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Interview with Matt Towery, October 16, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:02 - Atlanta roots

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Partial Transcript: Let me begin by saying that you’re a rare breed, a native Atlantan.

Segment Synopsis: Towery talks about his family's roots in "old Atlanta," where relatives of his fought in the Civil War, operated linotypes, and owned printing and dress manufacturing businesses.

Keywords: MA First Company; Vinings; family; family business; heritage; history; parents

00:06:57 - Elementary school

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Partial Transcript: And I went to school first at an elementary school in Cobb County for several years...

Segment Synopsis: Towery discusses the demographics of his Cobb County elementary school, which he says included a mix of fairly affluent white children from Buckhead and impoverished African-American children from Vinings Overlook. He talks about helping less privileged students with their reading skills. Towery also speaks briefly about his time at Pace Academy, a private high school.

Keywords: Pace Academy; Paces Ferry; debate; drama; economics; education; race; school

00:12:32 - Paging for Lester Maddox

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Partial Transcript: In the little elementary school that I attended before I went to Pace, Teasley Elementary...

Segment Synopsis: Towery recalls meeting and befriending Governor Lester Maddox after writing a letter to him for a school assignment. He also explains the organization and roles of the governor's staff.

Keywords: Governor Maddox; Little People’s Day; T.A. Smith; page; paging

00:17:55 - Meeting Jimmy Carter

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Partial Transcript: Maddox asked me to come for the inauguration of Jimmy Carter and I had never met Jimmy Carter until that day.

Segment Synopsis: Towery describes tensions that arose between Lester Maddox and Jimmy Carter after Carter's inauguration as governor. Towery comments on Maddox and Carter's personalities as well as Maddox's support for segregation and higher education. Additionally, Towery talks about his intimate knowledge of the Georgia Capitol building.

Keywords: Capitol; Governor Carter; Governor Maddox; Senate; The Pickrick; civil rights; dome; legislature; sit-ins

00:23:10 - College / Mack Mattingly's 1980 campaign

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Partial Transcript: I graduated from Pace.

Segment Synopsis: Towery reminisces on his time in college and discusses how he helped train Newt Gingrich and Mack Mattingly, Georgia's first Republican U.S. Senator since Reconstruction, in speech and debate.

Keywords: Georgetown; Newt Gingrich; Robert Atchison; Talmadge; UGA; University of Gerogia; campaigning; communications; debate; dorms; elections; polling; polls; speech writing; university

00:31:52 - Working with Gingrich and Mattingly / Cambridge and Stetson

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Partial Transcript: But at the same time I was also unofficially helping Newt.

Segment Synopsis: Towery talks about helping Newt Gingrich develop the Conservative Opportunity Society and the Contract with America. Towery describes Gingrich's relationships with the Reagan administration and with Mack Mattingly. He also lauds Mattingly's political prowess and fundraising abilities. Towery speaks briefly about his studies at the University of Cambridge and at Stetson's Law School, and he mentions establishing his own law firm.

Keywords: Bob Finnell; Cambridge; Jack Kemp; Stetson University; degrees; education; international affairs; law; university

00:41:23 - Reviving the Republican Party / Running for lieutenant governor

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Partial Transcript: I made contact again with Newt.

Segment Synopsis: Towery talks about creating the Campaign for Georgia's Future, a group of young businessmen who were interested in electing Republicans. He also discusses his unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor.

Keywords: Campaign for Georgia’s Future; Earl Earhart; Joe Kennedy; Johnny Isakson; Mark Burkhalter; Pierre Howard; Public Citizen; Ralph Nader; Roy Barnes; Zell Miller

00:48:08 - Gingrich's 1992 congressional race

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Partial Transcript: That got us into 1992, and that gets us into Newt Gingrich and the story of his speakership.

Segment Synopsis: Towery discusses his agreement to run for state representative and to chair Newt Gingrich's federal congressional campaign rather than running for the same seat as Gingrich. He recounts the night of Gingrich's election, from analyzing exit polls to appearing on WSB, and to achieving electoral success.

Keywords: Cobb County; Friends of Newt Gingrich; Herman Clark; Jay Morgan; Johnny Isakson; Newt Gingrich; Republican Party; Tom Murphy; demographics; demography; polling; redistricting; voting districts

00:58:11 - 1994: Republican State Convention, gubernatorial election

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Partial Transcript: Fast-forwarding to 1994, I had developed in the legislature very quickly a strong bond with both House Speaker Tom Murphy, who I loved.

Segment Synopsis: Towery describes his relationships with Speaker Murphy and Governor Zell Miller. He recalls the Republicans' reaction to changing the state flag, and he discusses the importance of inter-party relationships for elections and coalition-building. Towery talks about the 1994 gubernatorial race, in which he campaigned for Guy Millner and helped train him in debating.

Keywords: Governor Miller; Guy Millner; Republican Party; Speaker Murphy; convention; election; flag

01:04:44 - Gingrich as Speaker of the House

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Partial Transcript: 1994 also, though, was the year that we took Congress over.

Segment Synopsis: Towery chronicles Gingrich's sudden climb to Speaker of the House, which he attributes to a number of factors including Gingrich's Contract with America, the Clinton Adminstration's health care plan, and the Clinton cheating affair. Towery clarifies misconceptions about Gingrich and Clinton's relationship, and the reasons for Gingrich's resignation.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; House of Representatives; Newt Gingrich; President Clinton; Speaker Gingrich; resignation

01:13:10 - 1992 Georgia primary / Competing careers / Daufuskie Island

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Partial Transcript: The other thing I can say about the Gingrich-Clinton years is that there would have been no Bill Clinton had there not been Newt Gingrich, and I’ll explain that very quickly.

Segment Synopsis: Towery explains how changing the date of the Georgia primary helped President Clinton get elected. Towery also explains his decision to leave the legislature due to the pressures of being a CEO and working at a law firm. Towery also describes a controversial trip involving top Republican legislators.

Keywords: Long Aldridge & Norman; Republican Party; business; elections; legislators; legislature; primaries; printing; testifying; testimony

01:23:59 - Business ventures / 2008 presidential polls

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Partial Transcript: To sum up, I end my career the last 10 years with nothing to do after having sold the company.

Segment Synopsis: Towery discusses his business ventures after politics, including corporate lobbyist training, information sharing, polling, writing books and political columns, and appearing on news and comedy shows. He also discusses the 2008 primary polling data.

Keywords: Bill Shipp; Creators Syndicate; Iowa; Newsmax; Power Chicks: How Women Will Dominate America; Southern Political Report; Special Corporate Strategies; demography; lobbying; polling

01:30:51 - 2008 presidential election

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you about your book.

Segment Synopsis: Towery explains how the results of early primaries shaped the momentum of the 2008 elections, and he contrasts former Vice President Dan Quayle and VP candidate Sarah Palin's qualifications for office. Towery also comments on the Democratic Party's view of Obama's candidacy, evaluates President Obama's performance through 2009, and mentions the influence of the independent voter on elections. In addition, Towery reflects on his life in politics and states that he does not plan to run for office in the future.

Keywords: Barack Obama; Democratic Party; Democrats; Florida; Hillary Clinton; Iowa; John; McCain; Mike Huckabee; Mitt Romney; Republicans; Ron Paul; Sarah Palin; South Carolina; candidates; nominees; swing states