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Interview with Robert Coram, March 4, 2013

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:13 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Hello, we're at the University of Georgia at the Special Collections Library.

Segment Synopsis: Bill Shipp introduces Robert Coram

00:01:19 - Working on Cumberland Island / Shark fishing

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Partial Transcript: Robert, let's, uh, let's talk for a few minutes about your early, uh, stint on Cumberland Island.

Segment Synopsis: Coram discusses the transition of Cumberland Island from private ownership to a National Seashore. He talks about the undeveloped nature of Georgia's barrier islands. He discusses shark fishing near Jekyll Island.

Keywords: 1970s; Barrier Islands; Conservation; Cumberland Island, Georgia; Industrialists; Jekyll Island; National Park Service; Sea Islands; Shark fishing

GPS: Cumberland Island National Seashore (St. Marys, GA)
Map Coordinates: 30.882736, -81.450199
00:07:20 - Covering the War on Drugs for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Partial Transcript: But, let's, let's skip around a little bit. Uh, I think you're probably the foremost authority in this country as a, as a writer on the American War on Drugs.

Segment Synopsis: Coram describes his coverage of the War on Drugs and the history of narcotics trafficking beginning in the mid-1970s. He discusses the ineffectiveness of drug war policies, concerns about legalization, and the demand for drugs in the United States.

Keywords: 1970s; ADIZ; Air Defense Identification Zone; Cocaine; Colombia; Dobbins Air Reserve Base; Drug abuse; Mandatory sentencing; Marijuana; Mass incarceration; Mexico; Narcotics trafficking; Organized crime; Prohibition; Reporting; Turks and Caicos; War on Drugs

00:14:14 - Writing novels and biographies

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Partial Transcript: Before we started this tape, you mentioned that you--had written a lot about it--a lot that has not been published, and that you turned it into novels. How about exploring that for a minute?

Segment Synopsis: Coram talks about using his reporting as the basis for novels on drug trafficking. He discusses the subjects of his biographies, including Robert Lee Scott of the Fighting Tigers.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Bud Day; China; Claire Lee Chennault; Flying Tigers; Georgia; God is My Co-Pilot; Japan; John Boyd; Military theory; Narcotics trafficking; POW's; Prisoners of war; Robert Lee Scott Jr.; Torture; Victor Krulak; West Point; World War II

00:21:19 - Carl Sanders and Jimmy Carter / Evolution of political parties in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Great, but let's talk about something that you and I share a great interest in, and that is Georgia politics.

Segment Synopsis: Coram discusses the views and leadership of Carl Sanders and the problems he faced while campaigning. Coram explains his belief that Jimmy Carter's campaign exploited the racism of Georgians to beat Sanders in the 1970 Democratic primary for governor. Coram talks about the shift in Georgia politics toward domination by the Republican Party.

Keywords: 1960s; 1970s; Atlanta Constitution; Atlanta Hawks; Betty Sanders; Carl Sanders; Civil Rights Acts; County Unit System; Desegregation; George Wallace; Georgia; Hamilton Jordan; Hugh Gillis; Jimmy Carter; Julian Bond; Larry Lloyd; Lester Maddox; Press Secretary; Racism; Remer Tyson; Schools

00:31:32 - Writing military biographies

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Partial Transcript: But let's come back to the, the present.What do you--what's on your agenda for the future, Robert?

Segment Synopsis: Coram talks about finding his niche as a writer.

Keywords: Carl Vinson; Georgia; Richard Russell

00:32:31 - Politics and Georgia's barrier islands

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Partial Transcript: Robert, let's talk a little bit more about Cumberland Island and all the, uh, all the islands up and down the Georgia coast.

Segment Synopsis: Coram talks about the various interest groups fighting over the future of Cumberland Island. He discusses the differences between Cumberland and Jekyll Island.

Keywords: Cumberland Island, Georgia; Development; Jack Kingston; Jekyll Island; Marvin Griffin; National Parks Service; National Seashore; Plum Orchard; Robber barons; Snow birds

00:40:13 - Undercover reporting on drug trafficking

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Partial Transcript: As I--said, you are probably the national, uh, expert on the drug traffickings--particularly in the Caribbeans and, uh, and Colombia.

Segment Synopsis: Coram describes some of his work writing about drug trafficking in the Turks and Caicos. He talks about disguising himself to avoid detection in the Bahamas and ending up in a high-speed boat chase.

Keywords: 1970s; Atlanta Constitution; Bimini, Bahamas; Broward County, Florida; DEA; Drug Enforcement Administration; Esquire Magazine; Narcotics trafficking; Smugglers

00:44:19 - Role of a journalist / Transitioning from observer to advocate

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Partial Transcript: Let, let me deviate for second. That, that was cowboy journalism at its best--enterprise journalism, they call it.

Segment Synopsis: Coram discusses his transition from observer to advocate when it comes to Cumberland Island and to narcotics. He talks about the importance of editorial support for a reporter.

Keywords: Advocacy; Anti-drug; Atlanta Constitution; Bob Ingle; Editorial; Objectivity

00:47:06 - Changes in journalism in digital age

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Partial Transcript: That's a good story, and that's a great story that, I think, exemplifies the time you and I were both practicing daily journalism, and playing cowboy, and having a great time.

Segment Synopsis: Coram talks about how the Internet has changed the nature of journalism.

Keywords: Digital age; Journalism; Reporting