Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079 Max ClelandReflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079 Max Cleland

Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079 Max Cleland

Descriptive Summary

Title: Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079 Max Cleland
Creator: Cleland, Joseph Maxwell, 1942-
Dates: 2009 May 5
Extent: 1.0 interview
Collection Number: RBRL/220/ROGP
Repository: Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
Abstract: Joseph Maxwell Cleland first became interested in politics during his Washington Semester Program. In 1965, he was asked by Senator Richard B. Russell to become a congressional intern. Cleland then joined the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for valorous conduct in battle. At the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968, he was severely wounded by a grenade, resulting in the amputation of both legs and his right forearm. In 1971, he was elected as a Democrat to the Georgia Senate. In 1974, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor. From 1977 to 1981, he served as administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. In 1982, he ran a successful campaign for Georgia Secretary of State, and served in that office for fourteen years. In 1996, Senator Sam Nunn retired, and Cleland won Nunn’s seat. He lost his bid for reelection in 2002 to Saxby Chambliss. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as secretary of the American Battle Monuments. Cleland discusses the Vietnam War, the role of Georgia's secretary of state, and the current state of the military, both at home and abroad.

Collection Description

Biographical note

Joseph Maxwell Cleland was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 24, 1942. He grew up in Lithonia and graduated from Stetson University with a degree in history. He first became interested in politics during his Washington Semester Program. In 1965, he was asked by Senator Richard B. Russell to become a congressional intern. He received his masters from Emory University. Cleland then joined the U.S. Army and served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Silver Star for valorous conduct in battle. At the Battle of Khe Sanh in 1968, he was severely wounded by a grenade, resulting in the amputation of both legs and his right forearm. In 1971, he was elected as a Democrat to the Georgia Senate. In 1974, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor. From 1977 to 1981, he served as administrator of the U.S. Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. In 1982, he ran a successful campaign for Georgia secretary of state, and served in that office for fourteen years. In 1996, Senator Sam Nunn retired, and Cleland won Nunn’s seat. He lost his bid for reelection in 2002 to Saxby Chambliss. He then taught at American University, and campaigned for John Kerry in his 2004 presidential election. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as secretary of the American Battle Monuments.

Scope and Content

Max Cleland discusses growing up in Lithonia, Georgia, and watching his parents work during and after World War II. He recalls his time at Stetson University and registering for the draft and to vote.

Cleland recalls his growing interest in politics as a result of Stetson's Washington Semester Program. He also recalls working for Congressman Jim Mackey and his reaction to learning of John F. Kennedy's death while studying in the Capitol. Cleland also comments on Senator Russell's friendships with Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert C. Byrd, and Cleland himself.

Cleland discusses his time in Vietnam, the Tet offensive, and rescuing the Marines marooned at Khe Sanh. He recalls testifying on the lack of VA healthcare for returning Vietnam veterans. Cleland recalls meeting Jimmy Carter for the first time and introducing him to a campaign crowd. He recalls Carter's rivalry with Maddox.

Cleland talks about his unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor in 1974 and his subsequent work as the head of the Veteran's Administration. He comments on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and discusses the American economy. He also discusses the bureaucratic nature of security agencies in the United States.

Cleland discusses his friendship with Zell Miller and his campaign for the secretary of state. He also mentions Georgia's struggle with computerized voting machines in elections starting in 2001. Cleland recalls his campaign for U.S. Senate in 1995. He also discusses his failed 2002 reelection campaign and comments on the Republican politicians and the advertising that was stacked against him.

Cleland comments on party politics in Georgia and his friendship with Bill Clinton.


Administrative Information and Restrictions

Custodial History note

Reflections on Georgia Politics began in the fall of 2006 at Young Harris College, as a lecture and discussion program hosted by Georgia political veteran Bob Short. In late 2007, the Richard B. Russell Library began producing the program as an oral history video series to further illuminate and personalize the tectonic shifts that occurred in Georgia politics in the late twentieth century.

Preferred citation

Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 079, 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

Related Collections in this Repository

Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection

Max Cleland Papers

Related Collections in Other Repositories

Max Cleland Collection, Stetson University


Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

ROGP 079 Max Cleland video (Extent: 115.0 minutes ) Access Online
ROGP 079 Max Cleland transcript Access Online

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies
300 South Hull Street
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-1641