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Interview with Don Johnson, November 29, 2010

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:44 - Family history and father's importance

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Partial Transcript: Born in Atlanta, spent most of your life in Royston.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson quickly goes over some of his family history. He discusses his father's role in shaping his character, especially his father's legal career.

Keywords: L.A. Times; Newsweek; Washington Post; Danielsville, Georgia; Elbert County, Georgia; Emory Law School; Eugene Talmadge; Jeff Wayne; Ku Klux Klan; Lemuel Penn; Madison County, Georgia; Royston, Georgia; assistant attorney general; district attorney; solicitor general

00:07:13 - College years / Staffing for Phil Landrum

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Partial Transcript: The next big event that happened in my life that had an impact on my political philosophy and outlook on life was 1968.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson summarizes how his years in college and in law school at the University of Georgia shaped his political framework. Johnson then details his time working in Congress for U.S. Representative Phil Landrum, particularly helping Landrum on the Trade Reform Act of 1973.

Keywords: Dean Rusk; George McGovern; Harry Lamar; Herman Talmadge; Martin Luther King assassination; Robert Kennedy assassination; Spiro Agnew; Tet Offensive; University of Georgia School of Law; Ways and Means Committee

00:16:45 - Service in the Air Force / Studying international law

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Partial Transcript: So I spent four years in the Air Force.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson briefly reviews his time in the U.S. Air Force, when he was stationed in California, Colorado, and Turkey. He then explains why he returned to school to study international law, primarily international economic law.

Keywords: Beirut, Lebanon; Denver, Colorado; Egypt; London School of Economics; Lowry Air Force Base; Russia; Turkey; Turkish invasion of Cyprus; Vandenburg Air Force Base; court martials; prisons

00:20:19 - Work in the legal field

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Partial Transcript: After I graduated from the LSE, I was wanting to go back to Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his job in international finance for Continental Bank of Chicago, and his time working as an associate for a large firm in Atlanta. Johnson then describes moving back to his hometown and starting his own legal business with his father.

Keywords: Burt Murphy; Chicago, Illinois; Jimmy Carter presidency; Johnson and Johnson; London, England; Pierre Howard; Powell,Goldstein,Frazer, and Murphy; Rusty Soule; Washington, D.C.

00:26:23 - Election and early years in state senate

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Partial Transcript: I was really interested in the state senate, and Parks Brown, who was very ill in the first session of 1987, died in about April or May of that year.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson recollects his run for state senate in 1987 after Parks Brown's death, including the difficulties that came with running his first campaign. Johnson then details events from his first years in the Georgia State Senate, such as being vice-chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

00:37:11 - Role on Appropriations Committee / Miscellaneous bills

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Partial Transcript: Weren't you also on the Appropriations Committee?

Segment Synopsis: Johnson explains his influence on the Appropriations Committee, including the reform he did as chairman of the committee. He then discusses various other bills he worked on in the state senate.

Keywords: Bob Barr; Donald Ratajczak; HASBAT; Mike Bowers; Mike Egan; Pat Swindle; Pierre Howard; Skin Edge; Sonny Purdue; Terrell Starr; Terry Coleman; Tom Loff; Wayne Garner; assistant floor leader; budget reform; lieutenant governor; president pro tempore; senate majority leader

00:53:09 - First run for Congress

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Partial Transcript: I decided to run for the United States Congress when Doug Barnard announced he was going to retire.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about his run for Congress in 1992. He compares his campaign to that of Ross Perot, focusing on fixing the deficit crisis. Johnson details how he drew upon his previous experience on the Appropriations Committee in his campaign.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Ed Jenkins; Mac Collins; Nathan Deal; Ross Perot; Sanford Bishop; budget crisis

00:56:46 - Combating the rising deficit

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Partial Transcript: This is where I'll talk about the budget issue and the budget vote I had.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson gives the background on the budget issue in 1993, including how the deficit could be fought and why it was important. Johnson then explains his realization that both spending cuts and tax increases were required in order to effectively address the deficit problem.

