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Interview with Wyche Fowler, December 18, 2008

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:04 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short, and this is Reflections on Georgia Politics sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia. Our guest today is Wyche Fowler.

Segment Synopsis: Short introduces himself and Fowler.

00:00:49 - Family and childhood in Atlanta

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Partial Transcript: And you're a native Atlantan.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler discusses his childhood in Atlanta and describes his experience performing on "Freddie Miller's Stars of Tomorrow," a local talent competition.

Keywords: 1940s; Atlanta, Georgia; Brach candy bars; Brenda Lee; Competition; Detour, There's a Muddy Road Ahead; Emory Hospital; Freddie Miller; Gibson; Gospel; Insurance; Jimmy Wakely; Morris Brandon Elementary School; Music; Northside High School; Old Rugged Cross; Rural; Stars of Tomorrow; Ted Max; Urban; Warren County; Wilkes County; Work

GPS: Atlanta, GA
Map Coordinates: 33.7550, -84.3900
00:04:39 - College/First jobs/March on Washington

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Partial Transcript: And then you went on to Davidson.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler talks about his decision to attend Davidson College, his first job in New York, and his military intelligence training. He explains his assignment at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Keywords: 1960s; 1963; Army; Baltimore, Maryland; Baptist; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Citibank; Civil rights movement; Cold War; Columbus, Georgia; Communism; Davidson College; Demonstrations; Domestic terrorism; Duke University; Education; Fort Benning; Fort Hollenberg; Infantry; Intelligence; March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; Martin Luther King, Jr; McCarthyism; Networking; New York; New York City; Pentagon; Politics; Presbyterian; ROTC; Social change; UGA; UNC; University of Georgia; University of North Carolina; VMI; Virginia Military Institute; Washington & Lee; Yankees

00:09:31 - Working for Rep. Charlie Weltner

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Partial Transcript: Then you met--knew--Charlie Weltner, great Congressman from Georgia's Fifth District.
And you served as his chief of staff in Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler describes his work with Congressman Charlie Weltner. He discusses Weltner's decision to resign and his later work as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

Keywords: 16th Street Baptist Church; 1960s; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Bombing; Charles (Charlie) Weltner; Chief Justice; Chief of Staff; Civil rights movement; Congress; Democratic Party; Domestic terrorism; Fifth District; Lester Maddox; Loyalty oath; Politics; Public policy; Racism; Resignation; Segregation; Supreme Court of Georgia; United states Army; Washington, D.C.; Woodrow Wilson School

00:14:49 - Law school and early legal work

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Partial Transcript: Now, getting back to Wyche fowler--after your experience with Weltner, you decided to go to law school.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler discusses his time at Emory Law and his years as a practicing lawyer in Atlanta.

Keywords: Atlanta City Council; Atlanta, Georgia; Ben Johnson; Bill Ferguson; Charles (Charlie) Weltner; Claude Shaw; Clerk; Constitutional law; Emory University; Griffin Bell; Judge; Law school; Litigation; London School of Economics; Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church; Senator

00:19:27 - Early political career

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Partial Transcript: As I recall, during your experience at Emory, while a student, you served as "Night Mayor of Atlanta." What--how did you arrive at that idea?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler explains how he came into his role as "Night Mayor of Atlanta," fielding citizens' calls at city hall during the evenings. He discusses his first campaign for the Atlanta Board of Aldermen and his run for president of the City Council.

Keywords: 1960s; 1964 Civil Rights Act; 1965 Voting Rights Act; Atlanta Board of Aldermen; Atlanta City Council; Atlanta Constitution; Atlanta, Georgia; Campaigning; Charles (Charlie) Weltner; City Hall; Deep Throat; Emory University; Fundraising; G. Everett Millican; Hot dogs; Ivan Allen; Law school; Manuel Malouf; Maynard Jackson; Media; Movie theaters; Night Mayor; Phipps Plaza; Public policy; Public service; Sam Massell; Tongue depressors; What's New Pussycat

GPS: Atlanta City Hall (Atlanta, GA)
Map Coordinates: 33.748625, -84.390539
00:27:55 - Atlanta in the 1970s, MARTA

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute about the demographics of Atlanta during that period.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler discusses the growth of Atlanta during the 1970s, focusing on his efforts to shape the MARTA system and establish a station in the airport.

Keywords: 1970s; Demographics; Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; MARTA; Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; Population growth; Post-industrial; Public transportation; Race; Sam Massell; Suburbs; William B. Hartsfield

00:32:28 - Running for national office

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Partial Transcript: So you wanted to be a Congressman?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler explains his motivations for running for U.S. Congress and describes his first race for the seat representing Georgia's Fifth District.

Keywords: 1970s; Andrew Young; Atlanta, Georgia; Campaigning; Charles (Charlie) Weltner; City council; Congress; Democratic Party; Fifth District; Fundraising; Hosea Williams; Jimmy Carter; John Lewis; Julian Bond; Marge Thurman; Mayor; Paul Coverdell; Public policy; Republican Party; Runoff; Washington, D.C.

