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Interview with Jimmy Paulk, September 29, 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 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 Jimmy Paulk.

00:00:50 - Early life / Introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: Fitzgerald, Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk discusses his upbringing in Ocilla and his introduction to politics at the Georgia Military Academy, during which time he worked for Carter's gubernatorial campaign.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; B.J. Ball; Bo Callaway; College Park, Georgia; Democratic ticket; Ellis Arnall; Funeral home; Georgia Military Academy; Georgia legislature; Jimmy Carter; Lester Maddox; National Science Institute; Ocilla, Georgia; Phyllis Barrow; Politics; UGA; Undertaker; University of Georgia; William R. Brewster

00:04:55 - Meeting Richard Nixon

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Partial Transcript: Okay, and then, uh, then what happened?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk recalls being present at the Governor's mansion during Sen. Russell's funeral, where he briefly met many national political figures, including President Nixon.

00:07:32 - Run for state senate

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Partial Transcript: But you decided to run for office.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk speaks about his first run for state senate in a largely rural district. He tells how his minor participation in a lawsuit concerning the environmental impact of a pesticide nearly derailed his senate run; he also briefly touches on his introduction to environmentalism.

00:25:03 - First days in the Senate

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Partial Transcript: ...but first i would like to talk to you about coming to the Senate.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk describes entering the Senate building for his first caucus meeting only to find his predecessor still in what should have been Paul's seat, as well as voting against a popular measure concerning government spending. Paulk describes the Senate democrats as falling into either the pro- or anti-Maddox camps, though he indicates their ideologies were not hardline and that issues were genuinely debated.

Keywords: Al Holloway; Albany, Georgia; Anti-Maddox faction; Bob Bell; Conservative; Culver Kidd; Frank Eldridge; George Busbee; Haskew Brantley; Hugh Gillis; Jack Reilly; Jim Tysinger; Joe Kennedy; Liberal; Paul Coverdell; Personal politics; Pierre Howard; Republican; Roy Barnes; Rural issues; Savannah, Georgia; Senate caucus meeting; Senate majority leader; Senator elect; Social issues; State capitol; Tom Allgood; Urban issues; Zell Miller

00:36:42 - Serving with Culver Kidd

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Partial Transcript: Tell us about Culver Kidd.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk describes Kidd as tremendously charming and influential and expresses a personal fondness for Kidd despite Kidd's notoriously unorthodox--and sometimes ethically ambiguous--methods.

Keywords: "Den of inequity"; Alcoholic beverages; Criminal court; Federal charges; Federal court; Floor amendment; Humor; Liquor; Lobbyists; Milledgeville, Georgia; Selling of influence; Small loans

00:42:04 - Work on committees

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Partial Transcript: What sort of bills did you get in EERG committee?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk describes some of the work he performed in various committees.

Keywords: Ballots; Election process; Licensing issues; Lieutenant governor; Mandate; Subpoena power

00:44:13 - Relationships with Zell Miller and Tom Murphy

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Partial Transcript: How did you get along with the Lieutenant Governor?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk states that he had a good relationship with Miller, despite a challenge to the Democratic leadership over a taxation issue, but express dislike for Speaker Murphy.

Keywords: Autocrat; Constitutional amendment; Economic issues; Ethics; Lee Robinson; Libertarian; Limits on government; Macon, Georgia; National tax limitation movement; Public initiative; Ronald Reagan; Special session; Taxation; Tom Murphy

00:50:55 - Serving in a conservative district

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Partial Transcript: I went...let me talk about a couple of bills and maybe talk about some of the people that were there in the capitol.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk indicates that he loved serving his district, though he acknowledges that his political views were often out of sync with those of his generally conservative constituents.

Keywords: African-Americans; Agriculture; Black churches; Chewing tobacco; Chickens; Disabilities; ERA; Equal Rights Amendment; Gun control; Peanut; Pine tree farmers; Poultry industry; Poverty; Spittoon; Teachers

00:57:43 - Fight over a bottle recycling bill

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Partial Transcript: Um, but my battles were, probably the ones that I would say are my legacy issues were environmental.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk speaks about sponsoring recycling legislation at the behest of an environmental group only to have the group retract its support after challenges from Coca-Cola, a large donor to the group.

Keywords: Asa Candler; Audubon Society; Beer distributors; Betsy Loyless; Bob Woodruff; Bottle bill; Coca-Cola; Container legislation; Donor; Georgia Conservancy; Georgia Wildlife Federation; Jim Morrison; Soft drink bottlers

01:03:38 - Battling anti-environmental legislation

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Partial Transcript: Most of the environmental stuff was trying to beat bad bills.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk indicates that most of his environmental work involved fighting legislation introduced by others rather than writing bills, citing examples concerning trout fishing and river rights.

Keywords: Alabama legislature; Apalachicola River; Bob Graham; Chattahoochee River; Columbus, Georgia; Compact law; Drought; Fisheries; Flint River; Florida; Gulf coast; Interstate compacts; Lake Lanier; Metropolitan Atlanta; Parks Brown amendment; Port authority; Public transportation; River management; Savannah River; Suburban Atlanta; Tri-state compact; Trout stream protection; Water conservation; Waterflow

01:11:53 - Involvement in prison legislation

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Partial Transcript: Um, I was involved in prison reform.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk speaks about some of the legislation measures concerning prison reform in which he was involved.

Keywords: Budget; Chain gang; County correctional institutions; Department of Corrections; Georgia State Prisons; Penal system; Recidivism; Rehabilitation; Reidsville State Prison; State correctional institutions

01:13:48 - Typical work of a legislator

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Partial Transcript: Uh, I was telling you, uh, so much of what you do in the legislature is--you look at the calendar 30 years later and you have no idea what it was.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk suggests that the majority of a legislator's work is routine, with only a few controversial issues circulating per year.

Keywords: Bribery; Budget; City government; County government; Local government; Ombudsman; Realtors; State government

01:16:26 - Current water conservation issues

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to get back to water for a minute.

Segment Synopsis: Paulk stresses the need for water conservation in the state, particularly in Atlanta metro and in agricultural applications.

Keywords: California; Controlled growth; Interbasin water transfer; Low-flow toilets; Reservoir; Tennessee River; Water basin; Water conservation; Water rationing

01:19:40 - Life after public office / Political activism

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Partial Transcript: Then you decided not to run?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk discusses his reasons for leaving the state senate and his path after departing public office, which included moving to New York and work at the Audubon Society and in insurance. Paulk discusses some of the non-profit work with which he is currently involved, primarily as a fundraiser.

01:26:20 - Current state of politics in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: What happened to the Democratic party in Georgia?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk suggests that the Democratic party was once a catch-all for any political aspirant in the state and its members were often very conservative, and comments on political smear campaigns and the influence of bloggers.

Keywords: Conspiracy theorist; Dirty campaign; Jack Flint; Mudslinging; Newt Gingrich; Partisan politics; Political bloggers; Shelby McCash; Virginia Sheppard

01:30:59 - Recollections of Maddox

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Partial Transcript: Would you agree that the present political philosophy in Georgia is the old Democratic philosophy that has turned Republican?

Segment Synopsis: Paulk describes Maddox as misunderstood and progressive, especially in programs he established for the poor, and recalls an encounter with the folksy Maddox at a black-tie reception.

Keywords: Carl Sanders; Chiropractor; Compassion; Earl Paulk; Elliss Arnall; George Smith; Herman Talmadge; Lester Maddox; Lyndon B. Johnson; Marietta, Georgia; Nutrition; Politicking; Poverty; Progressive politics