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Author: Talmadge, Herman, interviewee
Interview conducted by Egerton, John
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
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Sound recordings digitized by Steve Weiss and Aaron Smithers
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2006.
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Languages used in the text: English
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2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
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Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990. Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0347)
Author: John Egerton
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990. Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0347)
Author: Herman Talmadge
Description: 92.1 Mb
Description: 29 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 8, 1990, by John Egerton; recorded in Hampton, Georgia.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Herman Talmadge, November 8, 1990.
Interview A-0347. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Talmadge, Herman, interviewee


Interview Participants

    HERMAN TALMADGE, interviewee
    MRS. TALMADGE, interviewee
    JOHN EGERTON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JOHN EGERTON:
[I'm talking with former Governor and Senator Herman E. Talmadge]. . . Democrat of Georgia, now retired, living near Jonesboro, Georgia. Interviewed of Friday, November 8, 1990. I just thought maybe we could talk about a few things. You're a survivor, you know. A sort of a revolution has gone on in the South since 1945 or so.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I survived until '80, and then I got beat [Laughter].
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, but you're still hale and hearty, and you're enjoying your life. You've got some good bird dogs out there, I see.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I think I got my mother's genes. She lived to be a 101.
JOHN EGERTON:
Your mother did? Is that right? That's amazing. I wonder, when you think back on all that's happened in the South since the end of the war really. I mean that's when the huge change. . . .
[Interruption]
So much has happened. You go back and you start reading newspapers and magazines, and you just think, gosh, either I didn't know all this happened or I'd forgotten it. It was just so much.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Passes gradually and you don't notice it like you would if it just suddenly jumped out of it. . . .from being blindfolded. It's been phenomenal really.

Page 2
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you a little bit about earlier on. You came out of the service, didn't you, in about '45?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Could you give me just a little bit of the background, your military background?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Sure. I was commissioned in naval intelligence as an ensign in April, 1941. I was called to active duty in the intelligence office in Atlanta in September, 1941. I'd been trained for cable sensor work in New York, and shortly after the Japs hit Pearl Harbor on December 7, I was transferred to my mobilization assignment, which was 67 Broad Street, New York, which was central intelligence and cable [inaudible].
JOHN EGERTON:
How old were you at that time?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I was born in '13, so I was 27 years old.
JOHN EGERTON:
Twenty-seven years old. Out of college a few years? Out of law school?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
That's right. Had been practicing law, just started practicing law in Atlanta. Then I got fed up with cable sensor work in New York, and I requested combat duty. They sent me to the first midshipman's school at Northwestern University about the middle of '42. In that same class was Robert Taft, Jr. After I finished midshipman's school, they tried to teach us the fundamentals that you learn in the Naval Academy in four years in sixty or ninety days, I've forgotten. Then they assigned me to a ship that was under construction in California, the USS Tryon. It was a disguised hospital ship. The Japanese paid no attention to the Geneva Convention, so while it was a hospital ship, we

Page 3
were heavily armed for an auxiliary and could fight, or pretended to, and auxiliaries did. They really weren't equipped for much battle, but they did have guns and things of that nature. I served as a division officer on her, and then was transferred from that to New Zealand, where I became aide to Commodore Jolly, Flag Secretary down there, afterwards Transportation Officer in New Zealand. After I had been in the South Pacific for twenty-two and a half months, they sent me home for twenty days leave, as I recall, in a precommissioning detail at Rhode Island, New York. Afterwards, I was made Prospective Executive Officer on an attack transport, APA 97. When the ship [Interruption.] was commissioned, we acted as auxiliary training ship afloat for the Atlantic Fleet at Newport, Rhode Island, for about sixty days. We'd take details out for a week and run them through the routine that similar auxiliaries and attack transports experienced, and let them stand watches along side our men. I went to the South Pacific then and was engaged in the campaign for the Philippines, and I participated in landing the first cavalry division in Tokyo Bay, while McArthur was dictating the surrender ceremonies. Then after the war was over, I had far more points than I needed to be demobilized, so I came back and was placed on inactive duty about November, '45. I served a total of 52 months. Went in as an ensign and came out as a lieutenant commander.
JOHN EGERTON:
So you were back in Georgia then at the beginning of '46, and back in law practice and interested in politics?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
That's right. I had come back just shortly before my father engaged in his last campaign for governor in '46.

