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Interview with Bob Cohn, June 30, 2010

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:20 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Bob Short, and this 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 Bob Cohn.

00:00:46 - Early life and education

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Partial Transcript: Uh, from Brooklyn to Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes his childhood in Brooklyn, including being raised by an uncle and aunt after the death of both of his parents, and studying journalism at the University of Alabama simply because of its proximity to the Air Force base where he was stationed while in the military.

Keywords: Air Force; Atlanta, Georgia; Brooklyn, New York; Crimson White; G.I. Bill; Heart attack; Hissop, Alabama; Jew; Jewish; Journalism; Marriage; Maxwell Air Force Base; Montgomery, Alabama; New York Journal American; Orphan; Southern Baptist; Sportswriter; Throat cancer; University of Alabama

00:03:07 - Start of journalism career

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember your first job as a reporter?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn speaks about his time working on newspapers in Alabama and Columbus, Georgia before landing in Atlanta, where he came to know several colorful Georgia politicians.

00:09:29 - Carl Sanders' administration

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's talk about some of the people and issues that you covered at the state capitol.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes Sanders and his administration as somewhat arrogant, though acknowledges they they were competent; he also tells of a near-physical altercation he had with Doug Barnard and a frightening plane ride with Carl Sanders during his second gubernatorial campaign.

00:14:39 - Working during the Civil Rights Movement

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Partial Transcript: I don't know how much coverage you did of the Civil Rights Movement, but if you have any memories of covering that, I'd like to cover some of that.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn desribes watching John Lewis being beaten in Montgomery and overall tension and conflict in the region during civil rights protests, but despite a hotel refusing to house he and a fellow Jewish reporter, indicates that his religious background was not a hindrance to his career.

00:18:46 - Integration of the House / 1968 Democratic National Convention

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well, after, after reapportionment, the Georgia House was integrated with several well-known blacks from Atlanta; let's talk about that for a minute, if you will.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes his relationship with Julian Bond, one of the first black legislators in Georgia, as good, though he expresses disappointment in Bond's subsequent career; he also describes the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention and Lester Maddox's oft-forgotten run for president.

00:24:27 - Journalism during the Maddox administration

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you if you recall the--what happened after the Democratic convention that year was the bolting of several constitutional officers who switched parties.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn discusses the political climate in Georgia in the late 1960s and mentions some of the journalists with whom he worked during that time.

Keywords: Aubrey Morris; Berl Sellers; Celestine Sibley; Darts; Hal Suit; Jack Ray; James L. "Jimmy" Bentley; Party-switching; Pete Hanes; Real estate; Remer Tyson; Republican; Segregation; Steve Ball; Ted Simmons; UGA; University of Georgia; WSB-Radio

00:30:39 - Various Georgia gubernatorial campaigns

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Partial Transcript: It was shortly after that that I realized, my life--there has to be something bigger than this.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn discusses several gubernatorial candidates, including Jimmy Carter, of whom he has a less-than-favorable impression.

Keywords: Callaway Gardens; Colony Square; Drug abuse; Extramarital affair; Florist; Fort Deposit, Alabama; George L. Smith; Gnats; Grant Weyman; Howard "Bo" Callaway; Jim Cushman; Jimmy Carter; Jimmy Carter Presidential Library; Panama City, Panama; Public information office; Republican; Runoff; Steve Ball; Textile mills

00:38:20 - Iconic photograph of Denmark Groover

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Partial Transcript: You made a very famous photograph while you're were covering the state capitol.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes taking what became a famous photograph of Denmark Groover climbing over the rails of the House to stop the clock just prior to the end of the legislative session at midnight.

Keywords: Black Sheep Squadron; Fighter pilot; George T. Smith; Georgia politics; Jack Ruby; Lee Harvey Oswald; Newsweek; Photography; Pulitzer Prize; Speaker of the House

00:41:31 - Start of PR career / Cohn & Wolfe Public Relations firm

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Partial Transcript: Why did you leave your job as a reporter?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn speaks about leaving journalism for a better-paid career in public relations and tells several humorous anecdotes about attempting to collect on invoices from various clients. Cohn discusses some of the campaigns on which he worked with the firm he co-founded, which was very successful and was ultimately sold to a British firm in 1998; he also states that after some early burns, the firm refused to work on political campaigns.

