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Interview with Bill Lee, June 5, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:31 - Lee's path to politics

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about growing up in Clayton County.

Segment Synopsis: Lee recalls becoming interested in politics after acting as a page for Wayman Wells. He explains campaigning in 1956, which involved more socializing and less spending than more recent campaigns. He traces his 42-year career from freshman congressman to retiree.

Keywords: Carl Sanders; Governor Griffin; Navy; Vandiver; family; legislature; rural roads

00:05:42 - Lester Maddox / Legislative independence

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Partial Transcript: Now, I'd like to talk about some specific historical events while you were there those 42 years.

Segment Synopsis: Lee evaluates Gov. Lester Maddox's administration and talks about the legislative independence movement, which increased the importance of seniority and prevented governors from appointing speakers and committee chairmen.

Keywords: Governor Maddox; Industrial Relations Committee; chairman

00:08:19 - Speaker Tom Murphy

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's see, let's talk for a minute about the Speaker.

Segment Synopsis: Lee describes Speaker Murphy's character, his press relations, and his elections. Lee also mentions Murphy's views on banking and budgeting as well as his involvement with the World Congress Center, MARTA, the Georgia Dome, and the 1996 Olympics. Lee recalls advising and receiving advice from Murphy, and he discusses Murphy's relationship with Governor Zell Miller.

Keywords: Tom Murphy; development; finance; media; mentoring; press

00:16:14 - Committee memberships

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's back now to Bill Lee.

Segment Synopsis: Lee talks about various legislative committees on which he served, focusing on his time as chairman of the House Rules Committee. He discusses the Rules Committee's role in setting the agenda.

Keywords: Industrial Relations Committee; Parks and Recreation Committee; Transportation Committee; chairman

00:19:03 - Integration / Electoral reform

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Partial Transcript: Bill, if you will, let's go back to 1962, another very historic period when the county unit system was abolished and the University of Georgia had been integrated, but we had that segregation issue.

Segment Synopsis: Lee mentions integrating state schools under Governor Vandiver (1959-1963). He also discusses abolishing the county unit system in order to give individual voters--rather than counties--equal legislative weight. He recalls Georgia Representative Joe Mack Wilson's urban caucus, which formed as a result of this electoral change.

Keywords: Sibley Commission; Talmadge; caucuses; rural; urban caucus

00:23:49 - Legislative experience

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute about some of the other legislators with whom you served. Tell us some of them.

Segment Synopsis: Lee mentions some of his fellow legislators, talks about the importance of building rapport with a constituency, and outlines paths from the legislature to the governorship and the presidency.

Keywords: legislators; legislature; service; tenure

00:28:23 - Governor George Busby / Reapportionment

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute about George Busby.

Segment Synopsis: Lee talks about George Busby's governorship and party realignment, mentioning Roy Barnes as a leader of the new Democratic Party in Georgia. Lee also recalls reapportionment after the abolition of the county unit system. He says that the legislature should have more authority over redistricting than the courts.

Keywords: Democratic Party; constitution; county unit system; parties; single member districts; voting districts

00:34:49 - General Assembly budgeting process

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Partial Transcript: Alright. Now, let's talk a little bit about how the legislature spends the state's money.

Segment Synopsis: Lee explains the importance of creating a workable state budget and talks about the Green Door committee, a group of assemblymen selected by the House speaker to make budgetary decisions.

Keywords: budget conference committee; finances; green door; money; speaker of the house; spending

00:39:22 - Controversies in the General Assembly

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk some more about some of the controversies that the legislature faced when you were there. One that comes to mind is Governor Zell Miller's flag controversy.

Segment Synopsis: Lee discusses some contentious issues facing the Georgia legislature between 1956 and 1988. These included redesigning the state flag, accepting black members in the House, creating a state lottery to fund education, reforming the highway system, and integrating schools.

Keywords: DOT; Department of Transportation; Governor Miller; Hope Scholarship; Julian Bond; segregation; technology

00:49:42 - Reflections on Lee's career

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to ask you as you look back over your career, is there anything you would have done differently?

Segment Synopsis: Lee ponders ways he could have improved his public service and details his work with Terrell Starr, a Clayton County senator who served as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Lee also offers advice to young people seeking to go into public service and explains his decision to retire after moving out of his district.

Keywords: Clayton College; General Assembly; House of Representatives; Senator Starr; Tom Murphy