Page 4
JOHN EGERTON:
And do I have it right that up until about 1940, governors served two year terms and could succeed themselves, and that got changed. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Ellis Arnall was the first four year governor.
JOHN EGERTON:
First four-year governor and he could not succeed himself.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
That's correct.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then the '46 campaign which turned into that kind of musical chairs. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
For governor, right.
JOHN EGERTON:
The two governor thing.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
My father died, and the legislature elected me and I went through the courts. I won two out of three court decisions from the lower courts, and lost the state Supreme Court decision five to two. Then I vacated the office, and then I announced I'd carry it to the people and won the unexpired term of my Daddy in 1948.
JOHN EGERTON:
Which means a two-year term, again, was in effect. That election was for two years.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Right. The unexpired term of Eugene Talmadge, that's what I served.
JOHN EGERTON:
Right. And that did not disqualify you to run for a four-year term.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
For reelection, right.
JOHN EGERTON:
So in 1950 you ran for. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I was elected for a full four-year term.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then were you elected to the Senate in '54?

Page 5
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Had a two year hiatus. I was elected to the Senate in '56.
JOHN EGERTON:
In the '50 campaign, when you won the full term, as well as '48, some of the reading that I've done indicates to me that Governor Arnall might well have challenged you. Could he have legally challenged you in '48 for that, or would he have been ineligible to run?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He would have been ineligible in '48. He would have been eligible in '50.
JOHN EGERTON:
But he didn't make any go for it, did he?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No, he did not. We had the acting governor, or rather M.E. Thompson was sitting as acting governor, and the Arnall group and the Rivers group supported Thompson.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did it surprise you some that Arnall never really made a serious run again for governor?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No, it would have been impossible for Arnall to challenge Thompson because he was acting as governor and he was a member of the Arnall faction. So it would have divided their forces irrevocably. Now, if Thompson had stood aside and let Arnall on, it would have been different.
JOHN EGERTON:
Knowing what you know now about all that has happened since 1954 Brown decision and all the civil rights stuff and everything, do you think, if you had it to do over, you'd do anything any different than you did while you were governor? Particularly about your governor's time, I'm not thinking about the senator.

Page 6
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I'm sure there would have been some particular things I would have done different. What are you referring to?
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, I'm thinking, for example, about the white primary?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No, I wouldn't have been elected if I'd done different.
JOHN EGERTON:
You wouldn't have had a chance?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Not a snowball's chance in hell.
JOHN EGERTON:
Some people would have said the same thing about Arnall with respect to the poll tax, but he went ahead and took it on.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No, that was not the issue of the white primary at all.
JOHN EGERTON:
Didn't have the emotional impact?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
In fact, my father supported repealing the poll tax.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did he?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the people were probably in favor of repealing the poll tax, but at that time probably 10-15% of the white people were in favor of repealing the Democrat white primary.
JOHN EGERTON:
So you had a solid 85% white mandate?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Not that many votes because people don't vote directly on issues, but the sentiment of the people was about 85%.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's pretty hard for a politician to ignore, isn't it, if he wants to stay in business?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, if you want to challenge it, just don't run for public office. Resort to the courts.
JOHN EGERTON:
During that time, a great many whites, and you yourself, used to say, "The problems that we have in this region, we can work out. And if the federal government will not

Page 7
interfere in this, we will work them out." How long do you think it might have taken for us to have come to grips with this?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Actually by the time we passed the civil rights bill [1964 and 1965], any black that wanted to vote in Georgia was registered and did vote. As a matter of fact, during my father's race in 1946 probably 130,000 blacks voted in that primary. By the time I ran in '48, probably 200,000 blacks voted. We didn't pass the Civil Rights Act until the '60s. By that time, virtually any black that wanted to vote in Georgia was voting. Now, breaking down segregation would have taken a little longer. They were beginning to make some inroads in the cities, but not in the rural areas. It probably would have taken another 25 years on segregation.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah. Would it have been a good route to go, do you think? I mean, you felt it pretty strongly then.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, it would have prevented lots of turmoil and everything else that we did have. 'Course, the route that we should have gone, when they passed the Fourteenth Amendment, that really was the basis of all these so-called rights and still is. At that time, we ought not to have ever had segregated schools, segregation in the South. Once you adopt a pattern and a mold of conduct with all of the laws involved, including your Constitution, and it's been in being for over a 100 years, people don't change their habits.
JOHN EGERTON:
They really don't. I've done some reading, too, back in that period of time, and the laws really came into place between about 1877 and the turn of the century.

