UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Roy Barnes and Bob Irvin, February 28, 2018

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:56 - Introduction to politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I was hoping we could begin with both of you telling us how you got into politics.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes both discuss their early interests in politics as well as why they first decided to run for office. Barnes comments how he began his political interests as a Republican due to Lester Maddox alienating him from the Democrats, but then switched to the Democratic Party after Richard Nixon's impeachment, just before running for the state senate in 1974.

Keywords: "Lincoln Republicans"; 1970 gubernatorial race; 1971 reapportionment; Cobb County, Georgia; Fletcher Thompson; Fulton County, Georgia; Gerald Ford; Hal Suit; Jimmy Bentley; Jimmy Carter; Roswell, Georgia; Young Republicans; candidate recruitment; party organization; population growth

00:06:02 - Speaker Tom Murphy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You both came into the legislature- House and Senate- in 1975.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes evaluate Tom Murphy as the Speaker of the House in Georgia's House of Representatives, with Irvin contrasting him with George L. Smith, the speaker during Irvin's first year in the legislature. Though both describe Murphy as an effective leader and a benefit to both rural Georgians and the city of Atlanta, Barnes and Irvin do criticize Murphy for his unnecessarily harsh, belittling attitude toward his fellow members.

Keywords: "Pine Tree Mafia"; "Wool Hat Boys"; "night-and-day coalition"; Al Burruss; Georgia World Congress Center; Joe Mac Wilson; MARTA; Zell Miller; leadership style; lieutenant governor; loyalty; majority leader; metro Atlanta; moderation; presiding officer; rural legislators; urban-and-rural coalition

00:12:00 - Georgia General Assembly in the 1970s

Play segment

Partial Transcript: In the 1970s, what were the top priorities that the General Assembly had to grapple with?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes list the various issues that the Georgia General Assembly tackled during their services in the 1970s, including budgeting, infrastructure-building, and education. Irvin and Barnes also talk about their respective friendships with Paul Coverdell, who they both admired for his commitment to help the people he served, even through bipartisan means, despite his role as a partisan actor.

Keywords: 1975 budget cuts; Cobb County, Georgia; Fletcher Thompson; George L. Smith; Georgia State University; Georgia World Congress Center; Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport; Johnny Isakson; Lester Maddox; MARTA; Pierre Howard; Richard Nixon; Speaker of the House; Watergate scandal; bipartisanship; committee chairman; demographic change; downtown Atlanta; fiscal responsibility; government offices; institutional growth; moderation; nationalized politics; partisan divide; polarization; population growth; public school teachers; salary cuts; small government; state budget; state resources; state senate

00:22:19 - Nationalized politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think we spoke earlier about this in our interview- is there a Georgia Democrat anymore?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes comment on the nationalization of party politics, to the point where the term "Georgia Democrat" no longer divides one ideologically from the national Democratic Party. They do note that while nationalization and polarization have most affected the candidates that parties recruit and nominate, the independent voters that elections rely on keep the parties from swaying too far from the political center.

Keywords: 1970 gubernatorial race; Al Burruss; George McGovern; Hubert Humphrey; Jimmy Carter; candidate recruitment; civility; conservatism; educated voters; ideological purity; majority party; minority party; moderation; national Democrats; party organization; polling; population growth; primary election voters; pro-business; suburban areas; young voters

00:31:40 - Republicans and race relations

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And then the other thing that attracted me, as I said, was Democrats were pretty harsh- rural Democrats particularly, and the urban Democrats hadn't changed that much- were pretty rough on race relations.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes remark how civility and friendship between political opponents can lead to great legislative successes, citing cooperation between Lyndon B. Johnson and Everett Dirksen to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as the primary example. They then credit Jack Kemp, as well as the bipartisan movement to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for eliminating fringe racism from the conservative movement.

Keywords: Bob Bell; Jim Tysinger; Johnny Isakson; Mike Egan; Paul Coverdell; Ronald Reagan; William F. Buckley; anti-Catholicism; anti-Semitism; conservatism; state flag

00:39:03 - Georgia in the 1990s

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You've mentioned how times have changed and- how did the parties, the legislatures, the priorities, the challenges facing the state, how are they different in the 1990s, when you're both serving in the House of Representatives?

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes note that most of the changes to Georgia in the 1990s compared to the 1970s was due to the rise of suburban areas at the expense of rural Georgia's population and political influence. They explain that this continued change has led to more moderate and independent voters in Georgia, which along with the increased black voter turnout, has led to the two-party competition in recent Georgia politics.

