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Interview with Bill Talmadge, August 17, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:59 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: Let's start chronologically if that's okay with you?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes living in New York City until he moved to Athens, Georgia when he was four. He talks about his father who sold advertising for the New York Times before becoming an English professor at the University of Georgia. Talmadge mentions attending Saint Josephs Catholic School before attending Athens High School. He talks about going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he majored in political science. He describes teaching at Athens High School for a year before attending law school at the University of Georgia. He discusses clerking for State Supreme Court Justice Bond Almand for two years.

Keywords: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) basketball; Five Points, Athens; Greek life; Milledge Terrace, Athens; Prince Avenue, Athens; Southeastern Conference (SEC) football; college; divorce; fraternity; marriage; teacher

00:07:35 - Working on Senator Talmadge's legislative staff

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Partial Transcript: What happened after that?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes getting a job on Senator Herman Talmadge's legislative staff through his friend Dan Tate. He mentions how Senator Talmadge was worried about accusations of nepotism due to their shared name, but he found out that they were only sixth cousins. He describes how Senator Talmadge was very well read and had a strange sleep schedule. Talmadge describes learning about political favors from Senator Talmadge when he worked with Martin Luther King Sr. to get a hospital project approved. He also tells a story about Senator Talmadge's work with constituents.

Keywords: United States Senate; Washington, DC; employment; literature; negotiation; organized labor; politics

00:16:37 - Legislative projects

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Partial Transcript: So tell me some of the legislative projects you worked on?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes how the My Lai Massacre caused Senator Talmadge to moderate his position on the Vietnam War. He talks about Senator Talmadge's role in the Rural Development Act of 1972 since he was the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He also describes Senator Talmadge's work on tax issues on the Senate Finance Committee as a fiscal conservative. Talmadge describes learning about politics from Dan Tate who shared Senator Talmadge's world view. He also talks about Senator Talmadge's work on the Senate Watergate Committee.

Keywords: Dan Tate; Harry F. Byrd; Richard B. Russell; Richard Nixon; Ronald 'Bo' Ginn; Wilbur Mills; William Calley; hiring process; legislative assistants; legislative staff; southern Democrats

00:26:30 - Lobbying for Coca-Cola

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Partial Transcript: So then what happened?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes leaving Senator Talmadge's staff when Coca-Cola offered him a lobbying position. He talks about focusing on state legislative work to prevent litter taxes and mandatory deposits. He discusses how most Coca-Cola bottling plants were privately owned which helped him form community connections as an out-of-state lobbyist. He also describes his mentors Ovid Davis and Earl Leonard.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Coke; Pierre, South Dakota; Robert W. Woodruff; committee staff; pollution

00:34:15 - Ronald 'Bo' Ginn's gubernatorial campaign

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Partial Transcript: When did that come to an end?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes Ronald 'Bo' Ginn who was the former chief of staff for Senator Talmadge before he became an United States congressman. He discusses how Ginn was appointed to the House Committee on Appropriations and became chairman of the Military Construction Subcommittee after he fought to preserve Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. Talmadge describes leaving Coca-Cola to become the head of Ginn's gubernatorial campaign for the 1982 election. Talmadge talks about focusing on fundraising and hiring a new campaign manager since he struggled with field organization. He describes creating popular commercials and successfully fundraising. Talmadge talks about how Ginn won the first Democratic primary but lost the runoff election to Joe Frank Harris which he credits to wasting time trying to get endorsements from his previous opponents, Ginn's involvement in national politics, the popularity of their commercials, and the lack of a single declarative message.

Keywords: Bob Hurt; Burkhart Advertising; Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC); George Elliott Hagan; Georgia's 1st district; Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base; Tom Murphy; baseball; campaign fundraising; nuclear submarines; polio; speech writing

00:48:38 - Working for Richard Ray

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Partial Transcript: So, you lose the election. What happens next?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes becoming the chief of staff for United States Representative Richard Ray. He talks about how Ray joined the House Arms Committee and specialized in ballistic missiles and air base defense. Talmadge discusses how Ray was successful in committee meetings because he stayed for the entire time, asked questions, and worked closely with staff members. He describes how Ray worked to defend Robins Air Force Base and expand its capacity. He talks about how Ray worked in Congress from 1982 to 1990 before he lost to Matt Collins after redistricting. He then describes how Ray became a successful defense lobbyist before his death in 1999.

Keywords: House Committee on Armed Services; Jack Thomas Brinkley; Joe Frank Harris; Perry, Georgia; Sam Nunn; Tom Perdue; U.S. House of Representatives; debt; gerrymandering; lobbying

01:03:19 - Lobbying for King & Spalding

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Partial Transcript: So when you left Richard, what happened then?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge describes working as a lobbyist for the Washington Office of King & Spalding where he worked on various issues. He talks about working with the Atlanta Olympic Committee and trying to coordinate government involvement and the issue of security for the games. Talmadge also discusses working to protect an old family-run company from a corporate raider who was trying to make a hostile takeover of the company. Talmadge describes the difference between King & Spalding and other law companies, stating that King & Spalding saved companies money and avoided illegal favors.

Keywords: 1996 Centennial Games; 1996 Summer Olympics; Andrew Jackson Young; Bill Clinton; Centennial Olympic Park bombing; Department of Defense (DOD); John McCain; Paul Coverdell; Ted Hester; Theodore M. Hester; United States Attorney General Griffin Bell; Washington DC

01:13:28 - Family and final advice

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Partial Transcript: So, your career at King & Spalding came to a close, and you--so what happened then?

Segment Synopsis: Talmadge talks about his mother who came from New England, describing how she was strong minded and well read. He describes meeting his wife, Marsha in Senator Talmadge's office when she was an intern in the press department. He discusses his daughter Erin who was a social worker before becoming a pharmacy technician. He concludes by stating that young people need to go work in Washington because it is an interesting and important job.

Keywords: Athens, GA; College of William and Mary; Emory University; Gordon Roberts; Herman Talmadge; children; marriage