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Timeline: Civil Rights & Sunbelt Georgia 1946-1989

1946-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1989


Eugene Talmadge was again elected governor of Georgia, despite not winning the popular vote. But at the time Georgia’s elections were based on the county unit system, and Talmadge won the most county unit votes. But the grueling campaign, in which Talmadge traveled across the state delivering 272 speeches, was too much for his health, and he died before he could take office. Thus began one the most unusual episodes in Georgia’s political history - the Three Governors Affair. See 1947 for further details.

Melvin Thompson was elected to the newly created position of lieutenant governor.

For more on Helen Douglas Mankin, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Helen Douglas Mankin was elected to the U.S. Congress, becoming the second woman from Georgia to serve in that capacity, but really the first in a meaningful sense (see 1940).

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Primus E. King, an African American from Columbus, Georgia, could vote in the Georgia Democratic primary, after having been prohibited from voting in 1944. The court ruled this violated the 14th, 15th, and 17th amendments, and that Georgia’s white primary was a state election in which the Democratic Party acted as an instrumentality of the state.

Walt Disney’s Song of the South, based on the Uncle Remus stories of Georgia native Joel Chandler Harris, premiered at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

For more on the Winecoff Hotel Fire, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

A fire at the Winecoff Hotel in Atlanta claimed 119 lives, including hotel founder W. Frank Winecoff and 28 high school students attending a conference, along with an additional 100 people injured.

Musician Duane Allman was born in Tennessee.

Future actor Demond Wilson was born in Valdosta, Georgia.


For more on the Three Governors Controversy, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

One of the strangest episodes in Georgia’s, or the nation’s, political history occurred this year. Eugene Talmadge had been elected governor in late 1946, but died before he could take office in January, 1947. Some of his followers had been concerned about this; as Talmadge was in poor health during the campaign. So they encouraged write in votes for Talmadge’s son, Herman Talmadge, based on an old state provision that said if an elected governor died before taking office, the General Assembly (then controlled by Talmadge supporters) would choose the governor from the next two highest vote getters. But Herman Talmadge was not in that top two, until a number of write in votes were “discovered” in the Talmadge’s home county of Telfair. Later research found that many of these “discovered” ballots bore the names of people from Telfair County cemeteries! But with Talmadge as one of the candidates, the General Assembly voted him in as governor.

To view an image from the Three Governors Controversy, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

But the 1946 election had something new, created by the new Georgia Constitution of 1945 - the office of lieutenant governor. Melvin Thompson had won that office, and claimed he should assume the office of governor. Outgoing governor Ellis Arnall refused to relinquish the office until the controversy was settled, so Georgia had three men all claiming to be governor! The Talmadge faction even invaded Governor Arnall’s office, took it over, and changed the locks! Arnall set up office elsewhere in the capitol building, though he did eventually dropped out of the affair in support of Thompson. Thompson, meanwhile, had carried the case to court, where it finally reached the Georgia Supreme Court. In March, they declared that Melvin Thompson was the rightful governor, and Herman Talmadge gave up his claims to the office, while vowing to take the case to the people in a special election scheduled for 1948.

Fort Frederica was designated as a national monument.

Musician Gregg Allman was born in Tennessee.

For more on Jackie Robinson, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Cairo, Georgia born Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 11, then played in his first game on April 15.

Baseball Hall of Famer Josh Gibson, born in Buena Vista, Georgia, died in Pennsylvania.


In November a special gubernatorial election was held (as part of the general election); Herman Talmadge defeated incumbent Melvin Thompson. This finally brought an end to the Three Governors Affair (see 1947).

The Berlin Airlift, to supply the city of Berlin, Germany being blockaded by the Soviet Union, was organized by native Georgian Lucius D. Clay this year.

To view an image from early WSB-TV, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

WSB-TV - Georgia’s first television station - was launched.

Savannah born Claude Harmon became the first native Georgian to win the Masters golf tournament.

Future Georgia governor Roy Barnes was born in Atlanta.

Future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was born near Savannah, Georgia.

Former Georgia governor, and lead prosecutor in the Leo Frank Case (see 1913), Hugh Dorsey, died.


Georgia born Jackie Robinson, playing baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was named the National League Most Valuable Player.

Atlanta native Louise Suggs won the U.S. Woman’s Golf Championship.

For an obituary for Margaret Mitchell, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell died in Atlanta after being struck by a taxi.

Country music pioneer Fiddlin’ John Carson died in Atlanta.


Herman Talmadge was re-elected governor of Georgia.

The Girls Scout of America, founded in 1912 by Georgian Juliette Gordon Low, was officially chartered by the U.S. Congress.

In the case of South v. Peters, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a complaint concerning Georgia’s county unit system of deciding elections. The system would be challenged again the following decade.

For an image of the ground breaking for Buford Dam, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The construction of Buford Dam, which would help create Lake Lanier, began.

Lawrenceville, Georgia born Ezzard Charles won the world heavyweight boxing championship, then defended the title later in the year.


The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, limiting future U.S. Presidents to no more than two terms. Part time Georgian Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected to four consecutive terms, before dying in office (and in Warm Springs, Georgia) in 1945.

Georgia Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr. chaired the committee which investigated the dismissal of General Douglas MacArthur from command of United Nations forces in Korea by President Harry Truman.

Ezzard Charles twice defended the heavyweight boxing championship he had won the previous year, before losing it in another title fight later in the year.

For more on the Telamon Cuyler collection, see the Hargerett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

An extensive collection of historical books, tracts, maps, and other documents related to Georgia, were willed to the University of Georgia Libraries upon the death of their collector, Telamon Cuyler.


The newly formed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake north of Atlanta, formed by Buford Dam, was officially named Lake Sidney Lanier.

For more on Wise Blood, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Wise Blood, the first novel by Georgian Flannery O’Connor, was published.

The state of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain and surrounding land for the purpose of building a park.

Future Atlanta Brave Hall of Famer and home run champion Hank Aaron was signed to a contract by the then Boston Braves.

For more on Gladys Knight, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Musician Gladys Knight began her career early this year, at age seven, by winning Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour.


Jackie Cochran, who had spent part of her youth in Georgia and gone on to aviation fame, became the first woman to break the sound barrier.

To view an image of the State Normal School, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The U.S. Navy purchased the State Normal School site in Athens for the purpose of establishing a Naval Supply Corps School on the site.

A tornado damaged Robins Air Force Base and other areas of middle Georgia, leaving 18 dead, 350 injured, 1000 homeless, and millions of dollars worth of damages.

African-American Dr. Rufus Clement won election to the Atlanta Board of Education, with the support of many white leaders. Describing his victory as proof that “the white population is ready to work constructively with the Negro population,” Clement became a proponent of a “go slow, go easy” path to integration that helped Atlanta avoid the confrontations over desegregation that developed in many other southern cities.

Future actress Kim Basinger was born in Athens, Georgia.

Future Grammy award winning musician Robert Cray was born in Columbus, Georgia.

Terry Bollea was born in Augusta, Georgia; he would go on to fame as wrestler and entertainer Hulk Hogan.


