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Interview with Elliott Levitas, August 1, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:07 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: I’m Bob Short and this is another in our series of Reflections on Georgia Politics sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Bob Short introduces Congressman Elliott Levitas.

00:00:43 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: Before we talk about your political and professional life, please tell us if you will about your family and your early life.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about his parents and his childhood in Atlanta. He later talks about his education at Emory University and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

Keywords: Air Force; Arnall Golden Gregory; Atlanta; Emory University; Latin; Oxford University; Rhodes Scholar; Roman Law; law school; public schools

00:13:35 - Relationship with Governor Ellis Arnall

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Partial Transcript: So, you knew former Governor Arnall? Tell us about him.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about Ellis Arnall and the relationship he had with him. He shares some interesting stories about Governor Arnall.

Keywords: Arnall Golden Gregory; Dons; Ellis Arnall; Oxford; Pennsylvania; poll tax; reform

00:22:01 - Interest in politics

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Partial Transcript: When did you first become interested in being a politician?

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about how he first became interested in politics. He mentioned how the state of Georgia was different because of the county unit system.

Keywords: Morris Abram; county-unit system; disenfranchisement; legal career; politics; state legislature

00:28:00 - Seating Julian Bond in Georgia General Assembly

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Partial Transcript: So you go to the Georgia General Assembly after reapportionment that changed the…really the total makeup of that legislative body from an all white, all rural, all segregationist body into more of a melting pot of Georgians.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about the controversy about whether or not the Georgia General Assembly wanted to seat Julian Bond. Bond had made some statements against the Vietnam war which the Georgia legislature did not like. Levitas shares his decision and his rationale behind it.

Keywords: Court of Appeals; Julian Bond; Supreme Court; Vietnam War; election; freedom of speech

00:34:46 - 1967 gubernatorial election (Callaway v. Maddox)

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Partial Transcript: Another big issue in 1967 was when you were called upon to elect a Governor.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas recalls the 1967 Gubernatorial Election between Bo Callaway and Lester Maddox. He talks about who he voted for in that election.

Keywords: Bo Callaway; Ellis Arnall; Lester Maddox; county-unit system; democrats; election law; gubernatorial election; republicans; special election; write-in

00:47:06 - Separation of power between Georgia governorship and Georgia legislature

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Partial Transcript: If you don’t mind, Elliot, let’s go back for a minute to 1967 when yet another event happened during that very historical period in Georgia political history and that was independence.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about how the 1967 Gubernatorial Election shrunk the role of the Governor in the legislature. Previously, the governor had much influence over committee appointments and named the speaker of the house. The movement for "independence" coincided with the election of Lester Maddox to the governorship.

Keywords: George L Smith; Lester Maddox; Speaker of the House; domination; governor; independence; legislature

00:57:07 - Issues

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Partial Transcript: Elliott, what issues were you most interested in while you were a member of the Georgia General Assembly?

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about the issues he was most interested in when he was in the Georgia General Assembly. He was most interested in the environment.

Keywords: Chattahoochee River; George L Smith; Jimmy Carter; Lester Maddox; bill; ecology; environment; judiciary committee

01:10:02 - MARTA

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk for a minute about MARTA.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about the development of the MARTA system.

Keywords: Boston Transity System; John Greer; Louis Brandeis; MARTA; MARTOC; committee; corruption; finances; legislative committee; mass transit; taxes; transportation

01:15:12 - Campaign for U.S. House of Representatives (1974)

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Partial Transcript: So then comes 1974, I believe, when you made the decision to run for Congress.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas remembers why he decided to run for the US Congress. He explains the circumstances of how he was able to beat the Republican incumbent for the seat.

Keywords: 4th congressional district; Ben Blackburn; Richard Nixon; Watergate; Watergate babies; congress

01:23:38 - Relationship with Jimmy Carter

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Partial Transcript: Well another historical event occurred while you were in Congress, I think two years later, when the people of the United States elected Georgia’s own Jimmy Carter as President.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about his relationship with President Carter. He reflects on things President Carter should have done to make his presidency more successful such as cooperating with Georgia's representatives in Congress.

Keywords: Charlie Kirbo; Georgia; Georgia delegation; Hamilton Jordan; House of Representatives; Jimmy Carter; President of the United States; Senate; presidency; presidential library

01:29:14 - Committee of Public Works and Transportation

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Partial Transcript: You started on several key committees in Congress.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about the work he did for the Oversight Committee for Public Works Projects. He specifically mentions the corruption of the EPA.

Keywords: Anne Burford; EPA; James Watt; Jim Baker; Superfund program; corruption; executive privilege; subpoena; superfunds

01:36:33 - Airline passenger safety / Criticism of Congress / Other memories

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Partial Transcript: You’re known by your colleagues as the watchdog over airline passenger safety and the FAA which is the federal agency that controls that and manufacturers.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about working in the Oversight committee, and he mentions the work he did for airline passenger safety. He also offers up some criticisms towards Congress. Levitas also shares some other memories of his public career.

Keywords: FAA; Jimmy Carter; Jonah; NATO; North Atlantic Assembly; airline safety; aviation industry; career; federal government; legislative veto; recesses; signing statement; state government; vacations

01:48:45 - Cobell v. Kempthorn / Closing thoughts

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Partial Transcript: You’ve been involved in the last several years in a major lawsuit.

Segment Synopsis: Levitas talks about the lawsuit he is in called Cobell v. Kempthorn. It is a case where Native Americans wanted their land back from the US Government. Levitas finishes the interview with his accomplishments and disappointments with his political career.

Keywords: Department of Interior; Native Americans; Treasury Department; accounting; conspiracy; remembered