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Interview with David Morrison, September 19, 2011

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:23 - Introduction

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

Segment Synopsis: Interviewer Short introduces interviewee Morrison.

00:00:55 - Early life

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Partial Transcript: You came to Atlanta all the way from Birmingham, Alabama.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison recollects his youth in a segregated working-class neighborhood in Birmingham

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Church; Coal industry; Jefferson County, Alabama; Public schools; Racial tension; Racism; Segregation; Steel industry; Steelworkers; Suburbs; Unions; Urban south; Working class

00:04:38 - Education and recruitment to the student newspaper

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Partial Transcript: And then it was off to college.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison describes moving from Alabama to West Texas to attend Wayland Baptist College, his work on the school newspaper and his subsequent transfer to Baylor University; he also discusses Wayland's women's basketball team, which holds the records for most wins by a women's team.

Keywords: AAU; Amateur Athletic Union; Beechcraft aircraft; English; Harlem Globetrotters; Hutcherson Flying Queens; Journalism; Local newspaper; Marty Clay; Montgomery Advertiser; NCAA; Oklahoma; Penpal; Police beat; Publicist; Sports; Title IX; UConn; University of Connecticut

00:10:34 - Drafted to the Army during the Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, I was waiting on my diploma to arrive in the mail from Baylor, but what came first was my draft notice.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison tells of receiving a draft notice just as he was set to enter a career in journalism and his assignment to a role as a public information specialist in the Army due to his conscientious objector status.

Keywords: Ambassador to Thailand; Anti-war; Basic training; Combat occupation; Compulsory military service; Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Ord, California; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Infantry; International relations; Military; Military occupation; Student movement; Tet Offensive; Vietnam War

00:13:32 - Graduate school / Joining the Atlanta Constitution

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Partial Transcript: So what happened after the Army?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison describes his early journalism work after completing graduate school at UC Berkeley and joining the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a political reporter.

Keywords: AJC; Atlanta Constitution; Bill Shipp; David Gambrell; Election cycle; Georgia Wallace; Greenville News; Greenville, South Carolina; Incumbent; Jim Stewart; Jimmy Carter; Milo Dakin; National politics; Political coverage; Richard B. Russell; Senate race; Southern crescent; Southern politics; UC Berkley; Washington, D.C.

00:17:23 - Covering the Birmingham church bombing trial

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Partial Transcript: Were you with the Constitution when you covered the Birmingham church bombing trial?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison speaks about covering the trial of the accused 16th Street Baptist Church bombers a decade after the act and its effect on the racial climate in his hometown of Birmingham.

Keywords: Bill Baxley; Chris McNair; Civil rights; Closure; Denise McNair; Eugene Connor; FBI; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Justice; KKK; Ku Klux Klan; Maxine McNair; Nigeria; Prejudice; Racism; Robert Chambliss; Terrorism

00:22:42 - Gary Hart's run for Presidential office

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Partial Transcript: Let's get back to Atlanta, you're now with the Atlanta Constitution, you're out on the campaign trial...

Segment Synopsis: Morrison speaks about Gary Hart's quest to receive the Democratic nomination in 1988 and the alleged extramarital affair that ended his run.

Keywords: Cheerleader; Conspiracy; Divisive politics; Donna Rice; Espionage; Gary Hartpence; Groupie; Jimmy Carter; Lee Atwater; Ronald Reagan; Russia; Russian; Soviet Union; Spy novel; USC; University of South Carolina

00:25:51 - Carter's presidential campaign

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about some of the other interesting campaigns you've covered.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison discusses the polarizing political career of Jimmy Carter and Carter's presidential campaign.

Keywords: Carl Sanders; Consolidation of power; County government; Department of Human Resources; Environmental protection; Ethics; Executive branch; Georgia House of Representatives; Governor; Lester Maddox; Lieutenant Governor; Maylon London; National resources; Natural Resources Commission; Obamacare; Roscoe Dean; Rules Committee; State capitol; State legislature; Watershed

00:30:41 - The Callaway v. Maddox gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back, David, if you will to 1967; you mentioned breaking the tie.

Segment Synopsis: Though Morrison was not yet a journalist or resident of Georgia, he discusses the contentious governor's race between Bo Callaway and Lester Maddox in 1966

Keywords: "Politics of the past"; Automatic weapons; Bert Lance; Conservative; Dave Gambrell; Democrat; Democratic primary; Direct majority; Ellis Arnall; George Busbee; Harold Dye; House Appropriations Committee; Law and order; Macon, Georgia; Racist past; Republican; Rick Perry; Right-wing; Ronnie Thompson; South Georgia; Write-in campaign

00:37:03 - Local and state politics in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: What are some of the other campaigns you covered?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison describes some of the other local and statewide political campaigns of the 1970s.