For more on Brown v. Board of Education, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Though the decision was based on a case in Kansas, the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision this year had a profound effect upon Georgia. Until this point, white and black children in Georgia (and many other states) attended separate schools, with the states contending that the schools were separate, but equal. The court struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine for public schools, stating that separate schools are inherently unequal. It also ruled that laws which segregated on the basis of race violated the 14th Amendment. Reaction was swift and emotional in Georgia, with Governor Herman Talmadge, and many other politicians, claiming the Supreme Court acted unconstitutionally. Their argument was that operating public schools is a power reserved to the states under the U.S. Constitution.

Soon after the Brown v. Board of Education decison was announced, the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP announced it intended to immediately petition the Fulton County School Board to end segregation of Atlanta’s public schools. But Herman Talmadge vowed the state would not abide by the ruling. See In Their Own Words for his exact quote.

Marvin Griffin was elected governor of Georgia, after campaigning against the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The Naval Supply Corps School was commissioned in Athens, Georgia.

Musician Terri Gibbs was born in Miami, but she lived from age one in Augusta, Georgia.

Future women’s professional golfer Hollis Stacy was born in Savannah, Georgia.

Former Georgia governor Clifford Walker died.


For more on Brown v. Board of Education, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its second decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. The first decision in 1954 had declared that the “separate but equal” doctrine for public education violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, but said nothing about how soon the doctrine must change. The second Brown decision declared that integration of Topeka, Kansas’ public schools must take place “with all deliberate speed.” As much as the first Brown decision upset white political leaders in Georgia, the second decision precipitated an even angrier reaction, which would become evident in 1956.

Flannery O’Connor’s famous collection of short stories - A Good Man is Hard to Find - was published.

Former Georgia governor John M. Slaton died. Slaton had commuted Leo Frank’s sentence from death to life in prison, which precipitated his (Frank’s) infamous lynching in 1915.

Atlanta born civil rights leader Walter White died in New York.


For more on Interposition, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Led by Governor Marvin Griffin, the Georgia Legislature adopted an Interposition Resolution, trying to declare the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education (see 1954 and 1955) null and void in Georgia. Several other notable bills passed, also in response the Supreme Court decisions, in what came to be called Georgia’s “massive resistance” packet of legislation. Across the South, most Senators and Representatives signed the <a href=/topics/history/article/civil-rights-sunbelt-georgia-1946-1989/the-southern-manifesto-march-1956”>Southern Manifesto - a declaration of constitutional reasons for opposing the decisions.

Testing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions, two African-Americans applied for admission to the Georgia State College of Business Administration. Their applications were denied.

The Georgia State Flag was changed, adding an image of the Confederate Battle Flag to it; this flag would remain official until 2001.

Herman Talmadge was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Atlanta was chosen as the hub of a 41,000 mile interstate highway system. The Downtown Connector, which would eventually link these highways in the Atlanta area, opened.

The NAACP awarded its annual Spingarn Medal, for outstanding achievement by an African-American, to Jackie Robinson.

The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame was created, though it would not have a permanent, physical home until 1999.

“Long Tall Sally” by Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, topped the popular music charts.

Future Atlanta Brave baseball great Dale Murphy was born in Oregon.

Future Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses was born in Ohio.


For more on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was organized in Atlanta; its first president was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia, was designated as a training center for Military Police and the Signal Corps.

Jackie Robinson retired from major league baseball.

For more on Paul Anderson, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Georgian Paul Anderson back-lifted a record 6,270 pounds, earning him for the time the label “world’s strongest man” by The Guiness Book of World Records.

The first jet landed at Atlanta’s airport.

Filmmaker Spike Lee was born in Atlanta.

Long time Georgia Senator Walter George died in Vienna, Georgia.

Famous comedian Oliver Hardy, born in Harlem, Georgia, died in California.


Ernest Vandiver, Jr. was elected governor of Georgia.

For an image of the blast damage, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

A dynamite explosion destroyed the interior of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, the Jewish Temple in Atlanta .

Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial condemning the bombing of the Atlanta Jewish Temple and the burning of an African-American school. See In Their Own Words for text of the editorial.

A caravan of seven covered wagons carried 43 ounces of gold from Dahlonega to Atlanta. The trip took three days. The gold was used to cover the dome of the Georgia Capitol building.

Construction of the first interstate highway in Georgia began - it would become I-85.

Future actress Holly Hunter was born in Conyers, Georgia.

Future comedian Jeff Foxworthy was born in Atlanta.

Future professional golfer Larry Mize was born in Augusta, Georgia.

Poet Byron Herbert Reece died in Young Harris, Georgia.


After the tumultuous term of Governor Marvin Griffin, marked by massive resistance to civil rights which embarrassed many Georgians, Ernest Vandiver, Jr., who had campaigned against the policies of Griffin, was inaugurated as governor.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled segregated seating on Atlanta’s city buses was unconstitutional after two African-American ministers challenged the practice of forcing all African-Americans to sit at the back of buses. Two weeks later the buses were integrated.

A Seaboard Air Line Railroad train derailed and burned near Meldrim, Georgia, resulting in 23 deaths and 7 injuries.

A tornado hit the Chickamauga National Military Park, destroying some 2000 trees, but fortunately no human casualties.

For an image of Lenox Square in 1959, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The first major shopping mall in the Southeast - Lenox Square - opened in Atlanta.


This was the decade of the major civil rights movement in American, and Georgia, history. While there were many activists, the central figure was Martin Luther King, Jr., who in this year became co-pastor (with his father) of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. One of the ways African-Americans began protesting was “sit-ins,” where they would go to places where they were not allowed (like restaurants) and “sit in” them anyway as a means of protest. The first of these occurred in North Carolina; in response to it a group of Atlanta students known as the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights published “An Appeal for Human Rights” in Atlanta newspapers. Soon afterwards the movement became active in Atlanta, where 200 students staged sit-ins at ten downtown lunch counters, then moved to the Georgia State Capitol, where six students attempted to be served. When told to leave, they refused and were arrested.

For more information on the Sit-Ins, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Later in the year the movement carried on when Martin Luther King, Jr. and dozens of other protesters were arrested in a sit-in demonstration at the Magnolia Room in Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. For his role in the sit-in, King was sentenced to months of hard labor at the Georgia State Prison. He was taken to the prison, but was released the following day after his bond was paid. Reportedly, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy intervened with Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr. to help secure King’s release, thinking his imprisonment could become a factor in the national campaign.

As the civil rights movement gained steam, some 8000 African-Americans attended a prayer meeting in Atlanta as part of a growing movement to boycott downtown stores that refused to integrate their facilities. 2000 of those then marched downtown to show their support for civil rights demonstrators.

After John F. Kennedy was elected President, he appointed Georgian Dean Rusk as his Secretary of State.

Actress Joanne Woodward, born in Thomasville, Georgia, became the first person honored with a star in the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard that became the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Flannery O’Connor’s second novel, The Violent Bear it Away, was published.

Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” was released and bumped “The Twist” from the top of the popular music charts. She topped the charts again later in the year with “I Want to be Wanted.”

Future musician Amy Grant was born in Augusta, Georgia.

Future musician Michael Stipe was born at Fort McPherson near Atlanta.

Future University of Georgia and Atlanta Hawks basketball star Dominique Wilkins was born in France.


