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Interview with Larry Walker, Jr., January 29, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:11 - Childhood in Perry, Georgia

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Partial Transcript: I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about your childhood and upbringing.

Segment Synopsis: Walker discusses being raised and living in Perry, Georgia, a rural town during his childhood. He details the influences his parents and grandparents had on his character, values, and political beliefs.

Keywords: Bibb County, Georgia; Dave Perdue; David Perdue; Herman Talmadge; Houston County, Georgia; Macon, Georgia; Sam Nunn; Sonny Perdue; Warner Robins Air Force Base; Wendell Wilkie; agriculture; farm equipment; high school basketball; integration of public schools; school board

00:08:11 - Entering the Georgia House of Representatives

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Partial Transcript: You were elected as a Democrat.

Segment Synopsis: Walker remembers his years in the Georgia House of Representatives preceding his becoming majority leader, particularly his work as Joe Frank Harris's floor leader. He laments the weak organization of the Democratic Party at that time, though he notes that in the House, strong leaders such as Tom Murphy and Terry Coleman helped keep the party strong.

Keywords: 1982 gubernatorial race; Appropriations Committee chairman; Calvin Smyre; Eastman, Georgia; Insurance Commissioner; Jack Hill; Mercer University; Perry, Georgia; Quality Basic Education; Sam Nunn, Jr.; University of Georgia; University of Georgia School of Law; Warren Evans; Zell Miller; city attorney; independence; legislative priorities; municipal court judge

00:17:15 - Service as House majority leader

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Partial Transcript: Well, you became majority leader in '86?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his nearly two-decade stint as the Democrats' House majority leader. He remembers the struggles in trying to manage the Democratic coalition of liberal, urban black voters and conservative, rural white voters, the latter of whom ultimately left to the Republican Party.

Keywords: Al Burruss; Augusta, Georgia; Bibb County, Georgia; Cobb County, Georgia; Columbus, Georgia; George Busbee; Georgia World Congress Center; Herman Talmadge; House leadership; Joe Frank Harris; Tom Murphy; fiscal conservatism; metro Atlanta; personality; two-party competition

00:23:28 - Georgia governors/ Urban-rural divide

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Partial Transcript: How would you describe that sort of approach to the governor's office?

Segment Synopsis: Walker reflects on how Georgia managed to avoid a populist-style demagogic governor for most of its history, concluding that Georgians' preference that governors only ensure financial stability in the state rather than tackle social issues contributed greatly. Walker then contemplates how the tendency to focus on candidates from urban areas for statewide offices has led to the rural areas of Georgia to lag behind the cities.

Keywords: "The Two Georgias"; Carl Sanders; Eugene Talmadge; Gainesville, Georgia; George Busbee; George Wallace; HOPE Scholarship; Herman Talmadge; Jimmy Carter; Joe Frank Harris; Nathan Deal; Roy Barnes; Zell Miller; healthcare; metro Atlanta; public education; rural Georgia; state flag

00:30:29 - Working with House Republicans

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Partial Transcript: Moving back into sort of the personalities in politics, you mentioned some folks who might not share your impression of Speaker Murphy.

Segment Synopsis: Walker fondly recalls his cooperation with the Republican House leadership, chastising modern politicians for refusing to admire or work with politicians with different beliefs. Walker then explains why he never sought other offices in Congress or as governor, stating that staying in the Georgia legislature suited his personal life better.

Keywords: 1976 presidential race; 1986 U.S. Senate race; Bob Irvin; Georgia Republican Party; Jimmy Carter; Johnny Isakson; Larry Walker III; Lynn Westmoreland; Mack Mattingly; Mike Egan; Paul Heard; Richard Ray; Roy Barnes; Speaker of the House; Steve Stancil; Terry Coleman; Tom Murphy; partisanship

00:36:45 - Sonny Perdue and the 2002 election

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Partial Transcript: Were you surprised that your counterpart in the state senate, Sonny Perdue, switched parties in '98?

Segment Synopsis: Walker remembers the Georgia Senate majority leader Sonny Perdue switching to the Republican Party in the late 1990s, saying that while it was a surprise, it was not shocking because Perdue had been increasingly alienated by the Democratic Party. Walker considers the 2002 election, which saw major Republican victories, as a result of the 2001 redistricting cycle, which forced Saxby Chambliss and Sonny Perdue out of their districts and made them run for higher office.

Keywords: "Northern Arc"; Georgia Regional Transportation Authority; House minority leader; Lynn Westmoreland; Moultrie, Georgia; Perry, Georgia; Roy Barnes; Sharpsburg, Georgia; State Legislative Leaders Foundation; University System of Georgia Board of Regents; metro Atlanta; party switching; rural farmers; state flag

00:43:42 - Transportation / Highlights of legislative career

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Partial Transcript: After you retired in 2005, and then a year or so break, then you were on the GDOT board.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his tenure on the board for the Georgia Department of Transportation, on which he was tasked with securing funding for state transportation amid the 2008 financial crisis. He then recalls some of his favorite memories in the Georgia legislature, such as hosting Ray Charles while changing the state anthem to "Georgia on My Mind".

Keywords: Georgia Tech; HOPE Scholarship; Quality Basic Education; Rudy Bowen; Sonny Perdue; University System of Georgia; University of Georgia; state flag; state roads

00:49:32 - Two-party competition in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Zooming out a little bit, there was talk of Sam Nunn and Jimmy Carter- those were "Georgia Democrats".

Segment Synopsis: Walker explains how he believes the Republican Party emerged as the dominant party in Georgia, namely through its strong leadership and polarization of the Democratic Party. However, he warns that the same could also happen to Republicans, in that alienating moderates could allow Democrats to sweep back into power.

Keywords: 2016 presidential election; 2017 special elections; 2018 gubernatorial race; Donald Trump; Johnny Isakson; Nathan Deal; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Perdue; Stacey Abrams; Stacey Evans; national politics