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Interview with George Berry, February 2, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:43 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: Grew up in Union County.

Segment Synopsis: Berry talks about growing up in Blairsville, Georgia, the death of his father, and living with his grandparents. He recalls attending Young Harris College, planning to attend the University of Georgia but enrolling in the U.S. Army instead. He mentions the death of his stepfather, running his stepfather's business for a while, and his brief service in the Army Reserves during the 1961 Berlin Wall Crisis.

Keywords: Berlin Wall Crisis; Blairsville, Georgia; U.S. Army; Union; Union County, Georgia; Young Harris College; education; family

00:08:02 - Move to Atlanta / Work in Finance Department

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Partial Transcript: And I went down to Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Berry talks about his move to Atlanta, looking for work, and his first job as a tax clerk in the city of Atlanta's government. He discusses his transition to working in the finance department, handling federal grants during the Johnson Administration, especially the Atlanta airport expansion grants. Berry recalls working under Mayor Ivan Allen, and being appointed as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer during Allen's reorganization of the mayor's office. Berry comments on Allen's leadership style, his mayorship during the Civil Rights Movement, and the contribution of Allen's policies towards the growth and modernization of Atlanta.

Keywords: Atlanta mayor; Civil Rights Movement; Hartsfield-Jackson Airport; Ivan Allen; airport expansion; federal grants; finance department

00:17:21 - Mayors Sam Massell, Maynard Jackson

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Partial Transcript: The city continued to progress under Mayor Sam Massell who succeeded Allen.

Segment Synopsis: Berry recalls Mayor Sam Massell's achievements during his term, including creating the MARTA transportation system and building sports complexes. He talks about the growing black electorate in Atlanta in the 1970s, the election of the first black mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson, and likens the election of Jackson to the election of Barack Obama as president in terms of the level of public support and enthusiasm. Berry also describes the replacement of the Board of Alderman with the City Council as the city's new governing body, and how the transition facilitated a racially-balanced representation on city council.

Keywords: Atlanta City Council; Atlanta mayor; Board of Alderman; Maynard Jackson; Sam Massell; racial representation

00:24:43 - Airport management and expansion

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Partial Transcript: So Mayor Jackson asked you to go to the airport.

Segment Synopsis: Berry discusses his work in managing the Atlanta airport, including the controversial campaign to build a new terminal and runways. He mentions Mayor Jackson's affirmative action initiative, in which he specifically contracted a percentage of the airport expansion work to minority firms. Berry describes how the New South line of political leadership shaped the development of Atlanta and Georgia as a whole.

Keywords: Atlanta; Georgia; Maynard Jackson; New South; affirmative action; airport expansion

00:29:31 - Working with business community

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Partial Transcript: Your time with the mayors---the various mayors, you spent a good deal of time working with the business community.

Segment Synopsis: Berry talks about how he served as an ambassador to the business community through his role in city government. He discusses his work as Commissioner of Industry and Trade under Governor Harris, including on policies such as recruitment of foreign companies to Georgia through tax breaks. Berry also recounts travelling with Harris on international business trips.

Keywords: Joe Frank Harris; economy; foreign investment; international business; tax break

00:38:57 - Business career

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Partial Transcript: George, you decided then to run for lieutenant governor.

Segment Synopsis: Berry talks about his unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor, and his career after public service working in the real estate investment firm, Cousins Properties. He talks about the East Lake community revitalization project that the firm financed. Berry also talks about being appointed as a financial consultant on the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority.

Keywords: 1996 Olympic Games; Atlanta, Georgia; East Lake, Georgia; community development; real estate; revitalization

00:49:39 - Economic development in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Well, George, let's talk about Georgia today, 2009.

Segment Synopsis: Berry talks about the need of government to address important but controversial state issues such as transportation and tax reform. He describes how state taxes are distributed to projects throughout the state, but notes Atlanta's challenge in managing the greater influx of people using city services. Berry talks about Georgia's economic development in recent decades and connects it to the abolition of the county unit system.

Keywords: New South movement; county unit system; economic development; tax reform; taxes; transportation