For more information on the integration of the University of Georgia, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

The University of Georgia was integrated with the admission and enrollment of Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes. While the integration did not occur without protest, it was much less than at several other major southern state schools. A federal judge ordered the two be admitted, and Hunter took residence in a dormitory, while Holmes stayed with a family in Athens. Some crowds of whites did gather shouting protests, but there was no violence. After their first day of classes, local members of the Ku Klux Klan joined some students in protesting outside of Hunter’s dorm, and the police had to be called in. For their own protection, Hunter and Holmes were taken to Atlanta. UGA faculty protested the removal of Hunter and Holmes, sending a petition for their reinstatement to the Board of Regents. The same federal judge who had ordered their admittance now ordered that they be allowed to return to classes, and Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr. announced that no further violence would be tolerated and the students’ safety would be guaranteed. Both returned to campus, and though there were sporadic protests, there was no further violence, thanks in large part to the efforts of Dean William Tate, who had also worked tirelessly to calm the previous protests. Both students graduated from UGA and went on the very successful careers, Hunter as a journalist and Holmes as a doctor.

Atlanta’s public schools were integrated peacefully under the guidance of Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield and Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr. The peaceful integration received public acknowledgement from President John F. Kennedy.

For more information on the Albany Movement, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

In Albany, Georgia, a series of civil rights protests took place, which came to be called the Albany Movement. Begun by local clergy and youth from the NAACP, it included attempts at integrating the bus and train stations, speaking on the campus of Albany State College, and eventually a prayerful protest outside of Albany City Hall, where many (mostly students) were arrested. Students from Atlanta joined in the protests. When Georgia governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr. sent in National Guardsmen to try and keep order, Martin Luther King, Jr. became involved, bringing national attention to the situation. King and others were also arrested, but he was released the following day after reaching an oral agreement with the Albany city commissioners to desegregate the train and bus facilities in return for the demonstrators’ ending their protests. But the city leaders would later back off the agreement.

Transcontinental flights between Atlanta and Los Angeles began from Atlanta’s airport.

Ray Charles won four Grammy awards, including Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist for “Georgia on My Mind.” Later in the year his song “Hit The Road Jack” topped the popular music charts.

Future actor Laurence Fishburne was born in Augusta, Georgia.

Baseball Hall of Famer Ty Cobb died in Atlanta.


Georgia’s county unit system for deciding elections was challenged this year. In the county unit system, candidates were not chosen by popular vote. The winner of each county received that county’s “unit” votes, with larger counties having up to eight unit votes, but all smaller counties having at least two. This system helped keep political power largely in the rural areas of the state. Since Georgia had 159 counties, a candidate could win election by dominating the smaller counties and virtually ignoring the rapidly growing urban areas. In the case of Gray v. Sanders, an Atlanta resident contended that under the county unit system his vote did not count equally to those of rural voters. Judge Griffin Bell ruled that the county unit system was invalid and a new system had to be designed before the Democratic primary of this year, a design in which each vote counted equally. Then Governor Ernest Vandiver, Jr. called a special session of the Georgia legislature to revise Georgia’s election procedures. The Supreme Court would uphold Bell’s decision the following year.

Carl Sanders was elected governor of Georgia over former governor Marvin Griffin. At the time Sanders was the nation’s youngest governor (age 37), and the first elected along with the decline of the county unit system. It was also the first Georgia gubernatorial campaign in which television played a major role.

For more on the Air France crash, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

An Air France jetliner crashed soon after takeoff in Paris, killing 130 people - the worst single air accident to that time. Of the dead, 115 were Georgians - 106 of which were art patrons from Atlanta on an European tour sponsored by the Atlanta Art Association.

Resulting from his arrest in supporting the Albany Movement the previous year (see 1961), Martin Luther King, Jr. was sentenced to 45 days in jail or a $178 fine. After the the Albany city leaders had not lived up to their agreement the previous year to integrate the city’s bus and train stations, King and fellow protestors tried to meet with them for weeks. When they refused, King once again led a protest prayer at city hall, and he and his followers were again arrested. The Albany police closed city parks and the library when African-Americans tried to use them, plus arresting a group trying to integrate a local hotel. The situation turned even more violent when a church in neighboring Lee County, which had hosted a voter registration meeting, was firebombed. Martin Luther King, Jr. issued a nationwide call for clergymen to come to Albany to aid in their protest; the call was answered and seventy-four men, including nine rabbis, eight Catholic laymen, and over forty Protestant ministers, were arrested following a march to city hall. Soon after this three more African-American churches in nearby Terrell County were also burned.

A civil rights bus boycott took place in Macon, Georgia, and an African-American church was burned there - the eighth such incident in Georgia for this year.

“I Can’t Stop Loving You,” performed by Georgian Ray Charles, topped the popular music charts, followed later in the year by another number one song, “You Don’t Know Me.”

Jackie Robinson was selected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

The man most consider the greatest football player in the history of the University of Georgia - Herschel Walker - was born in Wrightsville, Georgia.

Future Atlanta resident, Olympic medalist, and world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield was born in Alabama.


For more information on the March on Washington, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested for demonstrating for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. While imprisoned there, he penned his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” But King was not finished making history this year - in August he led the March on Washington where, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he delivered his world famous “I Have a Dream” Speech.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Gray v. Sanders, ruled that the Georgia Democratic Primary was essentially a state election, and struck the use of the county unit system, thus establishing the “one person, one vote” standard for election districts - meaning that no person’s vote in one district can count more than another person’s vote in any other district.

Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson broke the longevity record of service in Congress. Elected in 1914, he was reelected for 26 consecutive terms. At the time of his retirement in 1965, he had served 50 years and one month in Congress, a record that would last until 1992.

In Georgia and across the nation people reacted in shock, and flags were lowered to half-staff, at the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Vince Dooley was named head football coach at the University of Georgia.

Future musician Travis Tritt was born in Marietta, Georgia.

Former Atlanta University professor and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois died in Ghana.


The U.S. Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Civil Rights Act, which prohibited any state or local government or public facility from denying access to anyone because of race or ethnic origin. The first person to be prosecuted under the act would be future Georgia governor Lester Maddox. Martin Luther King, Jr. was present at the White House for the signing of the Act.

For more information on these lawsuits, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

In Atlanta, a federal court ordered Lester Maddox’s Pickrick Restaurant and the Heart of Atlanta Motel to serve African-American customers according to the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. announced that if the city would build a stadium, an unnamed Major League baseball team would move to Atlanta. The city agreed and soon ground breaking ceremonis were held for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Later in the year it was announced that the team that would be moving to Atlanta was the Milwaukee Braves.

For more on the Lemuel Penn case, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

While driving through Madison County, Lemuel Penn, an African-American U.S. Army Reserve officer, was killed by a shotgun blast from a passing car. Penn had been on summer active duty at Fort Benning and was returning to his home in Washington, D.C. The driver of the car from which the blast occurred admitted his role and identified two members of the Ku Klux Klan as being the ones who actually fired the shots that killed Penn. The two were subsequently tried in state superior court, but an all-white jury found them not guilty. Federal prosecutors then charged them with violating Penn’s civil rights. A federal district court jury found them guilty, and they served six years in federal prison.

A special birthday party was held in Milledgeville, Georgia to honor Carl Vinson (he was 81) who at the time held the record for the longest period of time served in the U.S. Congress.

