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Interview with McCracken Poston, November 24, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:03 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short, and this is Reflection on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Duckworth Library at Young Harris College and the Richard B. Russell Library for Research and Studies at the University of Georgia.

00:00:50 - Childhood / Early political work

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Partial Transcript: Ringgold, Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses his childhood in Graysville, Georgia, and his early interest in politics. He talks about his internship at the U.S. Capitol with Rep. Buddy Darden and working on others' campaigns in Northwest Georgia.

Keywords: 7th Congressional District; Bud Brown; Campaigns; Catoosa County; Civic participation; David Broder; Family; George "Buddy" Darden; Graysville Mercantile; Graysville, Georgia; Hamilton Jorden; John F. Kennedy; Korea; Korean Airlines Flight 007; Larry McDonald; Law school; Norman Underwood; Pete Brown; Ringgold, Georgia; UGA; University of Georgia; Washington, D.C.

00:10:02 - First campaign for Georgia House in 1988

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Partial Transcript: But I, I felt confident after running those three gentlemen's races locally, uh, where Norman won Catoosa County, Buddy won Catoosa County, and Hamilton even won Catoosa County, that it was time for me to run.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses his first campaign for the Georgia House, including his Republican opponent who had a conviction for attempted murder on his record.

Keywords: 1980s; Atlanta, Georgia; Attempted murder; Bob Peters; Campaigning; Democratic Party; Elections; George H.W. Bush; Georgia House of Representatives; Max Cleland; Michael Dukakis; Republican Party; Tom Murphy

00:16:25 - Early work in the Georgia House

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Partial Transcript: Uh, the Speaker, uh, I guess, really did show me a lot of, uh, graciousness and a lot of, uh, inclusiveness.

Segment Synopsis: Poston talks about his early experiences in the Georgia House of Representatives and the legislation he introduced. He describes the efforts of lobbyists to defeat his retail divorcement bill.

Keywords: 1990s; Atlanta, Georgia; Cynthia McKinney; Doug Teper; Earl Ehrhart; Exxon; Four Horsemen; James Beck; John Holland; Ken Abney; Lobbyists; Oil lobby; Ralph David Abernathy III; Ray Holland; Retail divorcement; Ringgold, Georgia; Ron Fennel; Toll free bill; Tom Kilgore; Tom Murphy; Toxic waste facility

00:29:48 - Introducing and supporting ethics reform bill

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Partial Transcript: What happened later that year, though, probably had more to do with my positions than anything was in July, uh, I developed Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes.

Segment Synopsis: Poston explains the circumstances that led him to introduce an ethics reform bill. He describes the role of the media in generating public support for the bill and the opposition that formed against it.

Keywords: 1990s; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Atlanta, Georgia; BCCI; Bank of Credit and Commerce International; Bubba McDonald; Charles Weltner; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Common Cause; Diabetes; Ethics reform bill; Houston, Texas; Lobbyists; Max Cleland; Reapportionment; Rhonda Cook; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller

00:46:37 - Passing ethics reform bill

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Partial Transcript: Well, in committee, uh, I learned a lot about the process.

Segment Synopsis: Poston describes the legislative process that led to the passage of his ethics reform bill. He talks about the legislators who moved to block him.

Keywords: Bobby Lawson; Catoosa County Welcome Center; Denmark Groover; Ethics reform bill; Judiciary Committee; Lobbyists; Max Davis; Rules Committee; Tom Bordeaux; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller

00:53:39 - Pressing for changes in Congress

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, the end of the '92 session--I knew that things were not going to be the same for me.

Segment Synopsis: Poston talks about supporting Dubose Porter in his run for Speaker of the House and pushing for reforms in the legislature. He explains how these choices affected his position in the party and his relationship with Speaker Tom Murphy.

Keywords: 1990s; A.L. Burruss; Appropriations Committee; Atlanta, Georgia; Budget Reform Act; Democratic Reform Caucus; Dubose Porter; Ethics Committee; Four Horsemen; Green Door Committee; Holland Manifesto; Ray Holland; Slush fund; Tom Murphy

GPS: Georgia State Capitol (Atlanta, GA)
Map Coordinates: 33.749768, -84.388354
01:03:02 - House Ethics Committee investigations

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Partial Transcript: And so imagine my surprise, in the summer, when I in my office get a call from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses investigations he was involved in as part of the Ethics Committee, focusing on a case in which a legislator brought a sex toy onto the floor of the House. Poston talks about how this work affected his reputation in the legislature.

