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Interview with George T. Smith, February 25, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:47 - Early life / Significance of name

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Partial Transcript: You know, before we get too far, let's explain George T. and George L....

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about his early life in Mitchell County, Georgia, growing up in a family of farmers, and describes life in the 1920s and 1930s, including the early growth of cotton.

Keywords: Mitchell County, Georgia; agriculture; boll weevil; cotton

00:05:45 - Early schooling / Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College

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Partial Transcript: I stayed at that place and went to school at--

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about dropping out of school after eighth grade, going back to finish high school at age eighteen, and attending first Middle Georgia College in Macon, then transferring to Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton. He talks about being president of the student body and working his way through school.

Keywords: Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College; Middle Georgia College; education

00:15:03 - Navy service

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Partial Transcript: I got out of that, ABAC, and got in the Navy.

Segment Synopsis: Smith recalls signing up for the Navy, attending officer training school, and working on a transport-guard submarine. He talks about visiting Hawai'i on a transport ship expedition, and recalls being bombed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Keywords: Hawai'i; Hawaii; Pacific Theater; U.S. Navy; World War II; bombing; conscription; submarine

00:32:42 - Law school

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Partial Transcript: So I came back home and went to the University of Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about attending law school at the University of Georgia after World War II and working with a law practice in his hometown of Cairo, Georgia.

Keywords: Cairo, Georgia; Grady County; University of Georgia; World War II; law school

00:38:40 - Entry into politics / Committee appointments

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Partial Transcript: Grady County had a terrible record for representatives getting into politics.

Segment Synopsis: Smith recalls how he decided to enter into politics at the behest for better representation from locals constituents. He mentions the committee appointments he received as a freshman senator.

Keywords: Appropriations Committee; Judicial Committee; University of Georgia Committee

00:42:02 - Supporting Carl Sanders / Becoming Speaker of the House

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Partial Transcript: Carl Sander ran then.

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about deciding to support Carl Sanders in his race for governor, the effect that the abolition of the county unit system had on elections outcomes, and becoming Speaker of the House after Sander's election.

Keywords: Carl Sanders; Marvin Griffin; Speaker of the House; county unit system; governor

00:54:50 - Race for Court of Appeals / Detail about Lieut. Governor's role

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Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about his decision to run for the Court of Appeals. He highlights his distinction of being the only person to be elected to three high-ranking political positions: Speaker of the House, Lieutenant Governor, and Court of Appeals judge. He also talks about working as Lester Maddox's Lieutenant Governor, as well as the story behind the letter "T" in his name.

Keywords: Lester Maddox; lieutenant governor

01:02:55 - Court of Appeals / Supreme Court

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Partial Transcript: So in 1976, you ran for the Court of Appeals.

Segment Synopsis: Smith talks about his race for the Court of Appeals, the support of Judge Charlie Pannell, and the major influence the "good ol' boys" network had on selecting judges. Smith also talks about the way he approached his role on the Georgia Supreme Court and his frequent dissenting opinions.

Keywords: Charlie Pannell; Georgia Court of Appeals; Georgia Supreme Court; dissenting opinion

Subjects: good 'ole boy

01:12:46 - Death penalty / Memorable Cases

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you this question about evidence: DNA.

Segment Synopsis: Smith comments on the still limited implementation of DNA evidence during his time on the Supreme Court in the 1980s. He also reflects on memorable cases, including the Atlanta Child Murders case and a case regarding marital rape.

Keywords: Atlanta Child Murders case; DNA evidence; death penatly; marital rape case; oral arguments

01:19:28 - Looking back

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Partial Transcript: Well, you certainly had an outstanding career.

Segment Synopsis: Smith reflects on his career accomplishments and disappointments. He discusses why he did not run for governor in 1966.

Keywords: career; legacy

01:22:25 - Lieutenant governor campaign strategy

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Partial Transcript: In 1966, when I was running for Lieutenant Governor...

Segment Synopsis: Smith describes the strategy he used to win a victory in the Lieutenant Governor's race against incumbent Peter Zach Geer.

Keywords: Marvin Griffin; Peter Zach Geer; lieutenant governor race

01:29:28 - Controversy over Julian Bond's House Seat

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Partial Transcript: You were Speaker of the House, Judge Smith, during the period when Julian Bond was denied his seat.

Segment Synopsis: Smith recalls how Representative Julian Bond was denied his seat in the House in response to Bond's speaking out again the Vietnam War draft. Murphy recalls how, as Speaker of the House during the incident, he implemented preventative measures to manage the tension and arranged for a judiciary hearing.

Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; Georgia House of Representatives; Julian Bond