For more on King’s Nobel Peace Prize, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1964.

Tropical storm Cleo, just downgraded from a hurricane after devastating Florida, hit the southeast Georgia coast with wind gusts up to 65 MPH and sustained winds of 50 MPH. Seven inches of rain fell on Savannah in five hours, causing flash flooding.

The Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority - or MARTA - was established.

Future University of Georgia basketball great and four time Olympic Gold Medalist Teresa Edwards was born in Cairo, Georgia.

Writer Flannery O’Connor died in Milledgeville, Georgia.


Martin Luther King, Jr. attended the White House ceremonies for the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act specifically banned denying anyone the right to vote based on literacy tests, grandfather clauses, or any of the other means used to keep African-Americans from voting.

After serving a record setting fifty plus year in the U.S. Congress, Carl Vinson retired.

For more on Julian Bond, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Julian Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, but the Georgia House would refuse to seat him, based primarily on his outspoken objections to the Vietnam War. Bond had also been prominent in the civil rights movement. In the same election year, Grace Towns Hamilton became the first African-American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly.

The National Football League awarded Atanta with a franchise that would become the Atlanta Falcons. Later in the year the team took part in its first draft, and the first Atlanta Falcon chosen was Tommy Nobis.

Future University of Georgia track great and Olympic Gold Medalist Gwen Torrence was born in Atlanta.


Lester Maddox began the campaign that would end with him being governor of Georgia. He ran for the seat in the in the Democratic primary against Ellis Arnall and Jimmy Carter, coming in second to Arnall. In the subsequent run-off , Maddox beat Arnall. In the general election, Maddox faced a tough challenge in the person of Republican Howard “Bo” Callaway. Callaway won a plurality of votes cast in the general election, but a write-in campaign for Arnall kept Callaway from receiving a majority of the total votes cast. At the time, Georgia’s constitution provided that if no candidate won a majority in the general election, the task of choosing the governor from among the candidates would go to the General Assembly. With few Republicans in the General Assembly, legislators elected Maddox (in early 1967). The legislature’s election of Maddox made him the first native-born Atlantan to serve as governor of Georgia.

The Georgia House of Representatives voted not to seat Julian Bond, who had been elected in the fall of 1965, primarily because of his open objections to the Vietnam War.

Atlanta born James Dickey won the National Book Award for Poetry.

For an image of Hank Aaron batting in the first game, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The Braves played their first season in Atlanta after moving from Milwaukee. During this season future Hall of Famer and home run champion Hank Aaron hit his 400th career home run.

The University of Georgia won the Southeastern Conference football championship.

Future Atlanta Braves pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine was born in Massachusetts.

Another future Atlanta Brave and Cy Young Award winner - Greg Maddux - was born in Texas.

Yet another future Atlanta Brave - outfielder David Justice - was born in Ohio, and on the same day as Maddux. All three of these players would be very instrumental in the Braves winning the world championship in 1995.

Writer and civil rights activist Lillian Smith died in Atlanta.


Lester Maddox was chosen governor of Georgia by the General Assembly (see 1966).

The Georgia House of Representatives finally seated Julian Bond, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they were denying his right to free speech by refusing to seat him based on his opposition to the Vietnam War.

For more on the Poor People’s Campaign, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

A Poor People’s Campaign, to represent the problems of poor blacks and whites, was formed by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Robert Shaw was named music director and conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Future actress Julia Roberts was born in Smyrna, Georgia.

Future Atlanta Brave pitching great John Smoltz was born in Michigan.

For more on Otis Redding’s funeral, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Georgia musician Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin. Just three days earlier he had recorded the song that became his biggest hit - “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”

Former Georgia governor Eurith Dickinson (ED) Rivers died in Atlanta.

Writer Carson McCullers died in New York.

Writer Jean Toomer died in Pennsylvania.


For more on the MLK assassination, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a Poor People’s Campaign - planned for Washington D.C. in April. But he took a break from planning the march to go to Memphis, TN and speak in support of striking sanitation workers. There, on the evening on April 3, he gave his famous “I See the Promised Land” speech. The following day - April 4 - while standing on the balcony of his motel, he was assassinated by a gunshot wound to his head. His funeral was held in Atlanta, with over 100,000 in the city for the service (though his church could only hold 800). Over 200,000 watched as his coffin was carried through the streets of Atlanta.

King’s alleged assassin, James Earl Ray, was captured in London on June 8. He confessed to the killing, but later recanted. No one else was ever arrested for the murder.

Knowing that Martin Luther King, Jr. would have wanted it to go on, the Poor People’s March on Washington began in May, led by Ralph David Abernathy.

Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,’ recorded days before his death in a plane crash (see 1967) topped the popular music charts and became a gold record. Later in the year Redding was posthumously awarded Grammy Awards for best male Rhythm & Blues performance and best Rhythm & Blues song.

Atlanta Brave great Hank Aaron hit his 500th career home run.

The University of Georgia won the Southeastern Conference football championship.

For more on Habitat for Humanity, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Clarence Jordan, founder of a Christian communal farm in rural southwestern Georgia, joined forces with a friend to try to eliminate substandard housing in the area by loaning money to the poor at no interest and building homes at no profit. This was the beginning of Habitat for Humanity.

Emory University student Barbara Jane Mackle was kidnapped and buried alive in a plywood box containing a lamp, air pump, some water and candy. Her father paid a $500,00 ransom. FBI agents, following vague directions from the kidnappers, finally found Mackle after three and a half days; she was dehydrated, but alive. University of Miami researcher Gary Krist and Ruth Eiseman-Schier were arrested and convicted of the kidnapping.

An event that would have repercussions in Georgia three years later occured this year in the Vietnamese village of My Lai, when almost the entire village of Vietnamese civilians was massacred by a group of American soldiers led by Lt. William Calley. His trial would be held at Fort Benning in 1971.


In Memphis, TN, James Earl Ray pled guilty to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted his guilty plea, unsuccessfully attempting to obtain a new trial.

The Atlanta Braves won their first division championship after moving from Milwaukee.

Ruth Eiseman-Schier was arrested for her part in the kidnapping of Barbara Jane Mackle in 1968. She had been the first woman on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list. Later in the year she was convicted for her role in the kidnapping.

To view an image of Hollis Stacy, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Native Georgian (born in Savannah) Hollis Stacy became the youngest girl to win the U.S. Golf Association Junior Girls Championship. She would also win it the next two years.

The Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge was established.

Atlanta Constitution editor and publisher Ralph McGill died in Atlanta.


Jimmy Carter was elected governor of Georgia.

For more on the Augusta race riots, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Riots broke out in Augusta, Georgia after the beating death of a 16 year old mentally retarded African-American inmate by two other African-American inmates. A peaceful demonstration was held concerning dealing with juvenile offenders at the Richmond County jail, but at night the protest turned violent, with looting, burning, and people being beaten. The National Guard had to be called in to restore order. Six people were killed and some sixty wounded during the riots.

Three official Georgia symbols were designated this year, the brown thrasher as State Bird, the bobwhite quail as State Game Bird, and the largemouth bass as State Fish.

The Georgia Agrirama, a museuem of agriculture and historic village, was created.

To view the carving decorated for Christmas, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The carving on Stone Mountain, begun in 1923 but suspended several times, was dedicated.

