Herman Talmadge – Encyclopedia of New Georgia

Herman Talmadge, son of Eugene Talmadge, served as Governor of Georgia for a brief period in early 1947 and again from 1948 to 1954. In 1956 Talmadge was elected to the United States Senate, where he served until defeated in 1980.

Talmadge, a Democrat, was governor during a time of political transition in the state, and he also served in the Senate during a time of great political change in the country. As a member of the Senate’s southern bloc, Talmadge was a staunch opponent of civil rights legislation, but he began reaching out to black voters in the 1970s. In 1979, the Senate formally impeached Talmadge for misconduct. financial. Senate censorship partly led to Talmadge’s defeat by Republican Mack Mattingly in 1980.

Herman Eugene Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913 in Telfair County. Talmadge was the only son of Eugene and Mattie Thurmond Talmadge. He married Katherine Williamson in 1937; they divorced three years later. In 1941 he married Betty Shingler, and they had two sons, Herman Eugene Jr. and Robert Shingler. Talmadge received his law degree in 1936 from the University of Georgia. After practicing law for several years, Talmadge joined the navy, where he saw much combat in the South Pacific during World War II (1941-45) and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant commander.

Herman Talmadge

Returning home, he soon found himself leading his father’s last gubernatorial campaign in 1946. Eugene Talmadge was one of only two people elected governor of Georgia four times. Thus, the stage was set for Herman Talmadge to follow his father into politics. Before the end of the year, Talmadge found himself embroiled in political controversy following the death of his father.

Years as Governor

When Eugene Talmadge died after winning his fourth election as governor but before being sworn in, the General Assembly finally elected Herman Talmadge as governor. This decision led to the “Three Governors Controversy”. Talmadge took office as governor in January 1947; two months later, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had acted unconstitutionally. Talmadge immediately left office and prepared to run for governor against Melvin E. Thompson in a special election held in 1948. He easily won that election and was later re-elected governor for a full term of four years in 1950.

Herman Talmadge

During Talmadge’s administration, the state enacted its first sales tax, which helped fund a vast improvement in the state’s public education system. Talmadge also helped attract new industry to the state and was an early advocate for the burgeoning lumber industry. His years as governor can be seen as generally progressive in the context of Georgian politics at that time. However, like most southern governors of this era, Talmadge was a staunch segregationist who resisted all attempts to integrate the public school system. In May 1954, when the United States Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional, he was among the most vocal critics of the court’s decision and wrote a book titled You and segregation (1955).

United States Senate career

In 1956, Herman Talmadge was elected to the first of four terms in the United States Senate. Joining Richard B. Russell Jr. as a junior senator from Georgia, he quickly earned a reputation as an enemy of desegregation and civil rights legislation. Upon his arrival in the Senate, he secured an appointment to the powerful Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, where he could help shape all bills dealing with the interests of the farming community. In this role, Talmadge represented the interests of Georgian farmers in the Senate. He was chairman of the committee from 1972 to January 1981.

Herman Talmadge

Talmadge’s primary focus in the Senate was the protection of rural America. He sponsored a bill creating the food stamp program to help the country’s poor. In doing so, his goal was not only to help those who were hungry, but also to ensure that the country’s farmers would have guaranteed markets for their produce. True to his conservative reputation, Talmadge advocated provisions in this welfare bill that required able-bodied recipients to work for benefits. He also championed bills to create programs to protect agricultural products through price controls. One of the largest commodity programs targeted peanuts, one of Georgia’s most important cash crops. Talmadge also introduced the Rural Development Act of 1972, which provided federally guaranteed grants and loans to rural areas for infrastructure improvements. Industrial parks have been helped by this program, as have water and sewage systems.

Herman Talmadge

Besides his contributions to agriculture, Talmadge was also a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversaw the nation’s tax system. He always supported balanced budgets, and in 1973 he favored a constitutional amendment that would have required Congress to only pass balanced budgets except in times of national emergency. He has advocated a variety of bills over the years to reduce federal spending in order to balance the budget.

In 1973, Senator Talmadge came to national attention as part of the Senate committee investigating the Watergate scandal. Watergate involved corruption and its cover-up by US President Richard Nixon and members of his administration, leading to Nixon’s resignation from office in August 1974. committee.

End of career

After his long years of service in the Senate, Talmadge was defeated for re-election in 1980. A combination of factors led to his downfall. One was his self-confessed alcoholism, which spun out of control after his son, Bobby, drowned in 1975. More destructive to his career, however, were the allegations of financial misconduct. In 1979, the Senate denounced him for “reprehensible” behavior. He was charged with accepting over $43,000 in reimbursement for unincurred expenses. At this time, Talmadge and his wife, Betty, were going through a bitter divorce, and Betty Talmadge testified against her former husband before the Senate Ethics Committee. Talmadge’s personal, marital, and financial troubles bolstered a tough challenge by Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller for the Democratic nomination in 1980. Although Talmadge was renominated in a runoff, he was weakened enough to be vulnerable in the general election, where he was defeated by the Republican. Mac Mattingly. Talmadge later admitted that he had underestimated the change in Georgian politics.

Herman Talmadge

After his loss, Talmadge stayed away from the public and retired to his home in Hampton, Henry County. Always a conservative, the longtime Democrat quietly supported Republican Johnny Isakson’s gubernatorial run in 1990. His health declined in the late 1990s, and he died at his home on March 21, 2002, at age eighty-eight years old.

As governor, Talmadge helped effect many progressive changes in Georgian government and public education. Although he was never as influential in military and international affairs as Georgian Senators Walter F. George, Richard B. Russell and Sam Nunn, he was a key national figure in the formation of legislation aimed at help rural America.

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