WAY WE WERE: When Augusta ruled the Governor’s Office

You could say 1964 was a pretty good year for Augusta when it came to state power politics and here’s a picture that shows it.

 

Most of you know the young executive on the phone behind the desk is Georgia’s chief executive — Gov. Carl Sanders.

He was an Augusta success story.

A star Richmond Academy athlete, World War II veteran, lawyer, then lawmaker, he would lead the state smoothly while other states faltered. Oh, and then there was this: He personally talked President Kennedy out of a decision to move Fort Gordon assets to New Jersey.

Every time you hear the word “cyber,” thank Carl Sanders.

It is not known what his telephone conversation is about, but it looks like the man in the middle might have one ear cocked to listen. That would be D. Douglas Barnard Jr.

Barnard was the governor’s executive secretary, but he was more than that. He and Sanders were childhood friends. They grew up together. They had a unique closeness that continued throughout their lives.

Like Sanders, Barnard had a law school degree, but he focused his post-World War career on banking, and was considered a valuable member of the Georgia Railroad Bank team.

He would leave Sanders’ side in 1966 to help another Augusta businessman, state lawmaker J.B. Fuqua, as vice president of Fuqua Industries. In a news story announcing his return to business, Barnard also said he had no interest in politics.

“I’ve enjoyed my stint in politics, especially when it revolved around a successful administration,” Barnard told The Chronicle. “I don’t expect to have any part in politics in the future, either elective or appointive.”

That didn’t last.

By the end of the year, Barnard was sworn in as the 10th District representative for the state Department of Transportation board. A decade later, he successfully ran for the U.S. Congress. He was the first Augustan to represent the district in seven decades and would go on to complete eight terms before retiring in 1993.

The third man, the tall figure on the right who looks vaguely like movie actor Donald Sutherland, is John Harper, Sanders’ press secretary. He joined the governor after an Augusta newspaper career that included roles as Chronicle city editor, managing editor and executive news editor.

When Barnard left the governor’s office for the Fuqua job, Harper quickly replaced him as executive secretary. Sanders must have valued his ability, because he soon nominated him to fill a vacancy on the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.

In the years ahead Harper would join a government consulting firm called Opinion Research Inc. He would return to Augusta, according to a 1968 news story, working on plans to reorganize its city and county governments.

Why not? It was a time when Augustans seemed to have the answer to everything.

Sanders would die in 2014. Harper passed away last July, and Barnard left us last month at age 95, all reminders of an era when Augusta was the Georgia power.

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Reach Bill Kirby at bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.

 

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