Looking back, the 2002 fall elections in Augusta were more than just another opportunity to do one's civic duty.
It was the final act of a stage play that had its genesis nearly two decades earlier involving two local political icons.
One, Ed McIntyre, was seeking what would be his last shot at political redemption, to make up for his fall from grace when he was the most powerful black politician in Augusta.
The other, Charles Walker, who assumed the mantle relinquished by Mr. McIntyre, was testing his political power, confident that what some saw as hubris would not come back to bite him.
Neither got what he wanted.
Mr. McIntyre narrowly lost to Bob Young in the mayoral runoff election, getting 48 percent of the vote. Nearly three weeks earlier, Mr. Walker lost his state Senate seat to Republican newcomer Randy Hall, most of it attributable to the then-Senate majority leader allowing his district to be redrawn from one predominantly black (63 percent) to one nearly evenly split to help Democrats statewide remain in power.
Not only did Mr. Walker lose -- by 264 votes -- but his handpicked candidate for an open Congress seat in a newly drawn Democratic-leaning district, son Charles "Champ" Walker, also was trounced.
What happened then is firmly rooted in 1984, a moment that some say changed the arc of political history in Augusta. Had Mr. McIntyre not destroyed his career with his conviction on federal extortion charges, some believe Mr. Walker's ascent in state politics would have been delayed, if not stopped.
Among those involved in the political maneuvering in the black community during the 1980s, it was no secret that Mr. Walker and Mr. McIntyre didn't always see eye-to-eye. But Mr. McIntyre was the unquestioned kingmaker.
"At that time, Ed McIntyre was the most powerful politician at that time," said Joe Scott, a Richmond County school board member who worked on campaigns for both men, but admitted to becoming closer to Mr. Walker after Mr. McIntyre got in trouble.
The former mayor's core supporters comprised local ministers, businesspeople and educators, "a machine" as Richmond County school board member Marion Barnes called it, left little political oxygen for others to challenge Mr. McIntyre. That included Mr. Walker, who was building his own coalition of supporters, and by 1982, had been elected to the state Legislature, but still wasn't on the same level as Mr. McIntyre.
"Mac, at that time, had the grass-root people. I mean, he had them all. Charles was getting some, but he did not have the people that Mac had," said Mr. Barnes, who was Mr. McIntyre's campaign manager in his first mayoral run. "He had his own group, and he was becoming stronger. But they really didn't become strong until after Mac had a problem."
That problem, say some who knew both, helped clear the way for Mr. Walker to become the preeminent black politician in Augusta, and eventually one of the most influential in the state regardless of skin color. Mr. Walker, who eventually became state Senate majority leader, might have still risen as far, but he would have had to come through -- or to -- Mr. McIntyre.
Mallory Millender, a Paine College professor and community activist who campaigned for Mr. McIntyre, equated the rise of Mr. Walker with how boxer Joe Frazier gained prominence during the forced 21/2-year exile of Muhammad Ali, who was stripped of the heavyweight title for refusing induction into the military.
"Ali would have destroyed a young Frazier before he was allowed to develop," he said. "But at the same time, these people, when I say these people I'm speaking specifically of Charles and other people like him, sometimes have such incredible gifts ... I don't think anybody saw a young Charles going where Charles went."
Mr. McIntyre didn't see the punch thrown -- some say by Mr. Walker -- that helped keep him from resurrecting his political career. After being paroled in September 1985, having served 14 months of an original five-year sentence, Mr. McIntyre reentered politics after getting his civil and political rights restored in 1988. He ran against and lost to then state Senate Majority Leader Tom Allgood in the 1988 Democratic Primary, but made a good showing with nearly 46 percent of the vote.
He had planned to run again for Mr. Allgood's seat when the senator announced his retirement in 1990, but then came the "McIntyre Bill."
Backed by a Democratic-controlled Legislature, the bill prevented convicted felons involved in crimes of "moral turpitude" from holding office in Georgia unless they've had their civil rights restored and have been out of jail for 10 years without another criminal conviction.
Although the state senator who sponsored the bill said he did it on his own, it's widely believed by supporters of Mr. McIntyre that Mr. Walker, who was a state representative at the time, had his fingerprints on it in some fashion. "I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't like to guess on anything like that," Mr. Scott said when asked about the issue. "But people have their suspicions about it. That's all I can say about it."
The bill scuttled Mr. McIntyre's plan. He instead ran for mayor, losing to popular incumbent Charles DeVaney. Mr. Walker, an ally of Mr. Allgood, ran for and won the vacant Senate seat.
"Ed could have been in the state Senate and Charles may have not gotten to the state Senate," Dr. Millender said. "Ed could have done that had he not gotten into trouble."
Now, Mr. Walker faces the same "McIntyre Bill" restrictions when he gets out of prison after being convicted in 2005 of 127 counts of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax crimes.
Ralph Walker, a political science professor at Augusta State University who worked on the McIntyre mayoral campaign, said Mr. McIntyre's troubles might have sped up Mr. Walker's political ascension but he believes the former senator's leadership abilities would have got him there at some point, anyway.
"Charles was a natural leader, I'll be honest with you," Dr. Walker said. "Both of them, McIntyre and Charles, it was kind of a battle for the leadership of the black community between those two. If it hadn't developed the way it did, it would have been interesting to see who would have emerged."
The political ups and downs of Ed McIntyre and Charles Walker:
NOV. 3, 1970: Mr. McIntyre becomes the first black elected to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners.
NOV. 5, 1974: He is reelected to the commission and later becomes board chairman.
OCT. 28, 1981: Becomes the first black to be elected mayor of Augusta after winning a runoff against Joe E. Taylor.
AUG. 10, 1982 : Mr. Walker is elected to his first of four terms as state representative after winning Democratic primary.
DEC. 21, 1983: The FBI arrests Mr. McIntyre and charges him with conspiring and attempting to extort money -- $9,000 -- from a local real estate developer interested in starting a project on city-owned property fronting the Savannah River. Two others, former city councilman Joseph C. Jones and real estate broker Mary G. Holmes, are also arrested on extortion charges.
MAY 3, 1984: Mr. McIntyre resigns.
JULY 9, 1984: U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. sentences Mr. McIntyre to five years in federal prison and he is fined $10,000. Judge Bowen later reduces the sentence to three years.
SEPT. 19, 1985: Mr. McIntyre is released from prison after serving 14 months.
AUG. 9, 1988: Mr. McIntyre loses to state Sen. Thomas Allgood in the Democratic primary.
JULY 17, 1990: Mr. Walker wins Democratic primary over John Bell to replace Mr. Allgood. He has no Republican challenger in the fall election.
OCT. 10, 1990: Mr. McIntyre loses to incumbent Charles DeVaney in mayoral race, 57 to 43 percent.
NOV. 24, 1998: Mr. McIntyre loses to Bob Young in a mayoral runoff, 55 to 45 percent.
NOV. 5, 2002: Mr. Walker loses his state Senate District 22 seat to Republican newcomer Randy Hall by 264 votes.
NOV. 26, 2002: Mr. McIntyre loses to Mr. Young in the mayoral runoff, 51.6 percent to 48.3 percent.
NOV. 2, 2004: Mr. Walker returns to the state Senate, winning against Don Cheeks in a reconfigured District 22.
JUNE 3, 2005 : Mr. Walker is convicted on 127 criminal counts of mail fraud, conspiracy and tax crimes and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
JUNE 3, 2005: Gov. Sonny Perdue strips Mr. Walker of his state Senate seat.