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This Day in Georgia History

January 18, 1947

Three Governors Controversy Became Two

For several weeks, the so-called “Three Governors Affair” had dominated Georgia politics, where three different men - M.E. Thompson, Ellis Arnall, and Herman Talmadge - claimed to be Georgia’s constitutional governor. The crisis came about after Eugene Talmadge won the November 1946 general election for governor but died before he could take the oath. Outgoing governor Ellis Arnall felt that his term continued until a successor was elected, and in this case there was no successor. Newly elected lieutenant governor M.E. Thompson felt with the death of the governor-elect, he should become governor. However, some supporters of Eugene Talmadge, knowing of his illness, had written in the name of his son, Herman, on the ballot–which he felt threw the election to the General Assembly, which subsequently decided to elect Herman as governor. On Jan. 18, however, it became a two-governors rivalry, when M.E. Thompson took the oath of office of lieutenant governor. At this point, outgoing governor Ellis Arnall, who still claimed the office and refused to recognize the General Assembly’s naming of write-in candidate Herman Talmadge, resigned as governor. With Arnall’s resignation, Thompson claimed that under the state constitution, he now became governor. Talmadge, however, insisted that the legislature constitutionally had elected him governor. The case ended up in the Georgia Supreme Court, which on March 19 ruled in Thompson’s favor.