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Interview with Dawson Mathis, August 22, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:08 - Interview Introduction

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Partial Transcript: I’m Bob Short, and this is Reflection on Georgia Politics.

Segment Synopsis: Bob Short introduces Congressman Dawson Mathis.

00:00:44 - Early life / Television career

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Partial Transcript: You were born here in Nashville.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about his early life in Nashville, Ga. He later talks about his career in television broadcasting.

Keywords: Albany; CB King; Civil Rights; Nashville, Ga; class president; employment; grocery store; radio; television

00:10:05 - Run for Congress

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Partial Transcript: At what point did you decide to run for Congress?

Segment Synopsis: Mathis reflects on why he decided to run for Congres after his predecessor, Maston O'Neal, decided not to run again.

Keywords: Congress; Maston O'Neal; anchor; beauty contest; campaign; civic club; name identification; publicity; support; television career

00:19:07 - Campaign / Republican opponent

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Partial Transcript: And you finished first in the primary, and then had a run-off, and then you had the great pleasure of facing a Republican in the general election.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis gives more details about his campaign and his Republican opponent, Tom Ragsdale, in the election.

Keywords: Congress; Senator Russell; Senator Talmadge; Tom Ragsdale; civic club; loan; primary; republican

00:29:49 - Moving to Washington, D.C. as a new Congressman

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Partial Transcript: So, then it’s off to Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about going up to Congress. He shares his experience as a new Congressman at the age of thirty. He talks about moving his family to Washington, D.C., in a U-Haul truck.

Keywords: Congress; Herman Talmadge; Richard Russell; U-Haul; US Congress; Virginia; Washington DC; confidence; freshman; moving; politics

00:35:54 - Party leadership / Friends in Congress

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Partial Transcript: How did you meld with the party leadership?

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about the Party Leadership when he first arrived. Mathis later talks about friendships in Congress.

Keywords: Carl Albert; Hale Boggs; John McCormack; Majority Leader; Mo Udall; cactus; caucus; party leadership; profession; speaker race

00:42:03 - Work on the Agriculture Committee

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Partial Transcript: One of the first jobs you had was to talk about committees.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about being assigned to the agriculture committee. He talks about his friendship with Phil Landrum, who he partnered with on a bill to reduce taxes on automobiles, including pick up trucks. Mathis also talks about the committee process.

Keywords: Ed Jenkins; Phil Landrum; agriculture committee; appropriations committee; assignments; committee; committee assignments; ways and means committee

00:51:51 - Freshman year in Congress

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Partial Transcript: Let’s get back to you. There is an expression around Washington, which I’ve heard many times is that freshman should be seen and not heard.

Segment Synopsis: Malcolm reflects on his first term in Congress.

Keywords: Carl Albert; H-208; Phil Landrum; caucus; first vote; floor speech; freshman; mentor; tax cut; vote

00:56:17 - Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: During your time in Congress there were several issues that actually divided the American people.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about the Vietnam War and what a trying time it was as a member of Congress. He reflects on his constituents' attitudes towards the Vietnam War and how the war divided Americans. He talks about the push to cut off funding for the Vietnam War and why he continued to support appropriations for the war.

Keywords: Iraq War; Viet Cong; Vietnam War; body count; causalities; cost

00:59:17 - President Nixon / Watergate

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Partial Transcript: Dawson, President Nixon resigned on August the 9th 1770[sic], 1794[sic].

Segment Synopsis: Mathis gives his opinion on President Richard Nixon. He talks about Nixon's resignation and the impending impeachment. Mathis talks more about the Watergate Scandal.

Keywords: Bill Stuckey; Bob Sikes; Gerald Ford; President Nixon; Stonewall; Watergate; impeachment; resignation

01:06:25 - President Ford / Abscam Scandal / Family life

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Partial Transcript: Gerald Ford. He became president. What was the mood of Congress at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about Gerald Ford, and he talked about Congress' opinion on him. He recalls how it was easy to support President Ford. Mathis later talks about the Abscam Scandal. He then talks about balancing living in DC and Georgia.

Keywords: Abscam Scandal; Georgia; Gerald Ford; Jimmy Carter; Washington DC; balance; clumsiness; divorce; family; pardon; scandal

01:14:11 - Iranian Hostage Situation / President Carter

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Partial Transcript: Just before you left office in ‘80, Carter was president and we had the Iranian hostage problem.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis recalls the Iranian Hostage Situation, and he also talks about how it had affected Carter's presidency. He later talks about President Carter and his relationship with Congress.

Keywords: Congress; Hamilton Jordan; House of Representatives; Iranian hostage situation; Jimmy Carter; Speaker O'Neill; White House staff; antagonism

01:21:47 - 1980 Senate Race

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Partial Transcript: 1980, you decided to run for the United States Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about the 1980 Senate Race. He talks about deciding to run after polls showed Herman Talmadge would not be re-elected and recalls the campaign trail. He talks about the perception that Zell Miller was too liberal of a candidate. He also talks the rise of the Republican Party in Georgia and his decision not to switch to the Republican Party. Mathis later talks about Mack Mattingly.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Herman Talmadge; Mack Mattingly; Norman Underwood; Republican; Republican party; Sanford Bishop; Zell Miller; mistake; senate

01:26:49 - Party Politics in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let’s talk for a minute about party politics in Georgia, since you mentioned that.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about the rise of the Republican Party and gives his opinion on when Georgia's primary party switched from Democratic to Republican. He goes on to talk about how party politics have drastically changed over the years.

Keywords: Democratic Party; Newt Gingrich; Republican Party; party lines

01:31:05 - Democratic Party in Georgia / Party Registration

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Partial Transcript: Here in Georgia, how do you see the future of the Democratic party over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Mathis gives his opinion that the Democratic party in Georgia will regain prominence with the increase in the minority population and when the working class "wakes up" to "being duped" by the Republican Party. He also talks about party registration.

Keywords: George W. Bush; balance; conservative; democratic party; labor union; liberal; minority; party registration; primaries

01:36:24 - Campaign financing / Public financing

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Partial Transcript: How about public financing of a political campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Mathis talks about coming around to supporting public financing for political campaigns.

Keywords: big business; elections; investment; labor unions; political campaigns; presidential campaign; public financing; public funds; tax payer money

01:45:17 - Closing reflections

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Partial Transcript: What’s been your proudest moment in politics?

Segment Synopsis: Mathis goes over his accomplishments and disappointments in his political career. He also makes a few closing remarks.

Keywords: accomplishments; coalitions; constituent service; disappointments; ear marks; election; legislator; remembrance