Keywords: African-Americans; Andy Young; Atlanta Board of Alderman; Atlanta city council; Atlanta mayor; Bill Stuckey; Black voters; Buddy Folks; City politics; Fifth district; Fletcher Thompson; Hosea Williams; Maynard Jackson; Middle Georgia; Racial divide; Rodney Cook; Ronnie Thompson; Sam Massell; William B. Hartsfield

00:43:42 - Georgia's swing from a Republican to a Democratic state

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to Southern politics, the area has done a complete swing from totally Democrat to totally Republican; what caused that?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison speculates that the Democratic party in Georgia had been too encompassing of various political views, contributing to the state's swing from a Blue State to a Red State.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Blue Dog Democrats; Communism; Conspiracy theory; DLC; Democratic Leadership Council; Jerry Horton; John Birch Society; John Lewis; Julian Bond; Larry McDonald; Liberal; Northwest Georgia; Populist; Sam Nunn; Speaker of the House; Tea Party; Tom Murphy

00:48:05 - Zell Miller and Lester Maddox as lieutenant governors / Talmadge v. Mattingly

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Partial Transcript: At one time you covered the Georgia Senate when Zell Miller was lieutenant governor.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison discusses the differences between Zell Miller and Lester Maddox in their roles as Lieutenant Governors, and mentions the loss of Herman Talmadge's Senate seat to Mack Mattingly

Keywords: Controversy; Demographics; IBM; Jean Holley; John Lewis; Justice Department; Paul Coverdell; Political adviser; Presiding officer; Reapportionment; Ventriloquist act; Wyche Fowler

00:55:42 - Characteristics of a political journalist

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Partial Transcript: Let's, let me ask you a question about the job of a newspaper reporter.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison opines on what it takes to be a good journalist, suggesting that political reporters must be more personable than other reporters to be successful.

Keywords: Bylines; City editor; Commentary; Curiosity; Hunches; Inferiority complex; Multitasking; Robert Duvall; Superiority complex; THE PAPER (movie); Tenacy

01:01:10 - Tempering political bias in journalism

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Partial Transcript: How difficult is it to keep your personal political philosophy out of your stories?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison suggests that while absolute objectivity is impossible in journalism, reporters--unlike columnists--must work to keep their articles balanced.

Keywords: Ambassador; Anne Cox Chambers; Belgium; Bias; Curveball question; Editorial policy; Editorials; Opinion pages; Opinions; Softball question

01:07:23 - Carter's run for president

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Partial Transcript: Getting back to the Carter administration for just a minute...

Segment Synopsis: Morrison speaks about the speculation that Carter would run for president prior to his formal announcement.

01:09:27 - Reporting on politicians' public and private lives

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Partial Transcript: Uh, getting back to something we talked about earlier, the situation of private lives versus public lives...

Segment Synopsis: Morrison acknowledge the difficulty in knowing when to report on a politician's personal life, suggesting that is appropriate when the personal bleeds into the political.

Keywords: Character; Gary Hart; Historical record; Hypocrisy; Julian Bond; Monica Lewinsky; Morality; Newt Gingrich; Playboy magazine

01:12:34 - Political journalism in the past versus today

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Partial Transcript: What do you think of political coverage in this country today, twenty-four hours a day?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison discusses some of the changes in political journalism over time, suggesting that the lines between reporters and columnists have become blurred.

Keywords: 24 hour news; Behind the scenes; Documentary film; Gotcha journalism

01:14:31 - Career after the AJC

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Partial Transcript: Well, there came a time in your life when you decided to leave the newspaper; what happened?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison tells of leaving the AJC for a position with a personal computing trade publication, his subsequent layoff, and his current position with Brenau University; he also discusses writing his as-yet unfinished political novel.

Keywords: Alumni magazine; Brenau Window; Freelance journalism; Infoworld; Layoffs; PC Week; Public relations; Recession; Robert Snowdon Jones; Unemployment

01:18:17 - The 1974 legislative session / Morrison's handwriting

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Partial Transcript: Well, you've had a very interesting career; have we failed to mention something you would like to say?

Segment Synopsis: Morrison describes the gubernatorial campaign between George Busbee and Lester Maddox and other state and local races taking place in 1974.

Keywords: Albany, Georgia; Bank loans; Buckhead; C&S National Bank; Campaign contribution limits; Campaign ethics; Campaign finance reform; Citizens and Southern National Bank; Columbus, Georgia; Department of Transportation; Enigma, Georgia; Ethics bill; Harry Jackson; Legislative session; National reporters; Personal wealth

01:25:05 - Lobbying for dog and horse racing in Alabama

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Partial Transcript: You had mentioned, uh, Chris McNair and running a campaign for him...

Segment Synopsis: As background for a question concerning Morrison's work as a campaign manager for Chris McNair, he discusses being involved in lobbying to keep dog and horse tracks out of Georgia on behalf of a friend campaigning to keep them in neighboring Alabama.

Keywords: Alabama Sports Association; Carl Campbell; Casino; Gambling; Gaming; James Carville; Job creation; John White; Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Kentucky; Milton McGregor; Parimutuel betting; Paul Bryant Jr.; Trojan horse; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Tuskegee, Alabama; Unemployment; Victoryland

01:30:43 - Working as campaign manager for the Senate run of Chris McNair

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Partial Transcript: And, um, McNair was supportive of that referendum, so we got to know him a little bit during that campaign--we lost.

Segment Synopsis: Morrison tells of being recruited to work on Chris McNair's Senate campaign in Alabama, including McNair's loss and later conviction on corruption charges.

Keywords: "Street money"; Army Ranger; Barcelona Olympics; Bribe; Bribery; Civil Rights Movement; County Commissioner; Environmentalism; Environmentalist; FBI; Federal Bureau of Investigation; General election; Integrity; Mass media; Petty cash; Referendum; Richard Arrington; Richard Shelby; Sample Ballots; Television advertising

01:37:42 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well, David, thank you very much for being our guest.

Segment Synopsis: Short and Morrison conclude the interview.