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Interview with W. Russell King, May 8, 2019

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:15 - Introductions and Up-Bringing

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Partial Transcript: Mr. King is of council here at Jones Walker...

Segment Synopsis: Russell King is introduced and his accomplishments and titles are listed by interviewer Ashton Ellett. His father, John King, was a World War Two era veteran, so he spent his childhood moving around from various Marine bases until he was in third grade. Due to illness, John King retired early and they settled in South Georgia. King earned his degree in Risk Management and Business Administration from the University of Georgia before attending UGA Law.

Keywords: Freeport-McMoRan Inc.; Georgia Teachers College (Georgia Southern University); Herman Eugene Talmadge; John Everett King; Jones Walker Waechter; Mary Thomas (Perry) King; Screven County, Georgia; Sylvania, Ga; The Norfolk Southern Railway; United States Marine Corps

00:04:32 - Start of Career

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, out of, out of, uh, law school...

Segment Synopsis: King discusses moving to Savannah, Ga and working with Bob Duffy after earning his law degree. He also encountered his law school roommate, Jim Pannell, who he ended up living with again while he found a job. It was through Pannell that he acquired an interview in Washington with Rogers Wade to work for Senator Herman Talmadge.

Keywords: David Henry Gambrell; Herman Eugene Talmadge; Richard Brevard Russell Jr; T. Rogers Wade

00:07:18 - Working for Senator Talmadge

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Partial Transcript: And, and , so I began with the senator as the Junior...

Segment Synopsis: King describes his duties and coworkers while working for Talmadge. Although he was hired as Junior Legislative Assistant, he became Senior Legislative Assistant when Jimmy Carter was elected into office. As the only legislative assistant at the time, he was responsible for all general legislative except for Agriculture.

Keywords: Mike McCloud; Peter Bowman "Bo" Rutledge; Powell Allen Moore; Randy Knuckles

00:10:42 - Impression of Talmadge

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Partial Transcript: So tell, tell me about your impression...

Segment Synopsis: King explains that from a young age, Talmadge was an iconic figure in his town. He recalls not knowing many specifics about the Senator, but voting for him in the 1974 election. King also mentions that Talmadge avoided getting involved in controversial topics unless they were important to him.

Keywords: 1974 United States Senate election; Herman Talmadge

00:12:49 - The Panama Canal Treaty

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Partial Transcript: What are some tough votes he took?

Segment Synopsis: King details the issues and polling involved in the Panama Canal Treaties, which he feels was the hardest vote for Talmadge. He also mentions David McCullough lobbying senators, arguing that America stole Panama's canal. King remembers when Talmadge polled all of his principle staff for their opinions, but he ultimately voted in favor of the treaties along with Sam Nunn.

Keywords: The Path between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 ; David Gaub McCullough; Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr; Torrijos–Carter Treaties

00:17:49 - Relations in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: Well, you, you mentioned, uh, Senator Nunn...

Segment Synopsis: King describes Talmadge as a highly respected figure in the Senate. He focuses on Talmadge's relationship with Nunn, who was was especially respectful to him, despite being very independent. King lists who he feels were Talmadge's closest friends in the Senate, including Nunn, Russell Long, and Fritz Hollings.

Keywords: Clifford Peter Hansen; Ernest Frederick "Fritz" Hollings; Russell Billiu Long; Samuel Augustus Nunn Jr; Watergate scandal

00:23:33 - Talmadge's Alcoholism

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Partial Transcript: So you served, you came on in '75...

Segment Synopsis: King, having worked for Talmadge through some of his hardest years, talks about Talmadge's state and work ethic through 1975-79. When Talmadge's drinking became a problem, King and Wade put together an intervention. When Talmadge would get to the point when he couldn't stop drinking, King would move in with him and spend his time keeping him away from the alcohol.

Keywords: Betty Talmadge; Herman Talmadge; Rogers Wade

00:27:10 - Talmadge Scandal

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Partial Transcript: So when did you learn about the Senator's impending ethics...?

Segment Synopsis: King discusses his lack of knowledge about Talmadge's accounts and explains the details of the scandal, starting with the charges instigated by the senator's ex-wife. Talmadge's staff devoted their time to find out the facts behind the issue. King explains that Daniel Minchew, Talmadge's Chief of Staff, set up a secret account for which he used to pay personal debt. He also mentions a separate account managed by Allyne Tisdale which contained excess money from submissions for reimbursement without substantiation.

Keywords: Anne Beau Cox Chambers; Betty Talmadge; Herman Talmadge; Watergate scandal

00:33:47 - Moving back to Georgia/ Supporting Senator Talmadge

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Partial Transcript: So, wha-what prompted your, your exit...