Interstate 285, a 64 mile perimeter highway around Atlanta, was completed.

Georgia finally ratified the nineteenth amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote; it had been ratified by most states in 1920.

Atlanta Brave great Hank Aaron became the ninth player in Major League baseball history to get 3000 hits, and the first to get both that many hits and at least 500 home runs.

Native Georgian Ray Stevens hit the top of the music charts with “Everything is Beautiful,” which featured his daughters’ school chorus.

To view film clips of the walk, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Tightrope specialist Karl Wallenda successfully walked across Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge on a cable suspended 700 feet above the gorge’s floor; 30,000 people were on hand to witness the walk - in which he did two handstands.


Jimmy Carter, elected in November of 1970, was inaugurated as governor of Georgia. Later in the year, he would appear on the cover of Time magazine under the caption “Dixie Whistles a Different Tune.”

The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, published posthumously, won the National Book Award. She had died in 1964.

The Allman Brothers Band recorded a live double album at Fillmore East in New York; the album reached gold status and helped propel the band to stardom. But later in the year the band’s founder and lead guitarist Duane Allman was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia.

Atlanta born Jerry Reed topped the country music charts with “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

For more on William Calley’s trial, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

In a court martial trial held at Fort Benning, Lt. William Calley was convicted for the murder of Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre in 1968. He was sentenced to life in prison, but was granted clemency by President Richard Nixon and served three years under house arrest.

Coca-Cola began one of its most famous marketing projects, featuring the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

Football great Jim Brown, born on St. Simons Island, was inducted in the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Atlanta Brave outfield great Hank Aaron hit his 600th career home run.

A civil rights protest in Columbus, Georgia turned violent with nineteen buildings set on fire and a state of emergency declared.

To view photos from the Andersonville National Historic Site, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

The Andersonville National Historic Site was opened.

Atlanta’s airport began international service when Eastern Air Lines started flights to Mexico City.

Long time U.S. Senator Richard B. Russell, Jr. died.

Former Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield died in Atlanta. The city’s airport was eventually named for him.

Golfing great Bobby Jones died in Atlanta.


For more on Georgia’s Sunshine Laws, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The General Assembly passed, and Governor Jimmy Carter signed, Georgia’s “Sunshine Law,” requiring open meetings of state boards and commissions. Another significant piece of legislation was passed in this legislative session, the Executive Reorganization Act of 1972, which restructured the executive branch of Georgia’s state government.

Sam Nunn was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Richard B. Russell, Jr., who had died in office the previous year.

For more on Andrew Young, see the Civil Rights Digital Library.

Andrew Young became the first African-American elected to Congress from the Deep South since the Reconstruction period.

Atlanta Brave baseball great Hank Aaron passed Willie Mays, moving into second place on the all time home run list. Also in this year, Aaron hit a home run in the All-Star game, played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Another sports arena, the Omni, opened in downtown Atlanta.

Born in Cairo, Georgia, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League baseball - Jackie Robinson - died this year.

Negro League baseball great Josh Gibson, born in Buena Vista, Georgia, was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

To view photos from Cumberland Island, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

The Cumberland Island National Seashore was created.

Allman Brothers Band founder Duane Allman had been killed in a motorcycle accident the previous year; this year, just three blocks away from the same spot in Macon, Georgia, fellow guitarist Berry Oakley was also killed, again in a motorcycle accident.


Tom Murphy became Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, a post he would hold for 28 years, the longest time in the nation for anyone to hold this state office.

For more on Maynard Jackson, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Maynard Jackson was elected mayor of Atlanta, becoming the first African-American mayor of a major southern city.

President and Mrs. Richard Nixon visited Mercer University in Macon to honor the 90th birthday of former Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson and the 100th anniversary of Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law . At the ceremonies, President Nixon announced that the next American nuclear powered aircraft carrier would be named the USS Carl Vinson.

Atlanta Brave outfield great Hank Aaron hit his 700th home run, leaving him 14 behind the Major League record, then held by Babe Ruth. By the end of the season Aaron’s home run total stood at 713, only one behind Ruth. He also topped the Major League record for extra base hits, previously held by Stan Musial.

Atlanta Brave pitching great Phil Niekro threw a no-hitter.

Tommy Aaron became the second Georgia born golfer to win the Masters golf tournament.

Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” topped the popular music charts.

For more on the Alday murders, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

In one of the most heinous crimes in Georgia history, escapees from a Maryland prison brutally murdered six members of the Alday family in Donalsonville, Georgia.

Former University of Georgia head football coach and athletic director James Wallace (Wally) Butts died in Athens, Georgia.

Poet Conrad Aiken died in Savannah, Georgia.

Peace activist Jeannette Rankin died.


To view an image of Hank Aaron hitting his record-breaking home run, see the Digital Library of Georgia.
To view an image of Hank Aaron after his record-breaking home run, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

On opening day of the Atlanta Braves season, Hank Aaron hit home run number 714 in Cincinnati, trying him with Babe Ruth for the all time home run record. Four days later, playing at home in Atlanta Fulton County stadium, he broke the record with his 715th home run, in what most observers feel is the most memorable moment in Atlanta sports history. Addressing the cheering crowd afterwards Aaron simply said “I just thank God it’s all over.” Ruth’s widow was gracious, noting “Good for him. I’m not shocked, it doesn’t bother me; I’ve been expecting it of course.” In a bit of trivia not generally known, Mrs. Ruth was born and lived her first fifteen years in Athens, Georgia.

Later in the season, Hank Aaron broke another significant record, this one held by a native Georgian, when he topped the record of 3033 career games previously held by Ty Cobb. Aaron was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers later in the season, where he finished his career with a total of 755 home runs.

In the November general election, George Busbee was elected governor of Georgia.

For more on the Murphy kidnapping, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Atlanta Constitution editor Reg Murphy was kidnapped and held for ransom. The newspaper paid a $700,000 ransom, and Murphy was released. William A.H. Williams was arrested for the crime, and most of the ransom money was recovered at Williams’ house.

A series of tornadoes ripped through northwest Georgia, killing 16 people and injuring 109. Governor Jimmy Carter declared thirteen counties disaster areas.

Atlanta born historian Daniel J. Boorstin won the Pulitizer Prize for his work The Democratic Experience.

Late in the year, on December 12th, Georgia governor Jimmy Carter (George Busbee would not be inaugurated until January) made a momentous announcement - that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States!


Jimmy Carter launched his campaign for the presidency from an old train depot in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

The honeybee was designated as Georgia’s official state insect.

For more on Phil Niekro, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro was recognized as the last remaining player on the team from when they moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966.

Playing for the Milwaukee Brewers, former Atlanta Brave Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s RBI (runs batted in) record. He also received the annual Springarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for his achievements and sportsmanship.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Ezzard Charles, who had been born in Georgia, died in Illinois.


For more on Carter’s campaign and election, see the Digital Library of Georgia.
For more on Carter’s campaign and election, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

There were several significant events in Georgia for this year, but the major story was the campaign and election of Jimmy Carter as President. He had assured himself of winning the Democratic nomination by June 9; then officially accepted the nomination at the Democratic Convention in New York City on July 14. He then ran a vigorous campaign in the late summer and fall, which included three debates with incumbent President Gerald Ford and an interview with Playboy magazine. Finally on November 2 Jimmy Carter became the first (and so far the only) Georgian to be elected President of the United States.