Page 8
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Right. As a matter of fact, we didn't have the white primary law in Georgia, I don't think, until about 1917.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, it was after the turn of the century.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Called Neil's Primary Act. They had done it, though, by resolution in the Democrat Party prior to that. But blacks voted in elections up until, I guess, the early 20th century.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then you had 30 or 40 years where it was just. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
That's right. What made the people so mad and disgusted them so, see, the blacks had, unfortunately, a lower level of education than whites, and they would vote, say, 10,000 votes in Augusta, Georgia, and the results would be 9,995. Just like voting cattle or pine trees, and that's the reason they disfranchised the blacks. [Richard] Daley [of Chicago] in his heyday couldn't muster the votes that they did in those days, black vote. Manipulated, bought and sold, just like cattle. That probably had more to do with disfranchising them than their color, really.
JOHN EGERTON:
Prior to the Brown decision, that was in '54, those cases were in the lower courts for about three years. And even before that, there were some higher education rulings. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
A ruling in Texas on the university system that antedated the voting issue.
JOHN EGERTON:
And some of those went back quite some time. Looking back on that now, it seems to me that people surely must have seen this coming. And yet when I talk to people, regardless of their point of view on whether they think Brown was good or bad, they still say they were shocked when Brown came down.

Page 9
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I tried to anticipate it to some degree with my [inaudible] and my building authority. When I took the governor's office in '48, there was inequality in teachers' salaries between whites and blacks. I equalized that. There was woeful inequality in the schools between whites and blacks.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, the buildings and all of that.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I had a mammoth school building authority. We built more schools in Georgia than any state in the union except New York and California. Each one of those states had about three times our population and much higher per capita income. I did that to try to equalize the opportunity for blacks and whites. When I took office, the white children were riding school buses to school, and the black children were walking. I changed all that. I equalized the salaries, I put them in school buses, and I put them in good buildings. Frankly, part of that was to try to stave off the threat of integrated schools. It didn't work.
JOHN EGERTON:
Could it have worked?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Looking back on it in hindsight, it could not have worked, probably with the lawsuits. Looking back on it in hindsight, it was the proper thing to do regardless of motive. When they passed the Fourteenth Amendment, following the War Between the States, they ought to have broken down the barrier of segregation at that time.
JOHN EGERTON:
Right then, yeah.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Then we'd have never had the problem that we had in the courts, and the local level, and everything else.

Page 10
JOHN EGERTON:
It was your responsibility, and it fell on you to deal with the whole notion of the law said separate but equal, the courts were about. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
And the people said that, too.
JOHN EGERTON:
And the people said that, and the courts were about to say something else.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I was between the people and the courts, really.
JOHN EGERTON:
From an economic standpoint, leaving aside the politics and all that, do you think Georgia could have supported two separate school systems that would have ever been adequate in the larger scheme of things?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, we did in those days. Strangely enough, more money we spend on education, the worst the SAT scores get. So there's a hell of lot more to schools than just money. I found that out when I was governor. It takes an apt teacher and an apt pupil to have a good school. You can do it under the shade of a pine tree, if you've got that. But the main problem with education today is the fact that we've had a complete breakdown in discipline in this country. It's true in the homes. It's true in the schools. We don't use the rod any more. They used that freely when I was a student, and I needed every whipping I ever got, too, and they all helped me. We've had a complete breakdown of discipline in the homes and the schools and the workplace and even in the military. That's the problem with education today.