00:55:04 - Involvement in passing Atlanta's mixed drink bill

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned the mixed drink bill that made Atlanta a convention center.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes how he, at the urging of several legislators in favor of the bill, interviewed a pivotal dissenter outside the chambers while the bill was being voted on by the House.

Keywords: Alcoholic beverages; Charlies Jones; Cocktails; Fulton County, Georgia; Harry Dicus; Howard Tamplin; J.W. Marriott; Local legislation; Madison, Georgia; Marriott Hotel

00:56:57 - Additional business pursuits

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Partial Transcript: You, uh, you've had a very successful PR business, and you sold out, uh, to some firm.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn speaks about an unsuccessful venture in which he was involved following the sale of Cohn & Wolfe.

Keywords: Alcoholism; Bones Restaurant; Buckhead, Atlanta; Co-signer; Cobb County, Georgia; Financing; Houston, Texas; Jekyll Island, Georgia; Lawsuit; Loan; Real estate investment; Sears Tower; Tax deferral

01:00:51 - PR work during Olympic games

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to your company Cohn & Wolfe, you were very active in that for how many years before you sold?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes more of his PR campaigns, particularly those for Coca-Cola at various Olympic games, including the 1996 games in Atlanta.

Keywords: 1988 Winter Olympics; AT&T; Bausch & Lomb; Bill Campbell; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Coca-Cola World Chorus; David Foster; Direct mail; George Berry; Global Olympic Village; Jim McKay; Joe Tanner; Kodak; Lake Lanier; Maynard Jackson; Metropolitan Olympic Games Authority; Minority participation; NBC affiliates; Olympic sponsors; Opening ceremonies; Racism; Ray Charles; Rowing; Zell Miller

01:08:22 - Atlanta Olympics v. other Olympic games

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Partial Transcript: On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate the Atlanta Olympics compared to others you attended?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn suggests that the Atlanta games were successful and good for the city but fell short of the games in Sydney and Beijing, and states that problems in Atlanta and Salt Lake City have hindered the U.S.'s chances at hosting future games.

Keywords: Athletics; Beijing, China; Bribery; Bribes; Chicago, Illinois; IOC; International Olympic Committee; Salt Lake City, Utah; Street vendors; Sydney, Australia

01:10:34 - Family history

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Partial Transcript: Well, looking back, Bob, is there anything that we've missed?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn describes writing a book about he and his wife's family histories for their children and grandchildren, detailing his wife's ancestor's treacherous journey to America.

Keywords: Atlantic Ocean; England; Family history; France; Germany; Immigration; Jamestown, Virginia; Memoir; Native Americans; New Bern, North Carolina; Pirates; Rhine River; Rotterdam; Slavery; Ukraine

01:14:12 - Career and personal regrets

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Partial Transcript: Looking back, Bob, is there anything that you would've done differently in your career?

Segment Synopsis: Cohn expresses regret over his involvement in the quashing of Georgia's branch banking bill, which he indicates was intended to protect small banks but instead led to the growth of North Carolina's banking industry over Georgia's;he also speaks about having "wasted time" in his life and his displeasure with Georgia's turn to a Republican stronghold.

01:17:13 - Lester Maddox's legacy

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Partial Transcript: Uh, we were at the--I had taken my family up to Williamsburg, to the Southern Governor's Conference.

Segment Synopsis: Cohn recalls his interactions with Lester Maddox and suggests that Maddox accomplished good things in office, though his legacy will be overshadowed by his reputation; he also proves that Maddox announced his candidacy for president, though this fact is often omitted from Maddox's biography.

Keywords: African-Americans; Baldy cartoons; Clifford Baldowski; Crime; Duck hunting; GBI; Georgia Bureau of Investigation; Georgia State Patrol; Georgia delegation; Lester Maddox; New York Daily News; North Georgia; Poll rating; Prison guards; Prisoners; Williamsburg, Virginia