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1864 Off the coast of North Carolina, a Confederate blockade runner (Lucy) was captured by the U.S. Navy. Her crew was sent to a prison in Point Lookout, MD, where they would spend four months. What does this have to do with Georgia? The young (22 years) signal officer on board the Lucy had been born in Macon, Georgia and educated at Oglethorpe University, then near Milledgeville. While confined in prison, he would contract tuberculosis, which would hamper him for the rest of his life, and eventually cut that life short. But it was a productive life - this young signal officer went on to become one of Georgia's most noted writers and poets - Sidney Lanier.
1897 Lawyer and noted politician Richard B. Russell Jr. was born in Winder, Georgia. After graduating with a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1918, he returned to Winder to practice law. Russell's life of public service began in 1919 when he was named Barrow County attorney. The following year, voters elected him to the Georgia House of Representatives, where he pushed public education and improved transportation – especially better roads. In 1927, at age 29, Russell was named Speaker of the House – the youngest in Georgia history. In 1930, Russell easily won election as Georgia governor on his platform of reorganizing state government for economy and efficiency. Five months shy of his 34th birthday, Russell took the oath of office from his father, Georgia chief justice Richard B. Russell Sr. He became the youngest governor in Georgia history – a record that still stands.
After Georgia U.S. Senator William Harris died in 1932, Gov. Russell named an interim replacement until the next general election, in which Russell himself became a candidate. Georgia voters elected their young governor to fill Harris' unexpired term. When he arrived in Washington in January 1933, he was the nation's youngest senator. At first. Russell was an ardent supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs, particularly those designed to help rural America – which included most of Georgia at the time. As the Great Depression waned, however, so did Russell's support for Roosevelt's policies. But Russell's popularity at home remained strong, and his devotion to duty and intricate knowledge of how the Senate worked helped him rise to power.
In his freshman term in the Senate, Russell managed to secure an appointment to the influential Appropriations Committee, remaining a member for the rest of his life. Another notable committee he served on was Naval Affairs (renamed the Armed Services Committee in 1947). Russell served as its chairman from 1951-1953 and 1955-1969. Besides standing committees, Russell also served on several high-profile special committees. He chaired the 1951 committee which investigated the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur, and helped defuse what could have become a much more volatile issue. He also served on the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John Kennedy.
In 1952, Russell became an active candidate in the Democratic race for president of the United States.
Russell won the Florida primary and appeared to have a serious chance for his party's nomination. At the Democratic National Convention, he was supported by 23 states, but on the third ballot lost the nomination to Adali Stevenson.
Unfortunately, by the 1960s, Russell's national image was most affected by his stance on civil rights. He strongly opposed federal intervention in southern race relations and became the leader of a southern bloc of senators who held similar ideas. Russell's opposition to civil rights laws strained his relationship with President Lyndon Johnson, who was a strong supporter of federal intervention to guarantee civil rights in the South.
Still, during his long senatorial career, Russell can be remembered for the many things he did for the nation (such as defense and the school lunch program) and for his home state of Georgia (such as federal research facilities, water and transportation improvement projects, and military bases). One of his last achievements was congressional authorization for the giant C5 Galaxy military transport plane manufactured Lockheed's facility in Marietta.
Throughout his 39 years of public service in the U.S. Senate, Russell lived modestly in a small Washington apartment, where he worked tirelessly for what he believed was best for his Georgia constituency. He died in Washington, DC on January 21, 1971. In tribute to his contributions, a congressional office building, a U.S. Corps lake, scenic highway in north Georgia, and a number of buildings and facilities bear Russell's name. Also, in 1984, the U.S. Postal Service recognized Russell in its "Great Americans" series of postage stamps.
Additionally, an imposing statue of him is found on the grounds of Georgia's state capitol.
For those interested in learning more of his life, a special repository for his papers, as well as those of other notable Georgia political figures, is housed at the Richard B. Russell Memorial Library at the University of Georgia.
1920 In the statewide general election, Georgia voters ratified constitutional amendments creating Seminole, Lanier, Brantley, Long, and Lamar counties. Constitutional amendments were necessary because Georgia's constitution then limited the number of counties in the state to 145. Rather than raise that limit, Georgia lawmakers chose to create additional counties through constitutional amendments for each new county.
1974 After Hank Aaron suggested that he might want to retire, the Atlanta Braves traded baseball's home run king to the Milwaukee Brewers for Dave May and Roger Alexander. Aaron would end his playing career as a designated hitter for the Brewers.
1976 Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent Gerald Ford. Carter won the popular vote 51 to 48 percent, while winning 23 states and the District of Columbia, giving him 297 electoral votes (270 were needed to win). Carter became the first president born in the Deep South since Reconstruction.
1976 A federal judge ordered the DeKalb County School System to make major revisions in its desegregation plan, including added busing of students and the appointment of a biracial committee to oversee the plan
1976 By a 61 percent margin of support, Georgia voters ratified the Georgia Constitution of 1976. This document primarily was an editorial revision of the Constitution of 1945 undertaken as a first step toward substantive revision.
1982 With a 73 percent approval rate, voters in the 1982 general election ratified Georgia's current constitution (officially designated the Georgia Constitution of 1983 because its effective date was July 1, 1983).
This document was the result of five years work by the Select Committee on Constitutional Revision and the General Assembly to produce a substantive revision of the 1976 constitution.
1983 President Ronald Reagan signed legislation designating the third Monday of each January as a federal holiday to mark the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. [Click here for more information about how the holiday came about.] By 1993, all fifty states also observed this date as an official holiday.
2010 For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans captured every statewide-elected office in Georgia state government (excluding judicial offices, which are non-partisan). U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal led the Republican sweep. In addition to governor, Republicans won all statewide "constitutional offices" – lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state school superintendent, commissioner of insurance, and commissioner of agriculture. Isakson won re-election to the U.S. Senate (Georgia's other senator, Republican Saxby Chambliss, was not up for re-election). In the races for Georgia's 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, six Republican incumbents won reelection, one Republican won the seat of a retired Republican, and one Republican unseated an incumbent Democratic congressmen, giving Republicans a total of 8 Representatives and both U.S. Senators. Republicans also won a majority of the seats in the Georgia House and Senate. [Click here for complete election results.] The Nov. 3 general election resulted in Georgia becoming one of the most Republican states in the nation.
In Their Own Words on This Day. . .
1864 From Rockbridge, northeast of Atlanta, planter Thomas Maguire wrote in his journal of despair following Sherman's capture of Atlanta:
Source: Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Its Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969 reprint of original 1954 volume), p. 648.
For more, see This Week in Georgia Civil War History.
1868 From Americus, H.C. Morrill wrote Georgia's Freedmen's Bureau about conditions in the neighboring county:
Source: Mills Lane (ed.), Georgia: History written by Those who lived It (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1995), p. 236.
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