Herman E. Talmadge Collection, Subgroup A: Pre-GubernatorialHerman E. Talmadge Collection, Subgroup A: Pre-Gubernatorial

Herman E. Talmadge Collection, Subgroup A: Pre-Gubernatorial

Descriptive Summary

Title: Herman E. Talmadge Collection, Subgroup A: Pre-Gubernatorial
Creator: Talmadge, Herman E. (Herman Eugene), 1913-2002.
Dates: 1945-1954
Extent: 3.0 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Collection Number: RBRL/102/HET
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: The Pre-Gubernatorial subgroup consists of the subject files for The Statesman and includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material and photographs. Materials relate to letters to the editor, elections in Georgia and his father, Eugene Talmadge, religion, taxes, communism, and African Americans.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

It was once said if you were not a Talmadge man you were a communist. The Talmadge dynasty began in 1926 when Eugene Talmadge, Herman's father, was first elected Commissioner of Agriculture. Gene would later be elected governor of Georgia to an unprecedented four terms. For over fifty years the Talmadges dominated Georgia politics until Herman was defeated in 1980.

Born on August 9, 1913, on a farm near McRae, Georgia, to Eugene and Mattie Talmadge, Herman attended public schools until his senior year when his family moved to Atlanta. In the fall of 1931, he entered the University of Georgia. By 1936, he had received his law degree and joined his father's law practice.

After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, Talmadge returned to his home in Lovejoy. While continuing to practice law and to farm, Talmadge took over publishing his father's weekly newspaper, The Statesman, and started a ham-curing business.

Talmadge's first involvement in politics was as his father's campaign manager in 1946. Running for an unprecedented fourth term as governor of Georgia, Eugene Talmadge was elected in November 1946, but was in failing health. As a precaution, a small group of Talmadge supporters started a write-in campaign for Herman Talmadge during the general election. When the elder Talmadge died in December 1946, before being sworn in as governor, the Georgia General Assembly elected his son governor by a vote of 161 to 87. But outgoing Governor Ellis Arnall refused to surrender his office unless it was to elected-Lieutenant Governor Melvin E. Thompson. After a period of uncertainty, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional portion under which the General Assembly had elected Herman Talmadge did not apply. The court declared M. E. Thompson acting governor until a special election could be held. In September 1948, Talmadge was elected governor and re-elected in 1950, serving until January 1955.

As governor, Herman Talmadge concentrated on improving educational opportunities for children of all races by establishing youth centers, increasing construction of rural roads, and building additional hospitals and health care centers.

When Senator Walter George officially announced his decision not to run for United States Senate, Talmadge started campaigning to take his place. Once again he was opposed by M. E. Thompson, but defeated him in the Democratic primary. With no Republican opposition in the general election in November 1956, Talmadge was elected United States senator.

The civil rights movement of the 1950s ultimately effected equal rights legislation for African-Americans and eliminated segregated public facilities in the South. Although progress toward integrating public schools was achieved, a majority of whites in the South remained adamant in their resistance to desegregation.

As part of that majority, Talmadge had voiced his opposition as early as the 1948 Democratic Convention when President Harry Truman tried to add civil rights to the platform. And in response to the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, Talmadge authored a book in 1955 about the wisdom of segregated education entitled You and Segregation.

When Talmadge officially began his term as the junior senator from Georgia in January 1957, he immediately joined the other Southern Democrats in their fight against civil rights legislation. "I never read a civil rights bill that didn't destroy more constitutional rights that it purported to give any group."

In response to the crisis of integrating Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, Talmadge proposed a constitutional amendment in 1959 that would have permitted the state and local governments to decide whether or not to keep their schools segregated. This proposal was the first acknowledgment from a southern senator that Brown vs. Board of Education was an established fact.

Having won a seat on the Agriculture Committee in 1957, Talmadge wielded his greatest influence on bills that affected American farmers and agriculture. By 1971, he had become chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Some of his major accomplishments in this area included guiding passage of a series of acts, which established price support programs for peanuts, cotton, wheat, and other commodities.

