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Interview with Verner Chaffin, May 17, 2007

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:53 - Early life in Toccoa / UGA during the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: Let's -- let's start at the beginning.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin recalls growing up in Toccoa, Georgia and graduating from high school in 1935. He discusses enrolling at Emory University, transferring to UGA after one year, and his intent to pursue a career in medicine. He remembers UGA during the Great Depression, particularly the low cost of living and the superintendent of grounds, Oscar Winemiller.

Keywords: Emory University; Great Depression; Oscar G. Winemiller; UGA; University of Georgia

00:06:13 - Buildings on UGA's campus in the late 1930s

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Partial Transcript: Thinking about the campus, uh, the academic building was of course the closest one to the arch.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin describes the buildings that made up UGA's campus in the late 1930s and the construction of Herty Drive in 1937.

Keywords: New Deal; The Red and Black; Thomas Walter Reed; UGA; University of Georgia; Works Progress Administration (WPA)

00:14:49 - Campus politics / Freshman traditions

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, you mentioned campus politics, so, uh, maybe this is a segue into that.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin recalls divisions between the main campus and the agriculture campus as well as rivalries between fraternity members and non-fraternity members. He discusses traditions freshmen observed, including wearing rat caps, avoiding walking under the arch, attending chapel, and participating in the "shirttail parade" in which they ran to the coordinate campus on Prince Avenue without their shirts.

Keywords: Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Tech; UGA; University of Georgia; William Tate; campus politics; chapel; coordinate campus; fraternities; homecoming; independents; rat caps; shirttail parades

00:20:15 - Faculty influences

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Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit -- we -- let's go back.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin remembers some of the faculty members he encountered at UGA that influenced him, particularly William Payne, his professor of English Constitutional history and faculty chair of athletics. He talks about Sanford Stadium as it appeared when he was an undergraduate.

Keywords: Charles Mercer Snelling; Charles Morton Strahan; Edward VIII; Ellis Merton Coulter; John H. T. McPherson; John Morris; Sanford Stadium; UGA; University of Georgia; William Davis Hooper; William Oscar Payne; Willis H. Bocock

00:25:44 - Henry Shinn / William Hooper / Tom Reed

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Partial Transcript: Another, uh, professor who, uh, besides Coulter and-and, uh, Payne, was Dr. Shinn in the law school, Henry Shinn.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses more of the UGA faculty who influenced him. He remembers Henry Shinn, the dean of the law school during World War II, William Hooper, a founder of the Sphinx Club, and Tom Reed, the registrar.

Keywords: Henry A. Shinn; Mercer University; Sphinx Club; Thomas Walter Reed; UGA; University of Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; William Davis Hooper; World War II

00:31:01 - Meals and residences in Athens

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Partial Transcript: Talk -- you mentioned Joe Brown.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin remembers where he ate and lived while at UGA. He talks about living in on-campus housing, renting a room in a home and at a hotel, joining the Sigma Nu fraternity, and living in fraternity house.

Keywords: Beanery; Cloverhurst Avenue (Athens, Ga.); Denmark Hall; Gilbert Hotel (Athens, Ga.); Joe Brown Hall; Milledge Hall; Sigma Nu fraternity; UGA; University of Georgia; graduate housing

00:35:19 - Extra-curricular clubs and activities

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Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit because, Dr. Chaffin, you were so involved while you were on campus...

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses some of the organizations he participated in outside of class, including Sphinx Club, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Demosthenian Society, and The Red and Black. He remembers non-organizational activities like music appreciation nights with professor of music, Hugh Hodgson, and weekend dances.

Keywords: Demosthenian Society; Hugh Hodgson; John E. Drewry; Omicron Delta Kappa; Phi Beta Kappa; Sphinx Club; The Red and Black; coordinate campus

00:40:51 - Social events on campus

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Partial Transcript: What were the big, the big events on campus -- homecoming or...?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses homecoming and its traditional pep rally, senior parade, and skit by the Sphinx Club during halftime. He remembers one year in which the big band, Jan Savitt & His Top Hatters, came to perform at the homecoming dance. He talks about other campus events like the military ball, the Barrister's Ball, and the Pandora Beauty Review.

Keywords: Barrister's Ball; Jan Savitt & His Top Hatters; Milledge Hall; Pandora Beauty Review; Sphinx Club; Top Hatters; UGA; University of Georgia; homecoming; military ball

00:48:42 - Cocking Affair

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Partial Transcript: Talk about that a little bit, and I think this is a good way to-to segue into the politics of the day.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses the "Cocking Affair" of 1941 in which Governor Eugene Talmadge attempted to fire Professor Walter Cocking based on the rumor that Cocking intended to integrate a demonstration school in Athens. He remembers protesting UGA's consequent probation in Atlanta, attending a meeting with Talmadge and several students in which the governor attempted to pacify students, and participating in a skit in which the Sphinx Club parodied the affair.

Keywords: Cocking Affair; Ellis Arnall; Eugene Talmadge; Harmon Caldwell; Herman Talmadge; Pearl Harbor; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools; Sphinx Club; UGA; University System of Georgia Board of Regents; University of Georgia; University of Georgia College of Education; Walter Cocking; integration; student protests

00:54:20 - Naval Intelligence during World War II

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Partial Transcript: Well now, you finished here in 1939, summa cum laude, I believe.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin recalls graduating in 1939 and attending law school at UGA when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. He talks about applying to and attending the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School and the Advanced Intelligence School in New York City. He remembers working in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C. before moving to the Pacific Military Intelligence Research Center at Camp Ritchie, Maryland and later to the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area at Pearl Harbor. He remembers travelling around Japan as part of the U.S. Naval Technical Mission. He describes his work with Navy intelligence in translating interviews with Japanese POWs, intercepted radio broadcasts, and Japanese soldiers' diaries.