In an interesting side note to the election, while Carter and Ford were the primary contenders for the presidency, a minor group calling itself the American Independent Party nominated another former Georgia governor, Lester Maddox. He was not a serious factor in the election.

The General Assembly proposed, and Georgia voters approved, a new state constitution. At the same time, Georgians approved a constitutional amendment allowing an elected governor to be re-elected for one extra consecutive four year term. Previously a governor could only serve one term consecutively.

Georgia Governor George Busbee announced that the state’s burgeoning, $329 million dollar Medicaid program was to be separated from the state Department of Human Resources; it had come to comprise 38% of the department’s budget.

For more on Georgia’s state symbols, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

Three official Georgia state symbols were designated this year - staurolite as the state mineral, the shark tooth as the state fossil, and quartz as the state gem.

Along with people across the nation, Georgians celebrated the bicentennial of the United States with parades and festivals on July 4.

Three roads (running consecutively) in Atlanta were re-named Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.

The Georgia World Congress Center opened.

The Atlanta Airport was renamed Hartsfield International Airport, in honor of former Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield. The name would later be changed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to also honor former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson.

Heavy rains caused considerable damage in Atlanta, including some to the Battle of Atlanta painting in the Cyclorama.

Approximately $1 million in counterfeit currency and the plates from which it was produced were seized in raids in Cobb and DeKalb counties.

The University of Georgia Bulldogs won the Southeastern Conference Football Championship.

Ted Turner purchased the Atlanta Braves professional baseball franchise. Later in the year, Atlanta television station WTCG-TV changed its call letters to WTBS, becoming Channel 17 - “America’s Super Station.” The station became famous for broadcasting sitcom reruns and Atlanta Braves baseball.

The Atlanta Braves named Bill Lucas Director of Player Personnel, making him the first African-American in baseball history to hold a front office position.

The Georgia Agrirama, created by legislation in 1970, officially opened in Tifton, Georgia as Georgia’s agricultural museum.

Famous songwriter Johnny Mercer, born in Savannah, died in California.


For an image from Carter’s inauguration, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Jimmy Carter was officially inaugurated as President of the United States on January 20.

Georgia congressman Andrew Young resigned his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to accept the post of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations after his appointment by President Jimmy Carter.

President Jimmy Carter participated in the first “Dial-a-President” radio broadcast, where he answered questions from listeners across the United States. The CBS radio program was hosted by Walter Cronkite.

President Jimmy Carter posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bert Lance, friend and adviser to President Jimmy Carter, resigned as director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget after allegations of financial wrongdoings. He was later cleared of the allegations.

Construction was completed on four interstate highways that spanned Georgia from border to border - I-20, I-75, I-85, and I-95.

For more on the Toccoa Falls tragedy, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Heavy rains overwhelmed Kelly Barnes Dam on the campus of Toccoa Falls Bible College, causing it to burst. A wall of water swept through the campus, killing 39 people.

Horace Ward became the first black superior court judge in Georgia.

Georgia born golfer Hollis Stacy won the the first of her three U.S. Open titles.

Reacting to a 17 game losing streak, Atlanta Braves’ owner Ted Turner decided he would personally manage the Braves. His stint as manager lasted one game; the Braves still lost. Major League baseball subsequently instituted a prohibition on this practice. Later in the year, the Braves experienced another oddity, as pitcher Phil Niekro struck out four batters in one inning!

The television mini-series “Roots,” filmed largely in coastal Georgia, debuted on ABC.

The movie “Smokey and the Bandit,” which was filmed in Georgia, was released.


For more on Loew’s Theater, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Loew’s Theater in Atlanta, the site for the movie premiere of Gone With the Wind in 1939, was destroyed by fire.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area was officially added to the National Park System

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People presented its annual Spingarn Medal to United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young.

Georgia born golfer Hollis Stacy won the second of her three U.S. Open titles.

Georgia native and U.S. Army Gen. Lucius D. Clay died in Massachusetts; he was noted for organizing the Berlin airlift in 1948.

Former University of Georgia football coach Harry Mehre died in Atlanta.


For an image of Ray Charles performing the state song, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

“Georgia on My Mind” was designated as the official State Song, and the azalea was designated as the official State Wildflower. To commemorate this occasion, Ray Charles performed “Georgia on My Mind” for a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Fourteen year old Edward Smith, a resident of an Atlanta housing project, disappeared after heading home from a skating rink This marked the tragic beginning of a series of murdered and missing children in Atlanta, which would culminate with an arrest and trial in 1981.

For more on the wagon train, see This Day in Georgia History from GeorgiaInfo.

A train of 75 wagons, along with hundreds of riders, carried 60 ounces of gold from Dahlonega to Atlanta to be used in the re-gilding of the golden dome on Georgia’s capitol building. It followed the same route as a similar, although smaller, wagon train had done for the same purpose in 1958.

Andrew Young resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after an unauthorized meeting with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Yet another oddity for the Atlanta Braves occurred this season, as Phil Niekro became the first National League pitcher since 1905 to both win and lose 20 games in one season.

Though this event did not happen in Georgia, it did have a very significant impact on the Georgian serving as President - Jimmy Carter. In November Iranian radicals stormed the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, Iran, seizing 53 American hostages. This event, which lasted for 444 days, was a dark cloud over Carter’s re-election campaign and contributed to his defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan the following year.

Former Georgia Secretary of State Ben Fortson, who had served nine consecutive terms and a total of 32 years in the position, died in Atlanta.


The tragic case of Atlanta’s murdered and missing children kept much of Atlanta in fear for this year, with numerous cases of children disappearing and later being found murdered. A task force was formed to investigate the crimes, and the FBI was called in to assist. Still, throughout the summer and fall of the year, the murders continued unabated.

Incumbent Jimmy Carter was again nominated for the presidency by the Democratic Party, but weighed down by a slow economy and the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis, he lost the general election to Ronald Reagan. In the same election long time U.S. Senator from Georgia Herman Talmadge lost to Mack Mattingly.

Carl Vinson became the first living American to have a U.S. Navy ship named for him.

For more on Georgia’s national championship season, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

Led by freshman sensation Herschel Walker, the University of Georgia Bulldog football team won the Southeastern Conference football championship, went undefeated, and finished the regular season ranked number one in the nation, ready to face Notre Dame on New Year’s Day 1981 for the national championship. Along the way they earned thrilling come from behind victories over Tennessee in Knoxville and Florida in Jacksonville - the latter culminating with what most fans consider the greatest play in UGA history, a 92 yeard touchdown pass from Georgia quarterback Buck Belue to wide receiver Lindsay Scott to bring the “Dawgs” from behind with less than a minute left in the game.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site was established in Atlanta. See photos of site.

In a peaceful protest, over one thousand inmates at the Georgia State Prison refused to work to dramatize their plea for more rights and better living conditions.

A wildcat strike by bus drivers of the National Transportation Service forced the closing of Fulton County’s public schools for one day. The schools re-opened the following day and a federal mediator was brought in. Drivers started crossing the picket lines after a few days without work, and the strike was soon over.

For an image of Turner speaking at the opening of CNN, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

The Cable News Network (CNN) was launched in Atlanta by Ted Turner.

