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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

County unit system in Georgia prevents the labor movement from gaining political power

Burgess recalls the political training he received in Atlanta. Because of Georgia's county unit system, sparsely populated rural areas controlled state politics. As a result, the county unit amendment impeded the growth of the labor movement's power.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BILL FINGER:
Did a right-to-work law pass while you were there? And when did they pass it?
DAVID BURGESS:
Later.
BILL FINGER:
Later.
DAVID BURGESS:
But, it was a vicious situation. Senator Talmadge, and you had Senator, I mean, you had Governor Talmadge and then Governor Griffin. And, you know, with the county unit system, we hardly had a fighting chance. But I did all the work for the A.F. of L. then too. Lucy Randolph Mason was traveling all over the South. John Ramsey, who is from North Carolina now, was sort of the minister, the representative of the religious community in the South for Operation Dixie.
BILL FINGER:
Is he retired?
DAVID BURGESS:
Yes, he lives in Burnsville, North Carolina. And John and I became very close. Those Atlanta years were tremendous in terms of political education. Jones was later killed in the Paris accident of a plane in 1961. He and his wife and sixty other Atlantans were killed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, yes.
DAVID BURGESS:
We ran Baxter Jones and we actually helped to amass more votes for Jones than the incumbant Congressman James Davis got. Because of the county unit system in three counties, Davis won. And in '54 we ran Mooris Abram. He didn't win a popular majority but he was later the major lawyer arguing successfully against the county unit system before the Supreme Court. Then he moved to New York as a prominent lawyer, was president of Brandeis University later. So we had, I would say, a real coalition in Atlanta, but we were hindered by the county unit system, in terms of political power.