Page 11
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, there's no doubt that a whole lot has changed in this society, and right now, I think everybody's got an uneasy feeling that nobody knows quite how to get it back on track.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
We've got to restore discipline, and I don't know quite how to do it.
JOHN EGERTON:
But prior to Brown, were you shocked by that ruling? Did you go along thinking that it would never happen?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I knew what the decisions of the court had ruled. The latest one that I recall, I believe was 1896, and I think it was full-bench [unanimous] decision. I knew that it was not unheard of to reverse decisions, but I thought in a matter that fundamental that the courts would be pretty slow about it. And the real shock that I got was [Chief Justice Earl] Warren got a unanimous decision.
JOHN EGERTON:
Nine to nothing. And Plessy, the 1896. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Plessy v. Ferguson was 1896.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was seven to one. Charles Evans Hughes, I think, was the only dissenter. So that was virtually unanimous. This was a complete turnaround.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
It was a judicial revolution and a political revolution really.
JOHN EGERTON:
And yet by the time Roosevelt had put. . . .
[Interruption]
We were talking about that period of time right in the early '50s when the cases were in court and whatnot, and Brown was unanimous. That was really the shock for a lot of people, I think.

Page 12
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I wouldn't have been so surprised if it had been 5 to 4 decision, but unanimous was. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you about Ralph McGill. He opposed you pretty much through the time you were governor.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He opposed some of my philosophy. I'm not sure that Ralph McGill didn't vote for me. Our personal relationship was good, and he had many kind things to say about me personally in his editorials. We violently disagreed on the segregation issue.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, but up until Brown. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was a strong segregationist.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, he was.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Fact, everybody was but about 10%, as I told you. Ralph was the personification of liberalism in Georgia, and he was a segregationist also. Old Tennessee hillbilly which makes it natural.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's right. And when he changed his mind on that is when Brown came down. His view, which I think historically, you'd have to say, was the correct view, was I don't care whether I like this or not, this is now what our constituted system says.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was just way ahead of public opinion on that issue.
JOHN EGERTON:
And from that time on, he caught a lot of flak.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He did.
JOHN EGERTON:
Because he stuck to. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
In fact, he was hated for two or three years by most white people.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was your view of him in that crucial time right after '54?

Page 13
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, our personal relationship was cordial. My first campaign against M. E. Thompson, we had a debate. We didn't have television at that time, and he [McGill] was the moderator. He handled it extremely well, fair to all sides. He said many very kind things about me in his editorial columns. The only thing we basically differed on, as I recall, was the white primary and segregation.
JOHN EGERTON:
As you look back on it now, would you concede that he was historically right?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
With perspective hindsight, yeah. He antedated public opinion about eight or ten years.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you have admiration for him for taking that position?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh sure. I attended his funeral.
JOHN EGERTON:
Pretty lonely position there for a while, wasn't it?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
Because, as you say, he was bucking 80% or more of the white opinion.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, the tide of public opinion. He was a very courageous man, and a very fine writer. Strangely enough, now, my father's relationships with Ralph McGill was very cordial. They got along fine.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Ellis Arnall? Did you have a good personal relationship with him?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
After I got in the Senate, Ellis and I developed into a good, close friendship. When I ran for reelection to the Senate

Page 14
in 1962, the first contribution I got, $500.00, was from Ellis Arnall.
JOHN EGERTON:
Is that right? He was identified as a liberal in the '40s.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was ahead of his time.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was he a segregationist liberal, the same way as Ralph McGill was?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I'll tell you what he said [Laughter] in his opening campaign speech against my Daddy in 1942. The race issue was involved there. He was opening his campaign down in Newnan. He said the white people in Coweta County know what to do if a black tries to go to school in [inaudible] County. So he was threatening them with lynching [Laughter]. That was his view in '42. Then when he got to be governor, and I think got political ambitions nationally—Roosevelt, you know, had a way of picking out some eight or ten governors, leading them to believe they were going to be on the ticket for vice president, and I think Ellis got the political bug at that time. Got more in tune with the national agenda than with public opinion in the state.
JOHN EGERTON:
But you don't interpret that as being reflective of his personal views?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't want to say exactly what his personal views were, but as long as he was in Georgia politics, I know what his personal views were.
JOHN EGERTON:
They were essentially segregationist?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah, when he got in national politics, maybe he had a change of heart.

