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Georgia Governors in an Age of Change is the first book to present a clear overview of gubernatorial leadership in Georgia during the critical period between 1943 and 1983, covering the administrations of Ellis Arnall, Melvin E. Thompson, Herman Talmadge, Marvin Griffin, Ernest Vandiver, Carl Sanders, Lester Maddox, Jimmy Carter, and George Busbee. Based on a unique meeting of scholars and politicians held in 1985, this book brings together historical assessments of the post-World War II administrations and reactions to those assessments by the governors themselves.
The four decades that followed the inauguration of Ellis Arnall as governor saw the state of Georgia experience its most fundamental changes since the end of the Civil War. Those years witnessed a dramatic change in the political balance of power as the state’s population shifted from rural dominance to urban influence. Georgia saw firsthand the birth of the civil rights movement, the end of Jim Crow laws, and the demise of the county-unit system of voting. For the first time, there were stirrings of a two-party system in the state, and a former Georgia governor became the first president elected from the Deep South, signaling a new national acceptance of both Georgia and the region.
From Ellis Arnall’s trust-busting of the railroads to Melvin Thompson’s purchase of Jekyll Island, from Lester Maddox’s fierce segregationist policies to Jimmy Carter’s bold reorganization of state agencies, Georgia Governors in an Age of Change chronicles the rise of Georgia from a bastion of southern provincialism to a dynamic and progressive state—the heart and core of the New South.