Originally created 03/22/02

Herman Talmadge



Herman Eugene Talmadge, the legendary Georgia politician whose long, colorful and questionable political career defined Georgia politics for decades, has died, but the story of his life and times - the good, the bad and the scandalous - will forever be etched on the history of Georgia.

Whether it was the storm of controversy that swirled around his political coup of the governorship, or his defiance of desegregation or the scandals involving cash gifts from supporters, Talmadge regularly got himself in and out of political trouble his entire career, chewing tobacco and smoking cigars all the way.

In 1980 his career in politics was snuffed out by Mack Mattingly, who won the seat Talmadge had held in the U.S. Senate for over two stormy decades.

Talmadge was arguably the most powerful politician the state has ever produced - brilliant, swaggering and hard-working.

But he also was an unapologetic segregationist, blocking an African-American student from entering the University of Georgia Law School in 1953.He later wrote a book about his philosophy on race, saying, "God advocates segregation."

Later, after the law had changed, he changed too. As a member and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, he did a lot for Georgia farmers and supported both the food stamp and school lunch programs. He served on the Senate Watergate Committee during the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. Morris Brown College named him Man of the Year in 1975.

He once told a reporter, "I've had more fool things happen to me than probably any living Georgian." That, his fighting spirit and his uncanny ability to stir the pot, is the stuff legends are made of.