00:39:24 - Time in the U.S. House

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Partial Transcript: Let's get back to Congress. You were elected in '77, uh, Carter is the president, and you go to Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler talks about his election to the House Ways and Means Committee and his work on the Boland Amendment. He explains his preference for working in the House over the Senate.

Keywords: Boland Amendment; Central America; Congress; Donnie Fussell; Ed Jenkins; Edward Boland; Fifth District; Foreign Affairs Committee; Foreign policy; Georgia; House; Intelligence Committee; Interventionism; Iran-Contra; Jimmy Carter; Nicaragua; Ronald Reagan; Tip O'Neill; Washington, D.C.; Ways and Means Committee

GPS: Washington, D.C.
Map Coordinates: 38.8951, -77.0367
00:45:36 - Joining the U.S. Senate

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Partial Transcript: So, getting back now to your political career--you made the decision to run for the Senate. Did you see an opening there?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler describes his successful race for Senate. He discusses his role in Congress as an "institutional man."

Keywords: Appropriations Committee; Barack Obama; Campaigning; Dan Rostenkowski; Daniel Inouye; Demographics; Ed Jenkins; Finance Committee; Fundraising; George Mitchell; Georgia House of Representatives; Harry Reid; Herman Talmadge; J. Bennett Johnston Jr.; John McCain; Mack Mattingly; Race; Radio; Robert Byrd; Senate; Tom Murphy; Washington, D.C.

00:52:05 - Debate over funding NEA and NEH

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Partial Transcript: What memories do you have about your service in the Senate?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler recounts his defense of federal funding for the NEA and NEH during Senate floor debate. He explains how this led to his involvement with the Shubert Foundation.

Keywords: Floor debate; Ford Foundation; George Mitchell; Jesse Helms; NEA; NEH; National Endowment for the Arts; National Endowment for the Humanities; New York; North Carolina; Religion; Robert Mapplethorpe; Rockefeller Foundation; Saudi Arabia; Senate; Shubert Foundation; Washington, D.C.

00:57:26 - Losing reelection bid/Appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia

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Partial Transcript: Well, Senator, your first term ended, and you're offered for reelection.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler talks about losing his bid for reelection to the Senate in a runoff. He describes the circumstances of his appointment as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Keywords: Ambassador; Bill Clinton; Bombing; Diplomacy; Foreign policy; Fritz Hollings; Georgia; Harvard Kennedy School; Khobar Towers; Middle East; Paul Coverdell; Reelection; Runoff; Saudi Arabia; Senate; Terrorism; Terry Sanford

01:04:33 - Work in Saudi Arabia

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Partial Transcript: What was your impression of Saudi Arabia when you arrived there?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler discusses his diplomatic service in Saudi Arabia and his admiration for the loyalty and governing style of the Saudi monarchy. He describes his relationships with King Fahd and King Abdullah. Fowler talks about partnering with the Saudis in counter-terrorism efforts.

Keywords: Afghanistan; Al Qaeda; Bill Clinton; Bombings; Cold War; Communism; Consensus; Dhahran; Energy policy; Family; Foreign policy; Gulf War; House; Intelligence Committee; Israel; King Abdullah; King Fahd; Kuwait; Majlis; Middle East; Monarchy; Oil; Operation Desert Storm; Osama bin Laden; Persian Gulf; Russia; Saudi Arabia; Senate; September 11; Terrorism

GPS: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Map Coordinates: 24.6333, 46.7167
01:14:02 - War on terror and foreign policy

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Partial Transcript: Are we winning the war on terror?

Segment Synopsis: Fowler talks about the state of U.S. efforts to counter terrorism and the possibilities for resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He describes his hopes for the foreign policy of Barack Obama.

Keywords: Al Qaeda; Barack Obama; Bombings; Christianity; Foreign policy; Intelligence; Islam; Israel; Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Middle East; Palestine; Poverty; Race; Religious conflict; Terrorism

01:17:28 - Accomplishments, thoughts on racism and social change

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Partial Transcript: Well, you've had a very illustrious public career.

Segment Synopsis: Fowler explains his feeling that the election of Barack Obama validates his work for progressive legislation and his efforts to stand up to racism. He mentions the importance of his ability to get votes from both black and white Georgians.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Barack Obama; Charles (Charlie) Weltner; Civil rights; Discrimination; Equal opportunity; John Lewis; Julian Bond; Leadership; Paul Coverdell; Prejudice; Public service; Race relations; Rural; Town Hall meetings; Voting rights

01:21:02 - Current work/Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: What's ahead for Wyche Fowler?

Segment Synopsis: Wyche mentions his current non-profit work and his move back to Georgia. Interview concludes.

Keywords: Future; Georgia; Health; Law; Non-profit; Plans; Public policy; Travel; UGA; University of Georgia