Page 15
JOHN EGERTON:
Here's a question I've wondered about a lot. When '48 came, you were running for governor. Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright bolted the Democratic Party, went off on their own, and you never blinked an eye. I never saw anything in the record to indicate that you even thought about going with them. Why not?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I knew it was a futile effort. Third parties had no chance, and I had already been nominated for governor on the Democratic ticket. I knew I had four years ahead of me to govern this state, and I didn't want to make a blind end run for something like that. So I stayed away from it. Strom Thurmond was a cousin of mine. My mother was. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Is that right? Did you lend any visible or even token support to Franklin Roosevelt in that election, I'm sorry, Harry Truman in that election?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Stayed out it completely. Georgia went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket. Had I gotten involved, possibly I could have carried the state for Strom Thurmond, but I didn't attempt to do so.
JOHN EGERTON:
Over next door in Alabama. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
It went for Thurmond. South Carolina went for Thurmond, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.
JOHN EGERTON:
In Alabama, even though Jim Folsom was the governor, and was, you know, pretty far more toward the left than. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was a real liberal, yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
And yet they couldn't even get the Democratic Party on the ballot in Alabama. How do you read all that? I mean, that was a real salad bowl of mixed up stuff that year, wasn't it?

Page 16
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes, it was.
JOHN EGERTON:
But your conviction was that you could steer a course independent of the national Democratic Party and the Dixiecrats?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I didn't steer any course. I just was the Democratic nominee and making plans to take office. I didn't participate in the general presidential elections at all.
JOHN EGERTON:
I see. Would you characterize your views at that time as being identical or similar to those of [the Dixiecrats]?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, they were sympathetic with Thurmond, but I knew it was a useless chase. I believe that they call it Don Quixote chasing windmills. I didn't want to get involved in it.
JOHN EGERTON:
During your first term, well, let's see, from the time you were elected, you really went into the governor's office to be governor, really, in '48, didn't you? I mean, that was when you were elected.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes sir, immediately after the general election in '48. I took office in November of '48.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was the reason for that, rather than in the spring of '49?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Serving the unexpired term of my Daddy. See, I wasn't elected for a regular term.
JOHN EGERTON:
I see, right.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
M.E. Thompson was acting governor only, and the constitution provided he would serve until the next general election. Then when I was elected, I took office. Now, the rest of the ticket didn't take office until the next January.

Page 17
JOHN EGERTON:
The whole white primary thing was the big issue of that period then, wasn't it?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
And your feeling was, as you said, you really felt you had no choice?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Not if I wanted to be in the political arena in the state. And those were my views at that time, too. My views politically and my views personally.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think of that now?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Anyone who has studied carefully the Reconstruction history of Georgia would have similar views, without the present experience.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, as you think back on it now, do you have any regrets about that? Do you wish you had maybe seen it a different way?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No sir, if I had, I'd been a private citizen and never served as governor or senator.
JOHN EGERTON:
During that time, a couple of people whose names show up in the newspaper clippings, I wanted to ask you about. One was a professor at the University of Georgia, named James Barfoot or Barfield, something like that, and in '48 he was sort of a liberal guy, and he announced for office on the Henry Wallace ticket and got fired at the university. Do you remember anything about him? And a Baptist preacher named Joseph Rabun?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes.

Page 18
JOHN EGERTON:
And he also ran for political office. What do you remember about him? I'd never heard of him before until I ran across this.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Joe Rabun was pastor of my Daddy's church at McRae, Georgia, my home county, and my father's hometown. When my father was running for governor, he [Rabun] involved in the campaign, speaking out against my Daddy. Naturally my father's preacher in a small town in south Georgia, Daddy told me the press played it up as though it was the second coming of Christ. [Interruption]
Rabun was constantly in the press. He's a great man. Nobody ever heard of him prior to that.
JOHN EGERTON:
I'd never heard of him until. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Being pastor of Gene Talmadge's church and opposing Gene Talmadge made him a hero immediately in the eyes of some. So he didn't last very long at the church. He was unchurched, and as I recall, maybe ran against me in '48, as I remember, or tried to.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, but he ran for something. I think maybe he ran for the Senate. I can't remember now.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Anyway, I got him a job when he was unchurched in Atlanta, I've forgotten what it was.
JOHN EGERTON:
You got him a job in state government?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
No, some private industry job. I've forgotten the details.
JOHN EGERTON:
Why'd you do that?

