Politics

My daddy ran a department store on the south side of the courthouse square where I spent a lot of my time as a young boy. I was able to see many important state politicians who came to Fayetteville campaigning. They always made their speeches in front of the courthouse across from my daddy’s store. Many became state governors. I remember seeing Gene Talmadge, Ed Rivers,Ellis Arnold, Melvin Thompson, Herman Talmadge, and Marvin Griffin to name a few.

Fayette County was a political strong hold for Eugene Talmadge. “Ol’ Gene” he was called. Vic Stinchcomb was very visible at that time. He had done well in truck farming and was famous for sharing his good fortune with the community. I can remember Mr. Stinchcomb holding a parade extending through Fayetteville out highway 54 for about five miles to Stinchcomb’s Lake where there were speeches by Mr. Talmadge and supporters and free barbecue for the crowd. My Daddy was not a supporter of Eugene Talmadge but he did enjoy barbecue.

There were not many policies to consider in their campaigns. The successful politicians were for the same things: white supremacy, the county unit system, paving roads, and being a friend of the people.

In 1937 Talmadge was defeated for the U.S. Senate. Fayetteville’s Charley Redwine running on the coat tails of Talmadge for governor was also defeated by Ed Rivers who gave Georgia its first free school textbooks and introduced asphalt road paving. Talmadge won his third term as governor in 1941. In his campaign he made fun of River’s “shiny” roads. On hot sunny days asphalt roads often give the illusion of pools of water in low places in the road.

Talmadge won the Democratic primary in his bid for a fourth term as governor in 1946 over Governor Ellis Arnall but died before the general election. At this time in Georgia’s history winning the Democratic primary was equivalent to winning the general election since the Republican Party was almost non- existent. Usually there was only the Democratic nominee running in the general election. This year was also the first time Georgia elected a lieutenant governor, won by Melvin Thompson. The dilemma that followed was almost unbelievable.

Governor Arnall refused to give up the governor’s office until a successor was determined. Melvin Thompson had been elected Georgia’s first lieutenant governor and felt he should be the next governor. But Talmadge had not actually died in office. The Legislature elected his son, Herman Talmadge, to serve his unexpired term. He served 67 days but vacated office when the State Supreme Court ruled that the Constitutional provision under which he was elected was not applicable in that instance and Ellis Arnall's term continued until the next election. When Melvin E. Thompson was sworn in as Lieutenant Governor, Arnall resigned and Thompson served as Acting Governor until the next General Election. Herman Talmadge defeated M. E. Thompson in the September 1948 Primary Election and was elected in the General Election, November 2, 1948, to complete the unexpired term of his father.