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Talmadge, Herman


Future Georgia governor and long-time U.S. senator Herman Talmadge was born on August 9, 1913 near McRae in Telfair County, Georgia. After obtaining a law degree from the University of Georgia, Talmadge practice law with his father, Eugene Talmadge, in Atlanta. In November 1946, Eugene Talmadge ran unopposed for the office of governor but died on Dec. 21 before taking office - precipitating the famous “three governors affair.” As no one else’s name was on the ballot, it was not clear who should become governor. M.E. Thompson, whohad won the newly created post of lieutenant governor, thought he should serve as governor. There had been several thousand write-in votes in the governor’s race, with Herman Talmadge receiving 617 votes to 669 for James Carmichael and 637 for D. Talmadge Bowers. Based on some additional write-in votes “discovered” in Telfair County, Talmadge was credited with 675 votes. His supporters then called on the General Assembly to declare Herman Talmadge governor.

However, outgoing governor Ellis Arnall refused to give up the office until the matter was settled in court. So, in January 1947, there were three people claiming to be governor of Georgia. Meanwhile, Herman Talmadge took the oath of office on Jan. 14 and proceeded to act as governor (though Secretary of State Ben Fortson refused to allow any of the three contenders use of the official state seal). The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Thompson until the next general election, and on March 18, 1947, Talmadge stepped down. However, he came back to win a 1948 election to fill the remainder of the term of his father. Taking office in November 1948, Talmadge served as Georgia governor until January 1955.

In November 1956, Talmadge won the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Walter F. George. He would serve 24 years in the Senate, where he became an expert in agricultural and tax matters. Problems with his personal financial affairs led the Senate to denounce Talmadge, contributing to his 1980 election loss to Republican Mack Mattingly. Talmadge then retired from active politics; he died at his home in Hampton, Georgia on March 21, 2002.