Keywords: Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Area; Office of Naval Intelligence; Pacific Military Intelligence Research Center; Pearl Harbor; Selective Training and Service Act; UGA; US Naval Technical Mission to Japan; US Navy Japanese Language School; United States Navy; University of Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; World War II; draft

01:00:56 - Marriage and family / Law school at UGA

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Partial Transcript: Tell us -- you were then an attorney with the Justice Department after you came home?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin remembers meeting his wife, a dance instructor at the Georgia State College for Women, while he was travelling to a Omicron Delta Kappa conference, and he talks about their four children. He recalls attending law school at UGA, noting that there was only one woman in his class, and talks about the dean of the law school, Harold Hirsch.

Keywords: Barrister's Ball; Georgia College and State University; Georgia State College for Women; Harold U. Hirsch; Omicron Delta Kappa; Rufe McCombs; UGA; United States Department of Justice; University of Georgia School of Law; honor code

01:08:45 - Yale Law School / FDR visit to UGA

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Partial Transcript: Talk a little bit about...there was the war, and at the end of that time, what happened when you got home?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin remembers his father convincing him to remain in law, doing graduate work in law at Yale University, and leaving to serve in the Korean War. He recalls President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivering the UGA commencement address in 1938 and urging Georgians to vote for Lawrence Camp over Senator Walter F. George.

Keywords: Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Korean War; Lawrence Camp; New Deal; UGA; University System of Georgia Board of Regents; University of Georgia; Walter F. George; Yale Law School; honorary degrees

01:13:51 - Justice Department / Teaching at UA and UGA

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Partial Transcript: So now, tell me again, you went to Yale right out-out of the service?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin discusses his work in the Justice Department, which focused upon litigation stemming from World War II. He remembers teaching law at the University of Alabama for three years (1947-1950) before pursuing graduate work at Yale, then returning to the Navy to serve as an intelligence officer during the Korean War (1951-1953). He recalls returning to Alabama after his naval service, finishing his graduate work at Yale, and becoming a member of the University of Georgia School of Law in 1957. He discusses his field of law, which focuses upon federal and state gift taxation, estate planning, and wills.

Keywords: Korean War; Trading with the Enemy Act; UA; UGA; United States Department of Justice; University of Alabama School of Law; University of Georgia School of Law; World War II; Yale Law School

01:16:42 - Changes in UGA School of Law

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Partial Transcript: Dr. Chaffin, talk -- you know, you've known Georgia over the years...what do you -- what campus events throughout would represent the high points at the University of Georgia...?

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin reflects on changes in UGA's law school and considers Dean Harold Hirsch's creation of the the Institute of Law and Government in 1953 and the expansion of the school in 1967 as the high points of the law school's history. He discusses each of the law school's deans with whom he has worked at UGA and their accomplishments as deans.

Keywords: C. Ronald Ellington; Carl Vinson Institute of Government; David E. Shipley; Edward D. “Ned” Spurgeon; Georgia Law Review; Harold U. Hirsch; Institute of Law and Government; James Ralph Beaird; M. Lindsey Cowen; Neill H. Alford; Order of the Coif; Rebecca Hanner White; UGA; University of Georgia School of Law

01:22:07 - Life accomplishments / Integration at UA and UGA / UGA low points

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Partial Transcript: Um, what are the -- what accomplishment in your life, and this is a tough question...tell me the accomplishments of which you are most proud in your life.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin reflects on his accomplishments as a professor of law at UGA but asserts that his greatest accomplishment is his family. He remembers being at the University of Alabama when Autherine Lucy desegregated the school in 1956, and he describes spending a few nights in Myers Hall, where Charlayne Hunter lived on UGA's campus as she desegregated the school, at the request of Governor Ernest Vandiver in 1961. He describes the low points at UGA as being the Cocking Affair and Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Keywords: Autherine Lucy; Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Cocking Affair; Ernest Vandiver; Pearl Harbor; UA; UGA; University of Alabama; University of Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; Verner F. Chaffin Chair in Fiduciary Law; Verner F. Chaffin Endowment Fund; World War II; desegregation; minority students; segregation

01:28:37 - Law school classmates / Clubs at UGA / Atomic bomb

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned earlier -- you-you mentioned Governor Vandiver -- you also mentioned Mr. Bob Stephens.

Segment Synopsis: Chaffin remembers some of his law school classmates including Bob Stephens, his former teaching assistant in social sciences, Hughes Spalding, and Bill Goddard, a former confidante of President Jimmy Carter and member of the Supreme Court of Georgia. He recalls some of the clubs in which he was involved at UGA and reflects on his service in Japan, asserting that the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 saved his life.

Keywords: Demosthenian Society; Ernest Vandiver; Hughes Spalding; Phi Kappa Literary Society; Robert Grier Stephens, Jr.; Student Christian Council; The Red and Black; UGA; University of Georgia School of Law; Voluntary Religious Association (VRA); William Goddard; World War II; atomic bomb