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This Day in Georgia History

May 15, 1925

Carl Sanders Born

To view an image of Carl Sanders as governor, see the Georgia Archives

Politician and lawyer Carl Sanders was born in Augusta, Georgia. Sanders attended the University of Georgia on a football scholarship before interrupting his education to enlist in the Air Force during World War II. After the war, he returned to UGA, ultimately earning a law degree in 1947. Sanders’ political career began in 1954 with his election to the Georgia House of Representatives from his native Richmond County. Two years later he was elected to the Georgia Senate, where he advanced quickly, becoming president pro tempore in 1960. When his Senate term ended in 1962 Sanders made the decision to run for governor. His primary opponent was former governor Marvin Griffin, who had crafted Georgia’s “massive resistance” strategy to counter the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decisions. This was a historic election in Georgia, as the U.S. Supreme Court had declared the county-unit system unconstitutional, meaning small, rural counties would no longer dominate statewide election. Sanders was the first Georgia candidate to use television widely in a campaign, appealing to urban voters. He won the election easily, becoming the youngest governor in the nation at the time. During his administration (1963-67), Georgia’s colleges and universities prospered, many government agencies were streamlined to run more effectively, significant improvements took place in prison and mental health systems, congressional districts were reapportioned on the basis of equal population, and a $140 million surplus was left in the state treasury. Sanders was a popular and progressive governor whose leadership helped Georgia avoid the more violent confrontations of the civil rights movement and made notable progress toward modernizing the state. At the time, Georgia’s constitution prohibited a governor from running for a consecutive terms. After his one term as governor, Sanders began a successful law practice in Atlanta that would last over three decades. In 1970, he once again ran for the office of governor. This time, he lost the Democratic primary to a future President - Jimmy Carter - and returned to the practice of law.