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Interview with Wayne Garner, June 16, 2010

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:18 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short and it is Reflections on Georgia Politics, sponsored by the Richard B. Russell Library at the University of Georgia and Young Harris College.

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Bob Short introduces interviewee Wayne Garner.

00:00:48 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: Well, we're anxious for you to share some of your memories, uh, beginning with your election to the Senate in 1980...

Segment Synopsis: Garner describes his upbringing in a poor family in various towns in Georgia, and tells of leaving home as a teenager to live and work in a funeral home that he later purchased.

00:04:17 - Entry into state politics

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Partial Transcript: Then, um, onto--I married my wife Jerri, we've been married about 36 years, in October of '74.

Segment Synopsis: Garner describes his interest in politics and decision to run for state senate after the death of Sen. Ebb Duncan.

Keywords: Al Holloway; Altamaha River; Carroll, Georgia; Committee assignments; Culver Kidd; Democratic Charter Convention; Dot Padgett; Duck hunting; Gerry Landers; Governmental operations; Herman Talmadge; Jimmy Carter; Joe Frank Harris; Joseph Ervin Duncan; Mableton, Georgia; Macon, Georgia; Marietta, Georgia; Newnan, Georgia; Old Macon Hilton; Politics; Rosalyn Carter; Roy Barnes; Run-off; State capitol; State senator; Tom Glanton; Zell Miller

00:09:36 - Recollections of Culver Kidd

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Partial Transcript: Well, before we get too far away from it, tell us about Culver Kidd.

Segment Synopsis: Garner recalls some of the famous exploits of Kidd, his neighbor in the senate chamber.

Keywords: Bartender; Central Georgia; Central State Hospital; Cocktails; Eccentric; Economy; Georgia Industrial Small Loan; Gimlet; Job creation; Joe Andrews; Liquid lunch; Media; Milledgeville, Georgia; Pete McDuffy; Practical jokes; Press; Robot; The Oasis

00:13:07 - Miller v. Talmadge in 1980

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute, Wayne, about that race between Miller and Senator Talmadge.

Segment Synopsis: Garner tells of being contacted by Talmadge after winning a state senate seat and describes the atmosphere around the Miller/Talmadge campaigns.

Keywords: Debates; Democratic ticket; Gene Talmadge; Herman Talmadge; Pneumonia; Primary; Villa Rica, Georgia

00:15:56 - Early days in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: Walk us through your first day.

Segment Synopsis: Garner recalls his first days in the Senate, where he met lifelong friend Paul Trulock, and becoming part of a group known as the Gang of Five.

00:20:25 - Relationships in the Senate / First bills

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about Senator Gillis.

Segment Synopsis: Garner discusses some of the relationships he built while serving as a senator and tells of his early, largely unsuccessful, legislation.

Keywords: "Grooverizing"; David Ralston; Denmark Groover; Fraternity; George Busbee; Georgia governor; Governmental affairs; House judiciary committee; J. Ebb Duncan; Judge Quillian Baldwin; Juvenile offenders; Macon, Georgia; Murder; Renda Hill; Resolution; Speaker of the House; Tripp Martin; Unconstitutional; University of West Georgia

00:25:16 - Serving under Governor Busbee

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about George Busbee.

Segment Synopsis: Garner describes his personal and professional relationship with Governor Busbee, telling of an embarrassing incident in which the Garners' young son misbehaved at a formal dinner with the Busbees.

00:31:12 - Harris' governorship

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Partial Transcript: Joe Frank Harris.

Segment Synopsis: Garner describes Harris' character and his time as governor, suggesting that he was generally easygoing but aggressive when necessary.

Keywords: Blakely, Georgia; Bo Ginn; Carlton Colwell; Education; Floor leader; Jekyll Island, Georgia; Jimmie Hodge Timmons; Line item veto; Nathan Deal; Norman Underwood; Parole officer; Police indemnification act; Probation convention; Probation officer; QBE Act; Quality Basic Education; Savannah, Georgia; Teachers; Tom Purdue

00:37:47 - Miller's governorship / Departure from senate

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Partial Transcript: Zell Miller.

Segment Synopsis: Garner tells of working with friend Miller, though he initially did not support his gubernatorial run, and his retirement from public office after getting involved in the Georgia state flag controversy.

Keywords: Amendment; Attrition; Columbus, Georgia; Educational lottery; Georgia state flag; Gubernatorial campaign; Guy Millner; HOPE Scholarship; Lieutenant governor; Mentor; Parole board; Pete Robinson; President pro tempore; Senate majority leader; State commemorative flag; State patrol

00:43:41 - Appointment to Department of Corrections

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Partial Transcript: Appointed you Commissioner of Corrections--let's talk about corrections.

Segment Synopsis: Garner discusses how he came to be appointed to Commissioner of Corrections and details some of the changes he made while in the position.

Keywords: AJC; Allen Ault; Anthony Alaimo; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Chain-gang state; Christopher Hamilton; Contraband; Cynthia Tucker; Forensic audit; Gerry Thomas; Heard County, Georgia; Inmates; Jackson, Georgia; Lee Arrendale State Prison; Max Cleland; Maximum security prison; Parole board; Paul Melvin; Pearl Harbor Day; Peat Marwick; Prison riot; Prison warden; Secretary of State; Shakedown; Southern Center for Human Rights; Tactical team

00:50:47 - Reform to prisoner education

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Partial Transcript: I read that, uh, looked at that audit, and it said, and I'm quoting here, that you built a prison system without peer in the Southeast.

Segment Synopsis: Garner speaks about some of the changes he made to the prisons' educational system, explaining that they emphasized GED diplomas over vocational or technical education.

Keywords: Chain-gang state; GED; General Educational Development; High school graduation; Inmate assault; Liberal arts degree; Prison teachers; Prisoner education; Vocational education

00:54:31 - Barnes' governorship / Miller v. Murphy

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Partial Transcript: We--when we were talking about governors, we didn't quite get around to Roy Barnes.

Segment Synopsis: Garner expresses great affection and respect for Barnes and suggests that the turmoil between Miller and Murphy was good for the legislature.

01:02:07 - Lieutenant governor campaign / Party politics

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Partial Transcript: You, uh, announced for lieutenant governor in 1990, then changed your mind.

Segment Synopsis: Garner explains that he pulled out of his lieutenant governor campaign due to his son's health issues and decries partisanship and the influence of money in current politics.

Keywords: Congressman; Conservative; Electric chair; Fundraising; George H.W. Bush; Independent candidate; Liberal; PTSD; Partisanship; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Sonny Purdue; Spin doctors; Traumatic brain injury; U.S. Congress

01:08:10 - Career highlights and regrets

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Partial Transcript: Well, Wayne, we could go on for hours, but I'd like to close by asking you, uh, these personal questions.

Segment Synopsis: Garner expresses regret at not having accepted Miller's offer to appoint him Secretary of State and describes some of his achievements on the corrections board and in the senate; he also tells of scaring Pierre Howard into appointing him majority leader by cutting the engine on an airplane mid-flight.

01:13:28 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well, it's been great having you.

Segment Synopsis: Short and Garner conclude the interview.