Segment Synopsis: To avoid leaving Talmadge in a time of turbulence, King remained for an extra year. Afterwards, he was offered a job by Southern Railway in Atlanta. Because he wanted to go home but still support the senator, King accepted the job offer and also began working as the treasurer for Talmadge's campaign. He discusses the fundraising and how having been legislative assistant helped him in his new position.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Bill Boden; Charles Camden; Herman Talmadge

00:39:32 - Talmadge's Campaign

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Partial Transcript: So this was the first real campaign...

Segment Synopsis: King believes the first challenge in Talmadge's Senatorial career was the election of 1980. He discusses how Talmadge publicly acknowledged his alcoholism and people unexpectedly stood with him. With all media forces against him, they campaigned relentlessly.

Keywords: Ben Jones; Dawson Mathis; Herman Talmadge; Mack Mattingly; Norman Underwood; Zell Miller

00:46:41 - Debate with Zell Miller

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, with the debates, what I said to him was...

Segment Synopsis: King discusses Talmadge's debate with Zell Miller and the research he did in preparation with Randy Knuckles and Bobby Avery. Specifically, they looked into Miller's endorsements and what he claimed to support, which Talmadge was able to use in the debate to keep the media's attention off of himself. King declares the debate put Talmadge ahead in polling after he beat Miller. He also mentions the job offered to him by Freeport Minerals, which he didn't accept until after the runoff.

Keywords: 1980 United States Senate elections; Edward (Ted) Moore Kennedy; Freeport-McMoRan; Georgia Education Association; James (Jimmy) Earl Carter Jr.; National Healthcare; Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security; United States Senate Committee on Finance

00:55:42 - Debate with Mattingly

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Partial Transcript: But anyway, so then I came back...

Segment Synopsis: King details the advice he gave Talmadge regarding the debate with Mattingly, suggesting he not agree to it.

Keywords: 1980 United States Senate elections; James Carville; Lee Atwater; Mack Francis Mattingly; Norman Underwood

01:01:09 - 1980 General Election

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Partial Transcript: So, you're up here in Washington...

Segment Synopsis: King states that on election night, Talmadge was the first declared winner on two of three networks, but he refused to declare. Talmadge later conceded, but King believes he would have won had he debated Mattingly. He discusses possible reasons he lost, including money and the Mattingly debate.

Keywords: "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy"; 1980 United States Senate elections; Dan Quayle; Lloyd Bentsen; Mack Francis Mattingly; Zell Miller

01:10:28 - Howard Cannon and Chic Hecht

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Partial Transcript: Now the postscript...

Segment Synopsis: While working for Freeport, King flew to Nevada to meet with Howard Cannon's Chief of Staff during the campaign for the 1982 senatorial election. He explains how he suggested Cannon debate with Chic Hecht, advice which was not taken. Cannon later lost to Hecht 48-50.

Keywords: Freeport Minerals Corporation; Freeport-McMoRan; United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

01:15:40 - Political Shifts in the South

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Partial Transcript: You're sitting here and you're watching it...

Segment Synopsis: King elaborates why he doesn't feel 1980 was a watershed moment for Georgia politics. He mentions several politicians and the stance they took in running such as Wyche Fowler and Mattingly. He opines that the Democratic party had a hard time putting up a center-right candidate after Talmadge. King discusses Senate seats across the south flipping parties until 1986 based on quality of candidate.

Keywords: Gordon Griffin; Herman Talmadge; Joseph Maxwell Cleland; Mack Mattingly; Roy Marks; Sam Nunn; William Wyche Fowler Jr; center-right politics

01:25:38 - Political Shifts in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: You know, well, you're talking about shifting tectonic...

Segment Synopsis: King and Ellett discuss the shifts between 1980 and 2019 from Republican Mack Mattingly to Democratic politician Stacey Abrams in Georgia counties such as Gwinnett and Cobb. King opines how he feels Talmadge was not completely conservative, but rather minimally populist. He also feels that Republicans now are experiencing the same problem with candidates that Democrats did for years in Georgia with not being able to put the right nominees up.

Keywords: Brian Kemp; Lucy McBath; Paul Coverdale; partisanship

01:30:55 - Talmadge's Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Well, just as we, we finish up...

Segment Synopsis: King discusses Talmadge's contributions and success, stating he was a very common sense oriented politician. He mentions his work on the Finance Committee to install an employment tax credit for people off Welfare, as well as adding tax incentives to Carter's energy bill to encourage production. King also details a major social security reform bill and real estate investment trust, which he thinks were born of Talmadge.

Keywords: Herman Talmadge; James (Jimmy) Earl Carter Jr.; National Energy Act; Russell Long; United States Senate Committee on Finance