Page 19
HERMAN TALMADGE:
'Cause he was hungry [Laughter]. I've lost contact with him completely.
JOHN EGERTON:
I understand he died. I asked somebody about him.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He never did preach anymore. I've forgotten the job I got for him. It was something in private industry.
JOHN EGERTON:
Some of your other contemporaries while you were governor were Folsom in Alabama. What'd you think of him?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Folsom was an attractive fellow. Sort of like—I don't like to compare a man with a dog—but that's the best analogy. You've got some dogs that you're particularly fond of. You know all of his weaknesses, and you don't want any bastard picking on him. That's the way I felt [Laughter] about Jim Folsom.
JOHN EGERTON:
He had a lot of weaknesses.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He had lots of limitations, but he was an attractive fellow. I didn't want anybody picking on him, just like I wouldn't want you to go out there and whip my puppy [Laughter]. That's the way I felt about Jim.
JOHN EGERTON:
On this whole issue of politics and ideology, was he a real liberal?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was he an integrationist?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I think he was. He supported Henry Wallace and all that sort of business over in Alabama.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Sid McMath over in Arkansas?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Sid was a liberal. He was a Truman fellow. I don't know what his views were on integration.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Earl Long?

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HERMAN TALMADGE:
He knew Earl well. Earl was a liberal governor. I don't know what his views were on integration.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, I think about all these people in this particular period of time because, again, hindsight is always so crystal clear. Looking at this period now from '45 to '50, it strikes me as kind of a golden opportunity for the South to kind of fix its on social wagon on its own terms. And it kept on saying right on into the '50s and '60s, "if y'all will leave us alone, we can work this out." Now, when I look at that period, '45 to '50, and there was this sort of new spirit of possibility as a result of victory in the war and the economy changing and people having been out into the world and come back, whites and blacks alike, and with a few people to just say, "Why don't we fix it now? Why don't we just go ahead and make some changes, allow some political rights, try to really fund the schools to where they're equal? Maybe not attack the whole segregation issue head on, but. . . ."
HERMAN TALMADGE:
We did that, except the segregation issue. Starting with my building authority, equalizing teachers' salaries, put them in school buses. For all practical purposes, when I left office in 1955, the school system was equal in Georgia for whites and blacks.
JOHN EGERTON:
Anyway, this is just kind of a theory of mine, I guess. You don't see that period of time as a missed opportunity, do you?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, the first governor that was elected, up as late as Jimmy Carter, he was elected on George Wallace's coattails.

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'Course, he changed his philosophy with his inaugural address and won up as president. But Georgia wasn't ready for overt integration at that time.
JOHN EGERTON:
All right, so we're talking nearly twenty-five years, aren't we, twenty to twenty-five years?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Even after Carter, people in Georgia elected Lester Maddox governor in 1966.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's right, that was after Carter.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
About 1970 when George Busby came along, was about the first time race was not an issue in this state.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's nearly twenty-five years.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
In the gubernatorial election. So that's '53 to '70, a period of. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
That's seventeen years, but we're really talking about from after the war.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
About twenty years, yeah. And even George Busby wouldn't have dared mention integration at that time.
JOHN EGERTON:
So what you're really saying is it happened as quick as it could have happened.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Just about that. You don't change mores and attitudes of people by law. It takes time and education.
JOHN EGERTON:
In light of that, would you, again, looking back on the Brown decision of the Supreme Court, would you see that as a tragic mistake or was it our salvation?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I don't see it as either. I see it as evolution of legal principles. Of course, the state slowly evolved, and the region, to accept it.

