Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection, OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl VogtRichard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection, OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl Vogt

Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection, OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl Vogt

Descriptive Summary

Title: Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection, OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl Vogt
Creator: Townsend, Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, 1918-2008, 1916
Creator: Vogt, Sheryl
Dates: 2006 November 17
Extent: 1.0 interview
Collection Number: RBRL/175/OHD
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: Richard B. Russell Library Director Sheryl Vogt interviews Kil Townsend about his life as a lawyer, businessman, author, and maverick Republican legislator in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1965 to 1992. Townsend discusses his early work developing the Republican Party in Georgia and supporting Repblican candidates such as Eisenhower and Bo Callaway. Townsend also discusses the careers of Dick Freeman and Rodney Cook and his initial run for the newly created Buckhead seat in the State House. He explains how his support of seating Julian Bond invited racially-focused criticism from early Georgia Republicans. Townsend reflects on his legislative fights regarding pensions, abortion, infrastructure, and teachers. He discusses the large number of counties in Georgia, how the county unit system influenced that number, and efforts to consolidate counties in Georgia. Townsend comments on being reelected, campaign contributions, and mobile home manufacturing. Townsend reflects on current affairs issues such as the wars in the Middle East, party politics in America, and international trade.

Collection Description

Biographical note

Kiliaen Van Rensselaer Townsend was born in Garden City, Long Island, New York, on October 6, 1918. A graduate of Williams College and the University of Virginia Law School, he served in the Counter Intelligence Corps, and after World War II settled in Atlanta. He became a member of the Georgia Bar and was an associate at Dorsey and Dorsey. In the early 1950s his Dixie Radiant Glass Heat corporation introduced electric heat in homes and hotels in the Atlanta area, and his Atlanta Motor Lodges corporation was, in the early 1960s, Atlanta’s biggest hotel motel chain. Townsend had been active in Republican party politics in Georgia since the party reactivated in the state in 1947, and organized the first Eisenhower for President Committee in the country, with the help of Bobby Jones. He continued to be active in the campaigns of outsider Republican/conservative presidential candidates for the rest of his life, including Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and John McCain. In 1965 he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, becoming one of the first Republicans in the House since Reconstruction. Often seen as a maverick, he advocated for the reform of Pardons and Paroles, the homeless, and the consolidation of Georgia’s 159 counties. In 1992 Townsend retired as the longest-serving Republican in the legislature. He became an educational consultant, authoring two books, The Boarding School Guide and The College Comparison Guide. Kil Townsend died in 2008 at the age of 89.

Scope and Content

Part 1: Kil Townsend discusses his early life in Long Island, New York, and his family's success prior to the Great Depression. He recalls attending Duke, Williams, and the University of Virginia Law School. Townsend comments on working for U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Parker as a clerk to the Army before enlisting.

Townsend reflects on moving to Atlanta and starting his own heating glass business. He discusses his involvement with the Republican Party starting in 1947. Townsend recalls the encouragement from Elbert Tuttle and Bob Snodgrass to spearhead the creation and expansion of the Republican Party in Georgia. He discusses campaigning for Eisenhower and attempting to solicit the support of Robert Woodruff and Bob Jones. Townsend recalls the circumstances surrounding the Republican Convention where he attempted to nominate Eisenhower to run for president.

Townsend dicusses the positions of Republicans and Democrats during the 1950s and comments on their contemporary ideological reversal. He recalls working for Bo Callaway's campaign for congress and his campaign for governor against Arnall and Maddox.

Part 2: Townsend discusses the careers of Dick Freeman and Rodney Cook and his initial run for the newly created Buckhead seat in the State House. He explains how his support of seating Julian Bond invited racially-focused criticism from early Georgia Republicans. Townsend reflects on his legislative fights regarding pensions, abortion, infrastructure, and teachers. He discusses the large number of counties in Georgia, how the county unit system influenced that number, and efforts to consolidate counties in Georgia. Townsend comments on being reelected, campaign contributions, and mobile home manufacturing.

Townsend reflects on current affairs issues such as the wars in the Middle East, party politics in America, and international trade.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Preferred citation

Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection, OHD 010, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.

Copyright Information

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.

Finding Aid Publication

Finding aid prepared by Russell staff, 2013.


Related Materials

Access Points

Audiovisual.
County unit system
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Oral histories.
Republican Party (Ga.)

Related Collections in this Repository

Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl Vogt video, part 1 (Extent: 62.0 minutes ) Access Online
OHD 010 Kil Townsend interviewed by Sheryl Vogt video, part 2 (Extent: 92.0 minutes ) Access Online