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Interview with James L. Gillis, Jr., July 25, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:50 - History of the turpentine busniess

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Gillis, your family’s political and business record goes all the way back to the late 1800s when your grandfather, Neil Gillis, founded a turpentine operation that evolved into one of the states largest timber and naval store businesses.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis talks about the history of the the turpentine and naval store business in Georgia, which his family has been a part of since the 1800s. He describes the process that was used to collect resin from pine trees to make turpentine, and how the turpentine was historically transported by way of railroads and shipped down the Savannah River.

Keywords: Altamaha; American Turpentine Farmers Association; Civil War; Naval Stores Conservation Program; Oconee; long leaf pine; seasonal crops; slash pine

00:14:02 - Transition from turpentine to timber

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Partial Transcript: Now, Bob mentioned that your grandfather Neil Gillis was the first one in your family to produce the gum naval stores?

Segment Synopsis: Gillis talks about how his grandfather was the first in his family to produce gum naval stores. He says that he believes that future generations will continue to carry on the family business. He also discusses how growing pine trees became the primary focus of the family business instead of turpentine.

Keywords: Neil Gillis; Soperton, Georgia; cash crop; competition; distilleries

00:21:39 - Personal life / Education

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Partial Transcript: Well, let’s talk for a minute about Jim L. Gillis, Jr.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis reflects on his background and growing up in Soperton, Georgia. He talks about getting his education at the University of Georgia, and then going on to run his family's business while his father was serving in the Georgia legislature.

Keywords: FFA; Treutlen County; business school; horse and buggy; social security

00:29:45 - Political career

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Partial Transcript: But you found time then to run for the state Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis discusses getting his start in politics by running for the Georgia State Senate. He talks about moving back home to become the mayor and then the county commissioner of Treutlen County. He also describes some local political issues such as taxes and immigration.

Keywords: ad valorem taxes; country consolidation; farmers; three governors controversy

00:42:34 - Jim Gillis, Sr.

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Partial Transcript: Well, I hate to change the subject, but I would like to talk to you for a minute about Mr. Jim, your dad.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis discusses his father's long political career. He talks about how his father served with nearly every governor of the latter part of the 20th century, and worked in the Georgia State Highway Department for 24 years.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal Constitution; Ellis Arnall; Jimmy Carter; Marvin Griffin; land

00:47:54 - Gillis' civic efforts / The modern timber industry

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk for a minute if you will about some of your civic efforts.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis discusses some of his civic efforts in his community including soil and water conservation. He talks about how the recession of 2008 has affected the timber industry, and describes some of the important issues the industry is facing today.

Keywords: Canada; NAFTA; Watershed; environmental regulations; flood control; imports; reservoirs; water shortage

00:58:07 - Gillis family legacy

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Partial Transcript: I’d like to ask you this question. You’ve helped Georgia progress from just another southern state, to the empire state of the South.

Segment Synopsis: Gillis talks about the industrial progress of Georgia, and how his family has played a major role in helping Georgia become the "empire state of the South." Gillis also visits the Gillis family cemetery with his brother, Hugh Gillis, and discusses his family's history. He talks about how his great-great grandparents migrated from Scotland, and describes what their life was like living in Georgia in the 1800s.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; North Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; WWII; airlines; livestock