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JOHN EGERTON:
Was that a good direction for us to have moved historically?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, really, we should have started long before. We should have just started with the Fourteenth Amendment. It could have been done with ease then. We'd just lost the war, and they'd crammed it down our throat at the point of a bayonet. That'd been the time to do it.
JOHN EGERTON:
We kind of muddle along one way or another. Are we moving in the right direction?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
What respect are you talking about?
JOHN EGERTON:
Is this region, did the South, has it ended up being the South you wanted it to be, or is it falling short of that?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, this whole country is falling short of what I want it to be. The South, economically, I think is making more rapid advance than any section in the country.
JOHN EGERTON:
And maybe other ways, too?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
That's right, other ways too. But there's many shortcomings in our society today. 'Course, you can't change them. If I was a dictator, like with the power of Adolph Hitler, I'd probably do a lot of things. But when we see the work ethic destroyed, when we see morality destroyed in this country, when we see discipline destroyed, when we see fiscal sanity destroyed, it makes you wonder whether we're not in the last days of the Roman empire. Many parallels.
JOHN EGERTON:
We've certainly got some pretty, yeah, it's kind of chilling, isn't it, come to think about it? But I get back finally to the first question, the first thing I said to you.

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You're kind of a survivor. This revolution that's taken place right through your lifetime, you've lived through it. You're hale and hearty and able to look back on it and see all these changes that came to this region. Leaving aside the greater problems that we have, are you satisfied with what has become of the South? The South that we once had is certainly not here, but is the one that we do have. . . ?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
If you're talking about racial customs alone, yes. I just gave you my views of the whole nation, and that includes the South. We've gone downhill dreadfully in many respects in the last two decades. I don't know whether we can correct it or not.
JOHN EGERTON:
But on this racial thing, you feel like we've probably come out pretty well on that?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes, I think we have. All the dire predictions that many of us made, didn't come to pass.
JOHN EGERTON:
Which maybe says something about the character of southern people, white and black.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Actually, I'll tell you a story now about relationships between blacks and whites. My roommate on my first ship, the disguised hospital ship, was Mack Perry. He was also from Georgia. He was a newspaper man. He went to Mercer University. We had abroad our ship at that time what we called the S Division, which was the blacks.
JOHN EGERTON:
The S Division? Wonder what that stood for?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Cooks. Servants, really. They were cooks and chefs and cleaned up the officers' quarters and all like that. Every time one of those fellows, they all had Yankee division officers,

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they were supposed to go to the division officer when they had a problem. They didn't do it. Blacks from New York would come to either Perry or myself if they had a problem. They wouldn't go to his officer who was from New York or New Jersey or something like that. I have remarked on that to many people who served in the military in World War II. They told me the same damn thing was true in the army and all other branches of the service. Somehow, the blacks trusted a white southerner to try to help them. They figured that the white northerner would give them lip service only, which was true. Perry and I would try to help them. These other officer wouldn't. So there's always been a relationship there of trust between blacks and whites in the South. That's not true and wasn't true in other areas of the country, and I don't think it's true today. That's one reason Jimmy Carter was nominated by the Democratic Party, whenever it was, when he was elected president.
JOHN EGERTON:
1976.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Even though they figured he was a southern redneck, they figured they could trust him. 'Course, he wasn't portraying redneck views in those days. I don't know what that relationship is, but it's been historically true in this country.
JOHN EGERTON:
And in your view, still is?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
Certainly there are differences that are remarkable. When you just get out on the street, just in casual contact, relationships in the South are different than they are in other parts of the country. Senator, I've really enjoyed this.

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HERMAN TALMADGE:
Enjoyed seeing you. What do you do?
JOHN EGERTON:
I write.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Only write, and nothing else?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes sir. That's all I do.
[Interruption]
HERMAN TALMADGE:
When I was in college at the University of Georgia, Time magazine would come out Thursday afternoon. It cost 15 cents. I would take my 15 cents and go up to the store and buy me a Time magazine and read it from cover to cover.
JOHN EGERTON:
This would be in the late '30s?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah, early '30s. I finished law school in '36. I thought any man at that time that read Time magazine from cover to cover was reasonably well versed on current events, domestically and internationally. And then I got out of school and started reading Time magazine, a lot things, where I knew the facts. Lenin came in to see me when I was governor and wanted to know what I thought of Time magazine. I let him have it with both barrels. I told him the same story I've just told you. I said, "Now, when I see a Time magazine story about the South, I know that it's only a satire. It's written to be cute and to entertain. It doesn't have a damn, remote reality about the South." I said, "The greatest economic story that's going on in America today is in the industrialization of the South, and Time magazine hasn't had one damn word to say about it." About three weeks later, the Time cover was the industrialization of the South [Laughter]. I found out that that was true. Time tried to

