Herman Talmadge

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Herman Talmadge
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 3, 1957 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Walter F. George
Succeeded by Mack F. Mattingly
70th Governor of Georgia
In office
November 17, 1948 – January 11, 1955
Lieutenant Marvin Griffin
Preceded by Melvin E. Thompson
Succeeded by Marvin Griffin
In office
January 14, 1947 – March 18, 1947
Lieutenant Melvin E. Thompson
Preceded by Ellis Arnall
Succeeded by Melvin E. Thompson
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
In office
January 1971 – January 3, 1981
Preceded by Allen Ellender
Succeeded by Jesse Helms
Personal details
Born Herman Eugene Talmadge
(1913-08-09)August 9, 1913
McRae, Telfair County, Georgia, USA
Died March 21, 2002(2002-03-21) (aged 88)
Hampton, Henry County
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 3rd: Lynda Cowart Pierce
Children Herman Talmadge, Jr.
Robert Shingler Talmadge
Alma mater University of Georgia
Profession Lawyer
Religion Baptist
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1941-1945
Rank Lieutenant Commander
Battles/wars World War II

Herman Eugene Talmadge, Sr. (August 9, 1913 – March 21, 2002), was a Democratic American politician from the state of Georgia. He served as the 70th Governor of Georgia briefly in 1947 and again from 1948 to 1955. After leaving office Talmadge was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1957 until 1981.

Talmadge was born in McRae in Telfair County in south central Georgia, the only son of Eugene Talmadge, who served as Governor of Georgia during much of the 1930s and the 1940s. He earned a degree from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1936, where he had been a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity.

The Three Governors Controversy

The younger Talmadge saw combat in the United States Navy during World War II. On his return from the South Pacific as a lieutenant commander, Herman ran his father's successful campaign for governor in 1946. Supporters of Eugene Talmadge were unsure of Eugene's chances of surviving until he was sworn in, so they did some research into the state constitution and found that if Eugene died, the Georgia General Assembly would choose between the second and third place finishers. The elder Talmadge ran unopposed, so they arranged for write-in votes for Herman as insurance. In December 1946, the elder Talmadge died. Ultimately, the lieutenant governor-elect, Melvin E. Thompson, the prior Governor, Ellis Arnall, and Herman Talmadge all had themselves sworn in and were concurrently trying to conduct state business from the Georgia State Capitol. Arnall relinquished his claim and supported Thompson. Ultimately, Thompson was supported by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Career after 1946

Talmadge soon gave in to the court decision and prepared for the special election in 1948, in which Talmadge defeated Governor Thompson. Talmadge was then elected to a full term in 1950. During his terms, Talmadge encouraged industry to move into Georgia. He remained a staunch supporter of racial segregation.

Talmadge was barred by law from seeking another full term as Governor in 1954. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1956. That same year, a "faithless elector" from Alabama cast a single Electoral College vote for Talmadge as Vice President of the United States. During his time as U.S. Senator, Talmadge remained a foe of civil rights legislation. After President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Talmadge, along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, boycotted the 1964 Democratic National Convention.[1] With the help of Richard Russell, Talmadge was appointed to the Agriculture Committee during his first year in Washington and to the Senate Finance Committee shortly thereafter. Talmadge would eventually be named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.[2] He sponsored bills to help farmers, an important constituency, and served on the Senate Watergate Committee.

In 1968, Talmadge faced the first of his three Republican challengers for his Senate seat. E. Earl Patton (1927-2011), later a member of the Georgia State Senate, received 256,796 votes (22.5 percent) to Talmadge's 885,103 (77.3 percent). Patton, a real estate developer, was the first Republican in Georgia to run for the U.S. Senate since the Reconstruction era.[3] Talmadge won another large reelection margin in 1974, but he ran afoul of Republican Mack Mattingly in 1980.

Talmadge ran a responsive office, requiring his staff to respond to every constituent letter within 24 hours of receipt.[4]

On October 11, 1979, Talmadge was censured by an 81–15 vote of the U.S. Senate for "improper financial conduct" between 1973 and 1978, after having accepted reimbursements of $43,435.83 for official expenses not incurred and for improper reporting of such as campaign expenditures.[5]

Talmadge also went through a divorce from his wife and a tough primary challenge from Zell Miller in 1980. Talmadge defeated Miller but lost to Mack Mattingly in the general election. Mattingly was the first Republican to represent Georgia in the Senate since Reconstruction.

After his defeat, Talmadge retired to his home where he died more than two decades later at the age of 88. Talmadge had two sons, Herman E. Talmadge, Jr., and Robert Shingler Talmadge.


In 1969, Talmadge received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University.[6]

See also


  1. Kornacki, Steve (2011-02-03) "The 'Southern Strategy', fulfilled", Salon.com
  2. Talmadge: A Political Legacy, A Politician's Life. Herman Talmadge with Mark Royden Winchell
  3. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1441
  4. Clymer, Adam (22 March 2002). "Herman Talmadge, Georgia Senator and Governor, Dies at 88". New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Expulsion and Censure". United States Senate. Retrieved May 31, 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Retrieved 2015-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Ellis Arnall
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Melvin E. Thompson
Preceded by
Melvin E. Thompson
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Marvin Griffin
Preceded by
Allen J. Ellender
Chairman of Senate Agriculture Committee
Succeeded by
Jesse Helms
North Carolina
United States Senate
Preceded by
Walter F. George
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Richard B. Russell, Jr., David H. Gambrell, Sam Nunn
Succeeded by
Mack Mattingly