About Thomas Bertram Lance
Thomas Bertram (Bert) Lance (born June 3, 1931) is an American businessman, who was Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter. He is known mainly for his resignation from President Jimmy Carter's administration due to scandal in 1977.
Lance was born in Gainesville, Georgia and has lived in Gordon County (Calhoun), Georgia. His father, Thomas Jackson Lance, had served as president of Young Harris College. In 1941, the family relocated to Calhoun in Gordon County when Lance's father became superintendent of the Calhoun schools. Lance graduated from the University of Georgia in 1951 and was also initiated into the Sigma Chi fraternity at the Delta Chapter. He later did graduate studies at LSU in Baton Rouge, and at Rutgers. While attending college he married LaBelle David, whose family owned the Calhoun First National Bank. After graduation, Lance became employed by the bank as a clerk and within a decade became its president. He later served as president of National Bank of Georgia in Atlanta from 1975 to 1977.
Lance was an adviser to Jimmy Carter during Carter's successful 1976 campaign. He had become acquainted with Carter during the latter's time as Governor of Georgia, and served as state highway director during his administration. Lance was an unsuccessful candidate to succeed Carter in 1974, losing a bid for the Democratic nomination. Lance finished third in the first primary, behind Lester Maddox and the eventual winner, George Busbee. Lance accrued campaign debts of nearly $600,000, partly by manipulating loans at his bank. After Carter's victory over President Gerald Ford, Lance was named director of the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB). According to former OMB officials, it was well known in the department that Bert Lance and President Carter prayed together every morning.
Within six months, questions were raised by the press and Congress about mismanagement and corruption when Lance was Chairman of the Board of Calhoun First National Bank of Georgia. William Safire's article written during this time, Carter's Broken Lance, later earned a Pulitzer Prize.
This embarrassment for Carter's administration, particularly as it occurred fairly soon after the Watergate scandal and an election victory over President Ford (Richard Nixon's pardoner), caused Lance to resign as OMB director on September 21, 1977.
Later, after a well-publicized trial, Lance was acquitted of all charges. In 1981, Lance returned to the Calhoun First National Bank, again as Chairman. He left in 1986. He made something of a political comeback in 1982 when he was elected Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party. In 1984 Walter Mondale sought to name Lance chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 1988 Lance was an advisor to Jesse Jackson during Jackson's presidential campaign.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Lance is credited with originating the phrase "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", when he was quoted saying it in the May 1977 issue of the magazine Nation's Business. The expression became widespread, and William Safire wrote that it "has become a source of inspiration to anti-activists."
Lance was implicated in the BCCI scandal of the 1980s and early 1990s. He was involved in deals with notable BCCI luminaries Agha Hasan Abedi, Mochtar Riady and Ghaith Pharaon and with BCCI's largest borrower, P. S. Prasad, and joined with Arkansas-based power investor Jackson Stephens in facilitating BCCI's takeover of Financial General Bankshares. Lance and Stephens made millions in the wake of BCCI's collapse. In January 1978, Lance sold his stock in National Bank of Georgia to Ghaith Pharaon, while on the same day, BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi paid off Lance's $3.5 million loan at the First National Bank of Chicago. The following month, Lance helped BCCI with their hostile bid for Financial General Bankshares of Washington. The attempt failed, but three years later, BCCI secretly acquired the bank (renamed First American Bankshares) using 15 Arab investors as nominees. The next year, Lance introduced Jimmy Carter to Abedi. In 1987, First American Bankshares acquired National Bank of Georgia from Pharaon. BCCI was terminated in 1991 and it was subsequently revealed that the bank had done many illegal activities, including secretly controlling several U.S. banks, in violation of federal banking statutes.
On Saturday Night Live, soon after Lance's resignation from the Carter administration, John Belushi (playing Lance) and Dan Aykroyd (playing Jimmy Carter) appeared in an advertising parody of an American Express credit card commercial.
On an episode of Good Times, JJ referred to himself as Bert Lance, offering to make out a check for the family budget knowing they have no money.