Talmadge probably achieved his greatest national prominence through his role on the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, which investigated the Watergate scandal and ultimately led to the resignation of the president and vice president of the United States, as well as the conviction of three cabinet members on felony charges. Talmadge thought that the Watergate investigation was one of the most important events in the history of the United States and demonstrated that a republican form of government has a way of correcting the conduct of public officials and alerting others not to make the same mistake.

At the same time he was gaining national recognition, Talmadge was besieged by a series of personal and political tragedies. In 1975, his son Robert drowned in a swimming accident at Lake Lanier; by the fall of 1977, Betty and Herman Talmadge had finalized their divorce; then, in 1978, Talmadge came to grips with a serious drinking problem. Following an alcohol treatment program at the naval hospital in Long Beach, California, he returned to Washington, ready to work, but met with scandal instead. Shortly after returning to the Capitol, Talmadge was accused of misappropriating office funds and campaign donations for his own personal use. The Senate Ethics Committee investigated the allegations and recommended that Talmadge be "denounced" for his reprehensible behavior and sentenced to reimburse the Senate for these controversial funds with interest.

Despite these problems, Talmadge sought his fifth term as senator in 1980, but was rejected by Georgia voters who chose to elect Mack Mattingly to replace him, the first Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction.

Serving twenty-four years in the United States Senate, Talmadge ranked fifth in seniority among Senate Democrats and seventh overall by the time he left office. Herman Talmadge passed away on March 21, 2002. He is survived by his one son, grandchildren, and wife Linda.

Scope and Content

The Pre-Gubernatorial subgroup consists of the subject files for The Statesman and includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material and photographs. Materials relate to letters to the editor, elections in Georgia and his father, Eugene Talmadge, religion, taxes, communism, and African Americans.

Organization and Arrangement

Subgroup A: Pre-gubernatorial reflects Talmadge's editorial work on The Statesman.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Preferred Citation

Herman E. Talmadge Collection, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia.

Processing Notes

Clippings have been copied onto bond paper for protection of content. Artifacts, photographs, books, and audiovisual materials have been separated for preservation purposes and inventoried.

User Restrictions

Library acts as "fair use" reproduction agent.

Copyright Information

Before material from collections at the Richard B. Russell Library may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permissions. Persons wishing to quote from materials in the Russell Library collection should consult the Director. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

General note

The Georgia Department of Archives and History in Atlanta maintains the official papers of Governor Herman Talmadge.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2008.


Related Materials

Access Points

African Americans--Civil rights--Georgia.
African Americans--Civil rights--United States.
Civil rights--United States.
Political campaigns--Georgia.
Speeches.
United States--Politics and government--1951-
United States--Race relations.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

 

Subgroup A: Pre-Gubernatorial

Extent: 3 boxes (1.5 linear feet)
Scope and Content: Prior to his election as governor of Georgia, Herman Talmadge practiced law, farmed, took over publishing his father's weekly newspaper, The Statesman, and started a ham-curing business. Talmadge's first involvement in politics was as his father's gubernatorial campaign manager in 1946. The Pre-Gubernatorial subgroup consists of the subject files for The Statesman and includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed material and photographs. Materials relate to letters to the editor, elections in Georgia and his father, Eugene Talmadge, religion, taxes, communism, and African Americans. Arrangement is alphabetical.
BoxFolder
11Letters to the Editor, 1946-1948
12-3Labor, 1946-1947
14Negro [empty], 1946-1947
15Negro, 1946-1947
16School, 1946-1949
17Bible—Religion, 1947
18Correspondence with Fields Whatley, 1948
BoxFolder
21-2Communist, 1945-1953
23Veterans’ Matters, 1946-1948
24Vote—Returns, 1946-1948
25Tributes to Eugene Talmadge, 1942-1954
26Speeches (Two Governor Controversy), 1947
27Taxes, 1945-1948
28Campaign, 1946
BoxFolder
31Legislative Election, 1947
32Herman Talmadge—Pictures [photographs removed], undated
33Macon News (Life of Eugene Talmadge), 1950
34Eugene Talmadge Statements, 1945-1947