The Georgia Guidestones were unveiled.

Georgia born actor Melvyn Douglas was an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the movie “Being There.”

The musical band R.E.M. formed in Athens.

Former Georgia governor Melvin Thompson died in Valdosta, Georgia.

Female aviation pioneer Jackie Cochran died.


The hostages being held in Iran were released on Jimmy Carter’s last day as U.S. President. Later in the year he would welcome visits from both the prime minister of Israel and the president of Egypt; Carter had helped to broker a peace treaty between the two nations.

The Atlanta child murders continued through the spring, until on May 22 police staking out a bridge on Cobb Drive heard a car stop on the bridge, then a splash in the water. They stopped and questioned the driver - Wayne Williams. Two days later, a body washed ashore downstream from the bridge, and Williams was soon arrested. Though he was only charged with the murders of the final two victims; he was suspected of being the person responsible for all of the Atlanta child murders from 1979-1981. Jury selection for his trial began on December 28.

For more on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Danny Hansford was shot and killed by Jim Williams in Savannah. Williams claimed he was acting in self defense, but was charged with murder. He would ultimately be tried four times, and the case was dramatized in the book, and later a movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The Georgia General Assembly proposed a new state constitution; it would not be voted on until 1982 and would not go into effect until 1983, thus it is called the Constitution of 1983.

Former Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.

Andrew Young was elected mayor of Atlanta; he would be re-elected to the same position in 1985. Edward McIntyre was elected mayor of Augusta, the first African-American to hold that position in Augusta.

The University of Georgia defeated Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day to complete an undefeated, untied season as the national collegiate football champions.

In the fall of the year, the University of Georgia football team won their second consecutive Southeastern Conference football championship.

For more on Johnny Mize, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Baseball great Johnny Mize, born in Demorest, Georgia, was inducted into the professional baseball Hall of Fame.

Atlanta Brave great Dale Murphy began a streak of 740 consecutive games played, a Braves’ franchise record.

Dr. Betty L. Siegel became the first woman president in the University System of Georgia when she was chosen to head Kennesaw College.

Former Georgia Representative in the U.S. House Carl Vinson, who at the time held the record for longest service in Congress, died in Milledgeville, Georgia.

Beloved Georgia educator William Tate died in Athens, Georgia.

Georgia born actor Melvyn Douglas died; he was one of only three actors to win Oscar, Emmy, and Tony awards.

Famous Georgia historian Ellis Merton Coulter died in Athens, Georgia.


For more on Wayne Williams, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Wayne Williams was convicted of the last two of the Atlanta child murders; the other cases were cleared with Williams strongly suspected of being the culprit, although he was only formally charged with the killing of the final two victims.

In a newspaper interview, Alonzo Mann asserted that he had seen Jim Conley carrying the dead body of Mary Phagan in the National Pencil Factory on April 26, 1913. The superintendent of the factory, Leo Frank, had been convicted of the murder, taken from prison and lynched in one of the more infamous episodes in Georgia history. In this interview Mann (a young office boy in the factory at the time), insisted Frank was innocent and Conley guilty. Mann voluntarily submitted to two lie detector tests, which indicated he was telling the truth. See the GeorgiaInfo page on the Leo Frank Case for a full account of this episode in Georgia history.

The Color Purple, Pulitzer Prize winning novel by native Georgian Alice Walker, was published.

In his first trial, Jim Williams was convicted for the murder of Danny Hansford, but appealed the decision. Williams would ultimately undergo four trials, and the case was dramatized in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Georgia voters approved a new state constitution, which had been proposed in 1981, and would go into effect in 1983; this was called the Georgia Constitution of 1983. In the same election, Joe Frank Harris was elected as Georgia’s governor.

Jimmy Carter was appointed University Distinguished Professor by Emory University.

For more on Herschel Walker, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker won the Heisman Trophy, given annually to the best college football player in the nation. He led the Bulldogs to their third consecutive Southeastern Conference championship.

The Weather Channel, headquartered in Georgia, began broadcasting.

The Coca-Cola Company introduced Diet Coke.

It was an eventful year for the Atlanta Braves. They opened the season by winning thirteen consecutive games, a major league record. The great start propelled them into first place, and attendance at Braves’ games increased. Later in the summer, demand for tickets became so great that the Braves took down the teepee of the team mascot, Chief Noc-A-Homa, to make room for more seating. But then the team went into a tailspin, losing nineteen of their next twenty-one games and falling out of first place. Braves fans clamored to have the teepee restored. The Braves finally relented, put Noc-A-Homa’s teepee back in place, and the team rallied to win their division, before losing in the playoffs to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Former Brave great Hank Aaron was voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and inducted later in the year.

The city of Kennesaw, Georgia passed a law requiring each household to keep a firearm and ammunition.

Former Georgia governor Marvin Griffin died.


For a newspaper article on Walker’s Pulitzer Prize, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Alice Walker won both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Color Purple.

The third Monday in January was designated as a federal holiday to honor the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jim Williams, convicted the previous year of the murder of Danny Hansford, was granted a new trial on appeal. In the second trial he was again convicted, but again appealed. The case was dramatized in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Joe Frank Harris was inaugurated as governor of Georgia.

Parades and celebrations were held in Savannah marking the 250th anniversary of the founding of Georgia in 1733.

To see all of Georgia’s Constitutions, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

The Georgia Constitution of 1983 went into effect; it remains Georgia’s current constitution today.

James Brown was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

From the Hills of Georgia: An Autobiography in Paintings, a collection by Georgia native and celebrated folk artist Mattie Lou O’Kelley, was published.

The Institute of Government at the University of Georgia was named in honor of long time Georgia Congressman Carl Vinson.

Herschel Walker signed a contract to play professional football in the fledgling United States Football League, bypassing what would have been his senior season at the University of Georgia. In better news for UGA sports, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams advanced to their respective Final Four in the NCAA tournaments, the first time both a school’s men’s and women’s team did so in the same year.

Georgia born trumpet player and big band leader Harry James died in Las Vegas.

Comic television actor Alvin “Junior” Samples, born in Cumming, Georgia, died.


For an aerial view of the Carter Center, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Construction began on the Carter Center in Atlanta. It’s mission was (and is) “advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering.”

Jim Williams, twice convicted of murder for the killing of Danny Hansford in Savannah, was denied his appeal for a new trial by a local judge, but this was not the end of the matter yet; he would continue his appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court and ultimately go through two more trials in the case that was dramatized in both the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Carlton Gary was arrested on suspicion of being the culprit in a series of murders in the Columbus area since 1977; he would be tried and convicted of the crimes in 1986. This was known as the Wynnton Stocking Strangler case.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the colleges in a suit filed by the University of Georgia and the University of Oklahoma against the National Collegiate Athletic Assiciation (NCAA). The result was that individual schools and conferences could now negotiate their own television deals, which led to many more college football games being televised and much more money being distributed to the schools and conferences.

Georgia born women’s golfer Hollis Stacy won the third of her three U.S. Open championships.

The Atlanta Braves retired the jersey number 35 worn by pitching great Phil Niekro.


The right whale was designated as Georgia’s official state marine mammal.