Page 26
be cute, and I read it thereafter for entertainment only, not for facts.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, right. One more quick thing, I know your wife needs to ask you. . . .
[Interruption]
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He's a writer. He's published about eighteen books. This is going to come out in about two years. Going to talk about the transition of race relations in the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
You were at the University of Georgia in 1932 then?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah, '31 to '36.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you remember the night Franklin Roosevelt was elected?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yeah.
JOHN EGERTON:
Where were you that night? What anecdote can you recall about that night, election returns or anything?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I don't remember the details. Of course, it was a foregone conclusion at that time that Roosevelt would sweep the country.
JOHN EGERTON:
Were you active in politics yourself then as a student?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Only for my Daddy. He was governor at the time I was a student there. I started working in his campaigns in '32. Then I was a freshman.
JOHN EGERTON:
That was an election year?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was elected in '32, and my job was to advertise his speeches, one of my jobs. That was in the days when politicians went from courthouse to courthouse and faced the people and talked to them straight, instead of reading twenty second slogans

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over an idiot board. And the way we would advertise speeches, we'd take placards and nail them up on trees and country stores and courthouses and put little circulars in automobiles and hand them out on the streets. I walked into Cedartown, Georgia, one day. I was passing them out in these stores, you know. The meat markets in those days had sawdust on the floor, big old chopping block about four feet in diameter. The fellow would stand there with the meat cleaver and cut up the meat. I walked in and handed this fellow a circular. He was about 6'3" and looked like he weighed about 240. Looked at me, "I wouldn't vote for that Goddamn son-of-a-bitch for nothing!" So that was my introduction to politics [Laughter]. He was too big for me to hit. I didn't want to run, and I didn't want him to call my Daddy a son-of-a-bitch [Laughter], but I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I walked out with my tail between my legs [Laughter], and that was my introduction to politics.
JOHN EGERTON:
Wow. Did you see your Dad's campaign as being tied in any way to the Roosevelt thing?
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, everybody in the South, in the election that you are referring to. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
The '32 election.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
The election you're referring to, Georgia cast 90-some odd percent of its votes for Roosevelt. The Republicans in those days were the blacks, and what we call post office Republicans. That was some fellow that hoped he was going to be appointed post master or rural letter carrier [Laughter], and that was the reason he was Republican. The evolution of the Republican Party

Page 28
in Georgia started with Roosevelt reelection. The Republicans had been gaining strength every election thereafter. The philosophy of the. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
But in '32, it was pretty much a solid thing. I talked to. . . .
HERMAN TALMADGE:
I don't imagine you could have found a white man in Georgia that would have admitted publicly in '32 [Laughter] that he was against Roosevelt.
JOHN EGERTON:
I talked to Governor Coleman over in Mississippi not long ago, and he told me a very similar story. He was a freshman at the University of Mississippi that fall, and he told about listening to the election returns on the radio and how excited he was. He thinks of that as when he got into politics.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
When Coleman was elected governor, he came over here to study what we'd done in the schools to try to relate it to Mississippi.
MRS. TALMADGE:
Talking about race relations, I was a senior at the University of Georgia when the University of Georgia was integrated with Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter.
JOHN EGERTON:
Is that right? And Charlayne Hunter who's now on the nightly news.
MRS. TALMADGE:
I was a senior. And when the governor started talking about, going to close down the University of Georgia, I thought, this is ridiculous. Most people thought that there was no reason to have such a hullabaloo about two people wanting to come to school. Then I went to work with the Extension Service, and there had been a black extension service

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and a white one. I was in the middle of that integration, and that proved to be real interesting. It went smoothly where I happened to be.
JOHN EGERTON:
So much has happened, you know. It's very, very remarkable when you think about what changes we've gone through that we never dreamed we would. It's fascinating. Well, I've really enjoyed seeing you all.
HERMAN TALMADGE:
Good to see you.
END OF INTERVIEW