around the country after leaving office, marketing his books The Shore Dimly Seen (1946) and What the People Want (1948). He eventually returned to law practice and started the firm of Arnall, Golden, and Gregory, LLP, in Atlanta in 1949. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman appointed Arnall director of the Office of Price Stabilization, a position in which he served for six months. Arnall also became involved in the insurance business, serving as president of Dixie Life Insurance Company, chairman of the board of Coastal States Life Insurance, and vice chairman of the Sun Life Group of America.
Arnall re-entered Georgia politics in 1966 when he ran for governor. While he did not win the Democratic primary, which after a run-off between Arnall and Lester Maddox went to Maddox, supporters created a substantial write-in campaign for him.
Arnall served as the president of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers (1948-1963) and belonged to the Capital City Club, Piedmont Driving Club, and Central Baptist Church of Newnan. He was married to Mildred Slemons Arnall, who died in 1980, for forty-five years. They had two children, Alvan and Alice. In 1981, Arnall married Ruby Hamilton McCord. Ellis Arnall died on December 13, 1992.
Samuel Ernest Vandiver
Samuel Ernest Vandiver was born to Samuel Ernest and Vanna Bowers Vandiver in Canon, Franklin County, Georgia, on July 3, 1918. He attended Lavonia High School and Darlington School in Rome before attending and graduating from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts (A.B.) in history in 1940 and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) in 1942. While a student at the university, Vandiver was the president of numerous campus organizations, including Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Blue Key leadership fraternity, Phi Kappa Literary Society, and the Pan-Hellenic Council. He was also the president of his freshman law class, as well as a member of the Sphinx Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa, the Gridiron Society, the Pelican Club, and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.
After graduation, Vandiver enlisted as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force and received a second lieutenant commission in March 1944. Health complications prevented him from continuing service as a pilot, and he was reassigned as defense counsel for the Air Force in Arizona and later, as a legal advisor to individual airmen. By 1945 and the end of his military obligation, Vandiver left the Air Force at the rank of captain.
Upon return to Lavonia, Vandiver ran for city mayor and won the election unopposed in November 1945. In addition to his mayoral duties, in December 1946, Vandiver passed the Georgia Bar and joined Joseph D. Quillian's law firm in Winder, which then became Quillian and Vandiver in May 1947. On September 3, 1947, he married Sybil Elizabeth (Betty) Russell, niece of Senator Richard B. Russell.
In 1948, newly-elected Governor Herman Talmadge appointed Vandiver his adjutant general. Only thirty years old, Vandiver was the youngest adjutant general in the nation. In 1952, he took a leave of absence from his post as director of the Selective Service of Georgia to assist in Senator Richard B. Russell's 1952 presidential campaign. In 1954, Vandiver was elected lieutenant governor and served under Governor S. Marvin Griffin, Sr. from 1955 to 1959.
In the most remarkable gubernatorial election landslide in recent Georgia history, Vandiver won the Democratic primary on September 10, 1958. He carried 156 counties, 400 county unit votes, and 499,477 popular votes compared to his two opponents' (William Bodenhamer and Lee Roy Abernathy) total of 120,929 votes. Due to the functions of Georgia's county unit system, Vandiver's primary win meant that he had also won the gubernatorial seat. Vandiver was the last Georgia governor elected under this system, which was abolished in 1963 with the decision of Gray v. Sanders in the U.S. Supreme Court.
When Vandiver came to office in 1959, it was in the midst of a spending scandal throughout Georgia's state departments. He immediately ordered most of the state departments and agencies to reduce their expenditures by ten percent, implemented efficient business practices, and appointed competent directors to the most troubled departments. No further fiscal scandal plagued his administration.
Segregation, described by Vandiver as “the most over-riding internal problem ever to confront the people of Georgia in our lifetime,” was his next major challenge. Under his administration, the University of Georgia was integrated in 1961, ending 175 years of segregated education. In an effort to enforce the federal court order directing Atlanta to desegregate its public schools by September 1961, Vandiver oversaw the entrance of nine black students to formerly all-white high schools.
The Vandiver administration also oversaw the transfer of Georgia's neglected historical records to a new seventeen-story building constructed in Atlanta to house the archives. He also influenced the Georgia General Assembly to increase appropriations and federal assistance to the Milledgeville hospital for the mentally ill.
After his term as governor, Vandiver returned to practicing law in Atlanta, but eventually moved his business back to Lavonia. He again ran for governor in 1966, but was forced to withdraw from the race due to a heart attack. In 1971, he served under Governor Jimmy Carter as adjutant general. In 1972, he ran unsuccessfully for Georgia's senatorial seat left vacant at the death of Senator Russell. Vandiver received twenty percent of the vote in the fifteen-man senatorial race, but ultimately lost to Sam Nunn.
Vandiver has been active in civic and business endeavors in Lavonia and the state. In Lavonia, he has served as chairman of the board of directors of the Northeast Georgia Bank of Lavonia, president of the board of directors of the Lavonia Development Corporation, and deacon in the First Baptist Church. He has also served as president of the Georgia Seed Company and the Independent Bankers of Georgia from 1976 to 1977, as well as been a member of the “President's Club” of the University of Georgia.
Vandiver died on February 21, 2005. He is survived by his wife, Betty, and their three children: Samuel Ernest III (Chip), Vanna Elizabeth, and Jane Brevard.
This collection consists of interviews conducted by Harold Paulk (Hal) Henderson, Sr., during his research that resulted in two monographs,
The Politics of Change in Georgia: A Political Biography of Ellis Arnall (1991) and
Ernest Vandiver, Governor of Georgia (2000).
Series I. Ellis G. Arnall contains nineteen interviews and a recording of a speech by Herman Talmadge. This series documents the 1966 Georgia gubernatorial election and the life of Georgia governor Ellis G. Arnall. Additional interviews with Herman E. Talmadge (Georgia governor 1948-1955 and U.S. Senator 1956-1981) record information about Talmadge, his father (Eugene) and family, and politics in Georgia.
Series II. S. Ernest Vandiver, Jr., contains thirty-one interviews conducted by Hal Henderson and one interview conducted by Mel Steeley and Ted Fitzsimmons of West Georgia College documenting the political and personal life of Georgia governor S. Ernest Vandiver, Jr.
Series III. Georga Governors in an Age of Change: From Ellis Arnall to George Busbee contains videorecordings of a symposium on Georgia governors that was held at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 1985.