Georgia based Coca-Cola Company began selling its products in the Soviet Union. But that was not the really big news the company made this year. In April they announced they were changing the famous, almost century old formula for their soft drink, calling it “New Coke.” But consumers revolted and demanded a return to the popular favorite, and the company soon relented, bringing back the original formula under the name “Coca-Cola Classic.” But the company news improved later in the year; Coca-Cola became the first soft drink in space when it was taken aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

The Georgia Supreme Court ordered a new (third) trial for Jim Williams, convicted in two earlier trials for the murder of Danny Hansford in the case dramatized by both the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Georgia celebrated the centennial of the laying of the state capitol building’s marble cornerstone in 1885.

For more on Richard B. Russell Lake, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

Georgia’s newest lake - Richard B. Russell Lake - was dedicated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Ted Turner unsuccessfully attempted to buy a controlling interest in the CBS television network.

Atlanta Brave great Dale Murphy tied a National League record with 29 RBIs (runs batted in) in one month (April). The Braves team made history of another sort later in the year, when they played the longest game in baseball history - over six hours! The game was twice delayed by rain, went 19 innings, and didn’t end until almost 4:00 AM!

NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing) driver Bill Elliott, a native of Dawsonville, Georgia, won the Daytona 500, Southern 500, and Winston 500, three of the top races on the circuit.

Philanthropist Robert W. Woodruff died in Atlanta.


The birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was officially celebrated as a national holiday.

The Carter Center was officially dedicated in Atlanta on the birthday of former President Jimmy Carter. It’s mission was (and is) “advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering.”

For more on James Brown, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
For more on Ray Charles, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Two native Georgians - James Brown and Ray Charles - were among the first eight musicians honored at the first induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a posthumous pardon to Leo Frank. Frank had been convicted of the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan, taken from prison and lynched in 1915. The trial and its aftermath marked one of the more infamous episodes in Georgia history (see Leo Frank Case link below for more details). In 1982, a witness had testified that he strongly believed Frank was innocent of the crime (he had seen someone else carrying the girl’s body), though his testimony could not conclusively prove it. So the pardon was issued for the state’s inability to protect Frank while he was in custody; it did not officially absolve him of the crime. See the GeorgiaInfo page on the Leo Frank Case.

University of Georgia graduate, and one of the first two African-Americans to attend UGA, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, won the Journalist of the Year Award from the National Association of Black Journalists.

Georgia native and former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker signed a contract with the Dallas Cowboys.

“She’s Gotta Have It,” a film by Atlanta born Spike Lee, won an award at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

For more on Georgia Stamps, see this feature from GeorgiaInfo.

A special Margaret Mitchell stamp was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in Atlanta, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Gone with the Wind.

The inaugural Goodwill Games, brainchild of Ted Turner, were held in Moscow.

Atlanta Brave third baseman Bob Horner did something only ten other players in Major League baseball history have done - he hit four home runs in a single game. Horner’s feat was unique in an unfortunate way; among the eleven players who have accomplished the feat; his Braves were the only team to lose the game. Another Braves happening this year, Dale Murphy’s franchise record of 740 consecutive games played came to an end.

Carlton Gary was convicted and sentenced to death for the Wynnton Stocking Strangler murders, a series of murders in Columbus in 1977 and 1978.

Jack Nicklaus won the Masters golf tournament for a record setting sixth time, also becoming the oldest player to win the tournament - at age 46.


Fourteen cities had submitted bids to the United States Olympic Committee as contenders to be the U.S. city to bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. This year the list of fourteen was narrowed down to two - Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site was created in Plains, Georgia.

The knobbed whelk was designated as Georgia’s official state seashell.

For more on the civil rights demonstrators, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Approximately 20,000 civil rights demonstrators marched in Cumming, Georgia a week after opponents halted a smaller march in the county seat of overwhelmingly white Forsyth County.

In the third trial of Jim Williams, accused of the murder of Danny Hansford in Savannah, a mistrial was declared. Williams had been convicted in the previous two trials, but had been granted new trials on appeal. There would be one more attempt to try him. The case was later dramatized in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The Atlanta Braves, already out of championship contention in early August, traded their best pitcher at the time, Doyle Alexander, to the Detroit Tigers, who were in contention for a championship. In exchange for Alexander the Braves received a hard throwing young prospect, but as yet untested in the major leagues; his name was John Smoltz.

Larry Mize became the third native Georgian to win the Masters golf tournament. Mize was actually born in Augusta, Georgia, home of the Masters tournament.

Atlanta born Walt Frazier was inducted into the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame.

Musician Robert Cray, born in Columbus, Georgia, won a the Best Contemporary Blues Recording Grammy Award for “Strong Persuader.”

Lithonia, Georgia celebrated “Brenda Lee Day” in honor of the popular singer who had spent her childhood there. Brenda Lee herself was on hand for the celebration, which included a parade and naming a street after her.

Edwin Moses, a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, lost a 400 meter hurdle track race. Why was this significant? Because the Olympic star had won an amazing 122 previous races over a ten year span!

Author Erskine Caldwell, born in White Oak, Georgia, died in California.


The United States Olympic Committee selected Atlanta over Minneapolis-St. Paul as the U.S. city that would be allowed to bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

For more on Charlayne Hunter-Gault, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault became the first African-American to deliver the commencement address at the University of Georgia, her alma mater and the school she had helped to integrate in 1961.

The Georgia Vietnam Memorial, located across the street from the state capitol building, was dedicated.

The Tiger Swallowtail was designated as Georgia’s official state butterfly.

Vince Dooley announced that he would retire from his position as head football coach at the University of Georgia at the end of the 1988 season.

Television actor Bill Cosby and his wife gave twenty million dollars to Spelman College in Atlanta, the largest individual gift to a predominantly black institution in history.

For more on Bill Elliott, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Dawsonville, Georgia native Bill Elliott won the NASCAR Winston Cup points championship.

Georgia born Dave Prater, half of the musical duo Sam and Dave, died in an automobile accident on his way to his mother’s home in Ocilla, Georgia.


In his fourth trial for the murder of Danny Hansford, Jim Williams was acquitted of the crime. He had been convicted in the first two trials, but had won new trials on appeal, then a mistrial had been declared in his third trial. The case was dramatized in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

The gopher tortoise was designated as Georgia’s official state reptile.

Construction began on the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame was created, to be located at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base.

Maynard Jackson was again elected mayor of Atlanta.

For more on Otis Redding, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Georgia born Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Georgian Paul Coverdell was appointed Director of the U.S. Peace Corps by President George H.W. Bush.

In Vince Dooley’s final game as head football coach, the University of Georgia defeated Michigan St. in the Gator Bowl.

Mel Blount, born in Vidalia, Georgia and football great for the Pittsburg Steelers, was inducted into the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Do the Right Thing,” a film by Atlanta born Spike Lee, was nominated for three Academy Awards.

For more on “Driving Miss Daisy”, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Two prominent and popular movies filmed in Georgia were released this year - “Driving Miss Daisy,” filmed in Atlanta, and “Glory,” filmed in Savannah and Georgia’s coastal islands. “Driving Miss Daisy” was adapted from the play of the same name by Atlanta playwright Alfred Uhry.

Georgia born musician and comic Kenneth Burns, half of the comic duo Homer and Jethro, died.

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