Keywords: Associated Press; Atlanta, Georgia; GBI; Georgia Bureau of Investigation; House Ethics Committee; Jimmy Benefield; Lobbyists; Page; Sex toy

GPS: Georgia State Capitol (Atlanta, GA)
Map Coordinates: 33.749768, -84.388354
01:11:18 - Conflict over service dogs bill

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Partial Transcript: Well, the next session, of course, this all happened in the '94 session.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses Speaker Tom Murphy's efforts to punish him by blocking his service dogs bill. Poston talks about his feud with Murphy and the aftermath of the passage of the bill.

Keywords: Advocacy; Bill Lee; Butch Benefield; Chattanooga Times; David Zurow; Denmark Groover; Disability; Ray Holland; Rules Committee; Service dogs; Tom Murphy

GPS: Georgia State Capitol (Atlanta, GA)
Map Coordinates: 33.749768, -84.388354
01:25:09 - Poston's final election and bid for Congress / Tom Murphy's legacy

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Partial Transcript: But, uh, later that year, uh, he, uh, he lined me up some opposition.

Segment Synopsis: Poston talks about his final election to the Georgia House and his unsuccessful bid for U.S. Congress. He describes the leadership style and legacy of House Speaker Tom Murphy.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Bob Peters; District 2; District 3; Drug test law; Inspector General; Ray Holland; Ringgold, Georgia; Tom Murphy; U.S. House

01:30:48 - Poston's legislative victories

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Partial Transcript: And there was one bill that, uh, that I recall that you championed that, uh, that is now law in Georgia but it took all these years--is that, is your idea about Inspector General.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses some of the bills he passed as a representative. He mentions his written correspondence with Jimmy Carter.

Keywords: Catoosa County; Environmental Protection; Ethics reform bill; Jimmy Carter; Natural Resources; Pesticide notice act; Toxic waste facility; Whistleblower act

01:33:21 - Losing Congressional election

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Partial Transcript: Well, now let's turn to your legal career.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses losing his bid for U.S. House while going through a divorce. He talks about the difference between state and national campaigns.

Keywords: Chicago, Illinois; Democratic Party; Fundraising; Graysville Mercantile; Nathan Deal; Newt Gingrich; Republican Party; Ringgold, Georgia; Zell Miller

01:37:17 - Legal work, defending Alvin Ridley

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Partial Transcript: So I just trying to somewhat reinvent myself, uh, as a lawyer, which I had never really done full-time ever.

Segment Synopsis: Poston discusses his return to practicing law and his decision to defend Alvin Ridley, who was charged with imprisoning and murdering his wife. Poston recounts his interactions with Ridley leading up to and during the trial, which ended in an acquittal.

Keywords: Alvin Ridley; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Epilepsy; Graysville, Georgia; Hypergraphia; Murder trial; Nathan Deal; Paranoia; Public defender; Ringgold, Georgia; Virginia Ridley

02:01:47 - Additional cases / Poston's family

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Partial Transcript: I later had other challenging cases, uh, one you mentioned, Bob, uh, before we started.

Segment Synopsis: Poston mentions some of his legal work and the adoption of his children from Kazakhstan.

Keywords: Adoption; Byron Looper; Children; Tommy Burks

02:03:47 - Tri-State Crematory case

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Partial Transcript: I guess, uh, I have to mention--a huge case that I was involved in--from 2002 on.

Segment Synopsis: Poston describes in detail his high profile defense of Ray Brent Marsh, operator of the Tri-State Crematory. Poston explains his theory about the case.

Keywords: "Mad hatter"; Clara Marsh; Crematorium; Death threats; Divorce; How Can You Defend These People?; Ku Klux Klan; Mercury; Mike Snow; Public defenders; Racism; Ray Brent Marsh; Sixth Amendment rights; Supreme Court; Toxicology; Tri-State Crematory; Walker County

GPS: Walker County, GA
Map Coordinates: 34.705966, -85.284028
02:19:32 - Final thoughts / Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Looking back over your, uh, political and legal career, is there anything you might have done differently?

Segment Synopsis: Poston talks about his legacy as a public servant and his commitment to Constitutional principles. He explains that he does not have regrets. Interview concludes.

Keywords: Flag burning; Free speech; Public service