Keywords: "fraud, waste, and abuse"; Alan Greenspan; Kennedy School; Nathan Deal; budget balancing; budget cuts; discretionary spending; entitlement programs; foreign aid; inflation; reconciliation; tax increases

01:03:15 - Vote on the budget bill

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Partial Transcript: But as things started moving in the summer of '93, I started moving away from it because I didn't like mainly the energy tax.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson tells why he was initially hesitant to vote for the budget bill, then how multiple Democratic leaders, including the President and Vice-President of the United States, attempted to change his vote. Johnson then says that upon hearing the Republicans' arguments against the bill, he could not side with them and voted for the bill to pass anyways.

Keywords: Al Gore; Bill Clinton; Butler Derrick; Byrd rule; Chuck Toney; Dick Armey; Dick Gephardt; Eric Fingerhut; George Mitchell; Lewis Massey; Newt Gingrich; Phil Kent; Pierre Howard; Tom Foley; gas tax

01:18:47 - Aftermath of the Budget Bill

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Partial Transcript: And so it passed by one vote.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson discusses the backlash he faced as a result of voting for the budget bill, particularly from his own constituents.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Columbia County, Georgia; Grovetown, Georgia; Jane Kidd; Paul Harvey; Rush Limbaugh; town hall meetings

01:25:00 - Policy committee / Assault weapons ban

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Partial Transcript: You were also selected by Speaker Foley to serve as a member of the speaker's working group on policy.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson summarizes his time on a policy committee for Speaker Tom Foley, noting Dan Rostenkowski and Jack Brooks's importance in the committee. Johnson then explains why he chose to back the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, as well as how voting for the bill cost him his re-election that year.

Keywords: Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act; Charlie Norwood; Hillary Clinton; HillaryCare; National Rifle Association; Ozzy Ord; Sam Nunn; Science Committee; Sportsman Caucus; Ways and Means Committee; background checks; waiting periods

01:41:50 - Rise of the Republicans in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a minute about party politics.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson goes over the factors he believes handed Georgia over to Republican control, such as the national Democratic Party not being moderate enough, and shifts in the electoral makeup of Georgia. He then discusses how Democrats may be able to retake power in Georgia politics.

Keywords: Contract with America; George McGovern; Jim Martin; Johnny Isakson; Mike Bowers; Nathan Deal; New Deal Democrats; Paul Coverdell; Ralph Hudgens; Roy Barnes; Sandford Bishop; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Purdue; Tenth Congressional District; Wyche Fowler

01:54:16 - Chief Textile Negotiatior

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about trade.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson explains the duties of the chief textile negotiator. within the Office of the United States Trade Representative. He then talks about his specific accomplishments when he was appointed to the position, such as informing the U.S.-Cambodian Textile Agreement.

Keywords: China; NAFTA; Pakistan; Textile Manufacturing Association; World Trade Organization; child labor; cotton; forced labor; trade agreements

01:59:26 - Dean Rusk International Law Center

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Partial Transcript: You are now associated with the Dean Rusk Center at your Alma Mater.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson goes over the role of the Dean Rusk Center at the University of Georgia School of Law, including the programs and lectures the center hosts. He also explains his own roles at the Dean Rusk Center, including setting up trade offices and advising the federal government on policy.

Keywords: Beijing, China; Brussels, Belgium; Colin Powell; Department of Economic Development; Fudan University; Gabriel Wilner; Geneva, Switzerland; George Busbee; Henry Kissinger; James Baker; Lee Hamilton; Louis Sohn; Madeleine Albright; Shanghai, China; Tsinghua University; Warren Christopher; comparative law; international conferences; international law

02:05:47 - Children / Reflections on legislative accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk for a minute about the Don Johnson family.

Segment Synopsis: Johnson briefly discusses his children and what they are aspiring to do. He then reflects on some of his favorite legislative accomplishments, saying that the gratification he got from his political career was in impacting people's lives for the better.

Keywords: 1998 State of the Union Address; Alex Johnson; Clete Johnson; Hobbs Act; Homeland Security Committee; Jay Rockefeller; Jim Marshall; Mary Landrieu; Matthew Barnett; Senate Intelligence Committee; Squire Patton Boggs; budget reform; sovereign immunity; toll-free county-wide calling