Keywords: 1990 election; 1994 elecion; 2002 election; 2002 gubernatorial race; 2008 election; Albany, Georgia; Barack Obama; Cobb County, Georgia; George Busbee; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Irwin County, Georgia; Joe Frank Harris; Joe Mack Wilson; John Oxendine; Johnny Isakson; Linda Schrenko; Macon, Georgia; Mike Bowers; Mike Egan; Paul Coverdell; Valdosta, Georgia; agriculture; coalition building; depopulation; greenspace; mechanization; national Republican Party; north Georgia; party switching; polarization; rural areas; south Georgia; state flag; state senate; statewide elections; suburban voters; swing state; transportation; urban voters

00:52:36 - Georgia state budget

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You asked about the problems of the state in the '90s, and we talked some about the politics in the '90s.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes discuss the Georgia budgeting process and how it limits excessive spending by the state legislature. Both men laud the system particularly in the area of deficit spending and debt, claiming that such a balanced-budget requirement should be placed on Congress as well.

Keywords: "rainy day fund"; 1975 budget cuts; Bill Clinton; Council of State Governments; Harvard Business School; Massachusetts legislature; Tom Murphy; Zell Miller; balanced budget amendment; fiscal responsibility; limited legislative session; prosperity; revenue estimates; small government; state debt; taxation

01:02:57 - Influence of rural Georgia / Effective governance

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You talked previously about south Georgia and depopulation of the rural areas.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes predict that redistricting after the 2020 census will drastically weaken the influence of rural Georgia, lamenting particularly the longevity and experience that rural legislators often brought to the General Assembly. Barnes then recounts his efforts as governor to make governance of Georgia more efficient and effective, such as uniform bookkeeping procedures and auditing the state depository board.

Keywords: 1980 redistricting; Jim Martin; Medicaid; Office of Planning and Budget; Paul Coverdell; Renay Blumenthal; Speaker of the House; United States Department of Justice; Voting Rights Act of 1965; balanced budget; expertise; hospitals; legislature turnover; lieutenant governor; north Georgia; policy priorities; preclearance; rural healthcare; state treasury

01:11:40 - Bipartisanship in politics

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What are the things- we've talked a lot about how politics have become more contentious, more heated.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin states that one policy area where both parties should easily cooperate is the creation of economic prosperity for its citizens, with Barnes adding that for modern Georgia, this means improving the Technical College System of Georgia. Barnes and Irvin agree that the lack of bipartisan agreement in modern politics stems from the lack of civility and friendship toward political opponents.

Keywords: "Democrat In Name Only"; "Republican In Name Only"; Chuck Schumer; George L. Smith; Mitch McConnell; Paul Coverdell; Tom Murphy; adversarial system; leadership; pandering; respect; special interests; worker training

01:21:00 - Transportation in metro Atlanta

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, linking those issues of the last two: demonization of the other and economic development.

Segment Synopsis: Barnes lists the issues plaguing the transportation debate, such as suburban opposition to MARTA, and the solutions he proposed as governor that he still supports. Irvin and Barnes conclude that although Cobb County and Gwinnett County may have once wanted complete separation from Atlanta, changing public sentiment makes public transit inevitable for these areas.

Keywords: "Northern Arc"; Cobb County Chamber of Commerce; Emmett Burton; Fulton County, Georgia; Georgia Department of Transportation; Georgia Regional Transportation Authority; Hewlett-Packard; Joe Mack Wilson; Marietta, Georgia; Newnan, Georgia; Outer Perimeter; Smyrna, Georgia; busways; highway construction; light rail transit; traffic; trucking

01:28:03 - Growth of Atlanta / Incorporation of cities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: We've talked about suburban growth, exurban growth out in Cherokee and Forsyth and Jackson County, Barrow County any more.

Segment Synopsis: Irvin and Barnes discuss the benefits and causes of the city of Atlanta's reversal of a multi-year trend by recently gaining population instead of losing population. Irvin and Barnes then debate the merits of incorporation of cities such as Johns Creek and Eagle's Landing in well-developed counties like Fulton County and Henry County.

Keywords: Arthur Blank; Atlanta Braves; Buckhead, Georgia; Fulton County commission; Home Depot; House Black Caucus; Marietta, Georgia; McDonough, Georgia; Midtown Atlanta; Roswell, Georgia; Sandy Springs, Georgia; Smyrna, Georgia; Stockridge, Georgia; Tom Murphy; Turner Field; compromise; county government; cultural attractions; generational change; incorporation of Sandy Springs; local governance; municipal services; neighborhood association; partisan issues; quality of life; sporting attractions; taxation; urban development; zoning