Herman Talmadge, Governor, U.S. Senator

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Herman Eugene Talmadge

Birthdate: (88)
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Eugene Talmadge, Governor and Mattie Talmadge

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Immediate Family

About Herman Talmadge, Governor, U.S. Senator


Herman Eugene Talmadge (August 9, 1913 – March 21, 2002) was an American politician from the state of Georgia. He served as the 70th Governor of Georgia briefly in 1947 and again from 1948 to 1955. His term was marked by his segregationist policies. After leaving office Talmadge was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving from 1957 until 1981.

Talmadge was born in McRae, Georgia, the only son of Eugene Talmadge, who served as Governor of Georgia during much of the 1930s and the 1940s. He earned a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1936, where he had been a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity.

The younger Talmadge saw combat in the United States Navy during World War II. On his return from the South Pacific as a lieutenant commander, Herman ran his father's successful campaign for governor in 1946. Supporters of Eugene Talmadge were unsure of Eugene's chances of surviving until he was sworn in, so they did some research into the state constitution and found that if Eugene died, the Georgia General Assembly would choose between the second and third place finishers. The elder Talmadge ran unopposed, so they arranged for write-in votes for Herman as insurance. In December 1946, the elder Talmadge died.

Supporters of the deceased governor-elect stopped a challenge from the lieutenant governor-elect, Melvin E. Thompson. Thompson claimed that he should be sworn in as governor in Eugene Talmadge's place. The state legislature elected Herman Talmadge to become governor. Thompson appealed to the state supreme court. Meanwhile, Governor Ellis Arnall refused to turn over power due to the uncertainty of who the next governor would be, so on January 15, 1947, both men sat in the Georgia State Capitol claiming to be the governor. The next day, Talmadge took control of the governor's office and arranged to have the locks changed. Arnall soon relinquished his claim and supported Thompson's claim.

Soon afterwards, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that the legislature had violated the state constitution by electing Talmadge governor and that Thompson was the legitimate governor of Georgia. Talmadge soon gave in to the court decision and prepared for the special election in 1948, in which Talmadge defeated Governor Thompson. Talmadge was then elected to a full term in 1950. During his terms, Talmadge encouraged industry to move into Georgia while he was also a staunch supporter of racial segregation.

Talmadge was barred by law from seeking another full term as Governor in 1954. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1956. That same year, a "faithless elector" from Alabama cast a single Electoral College vote for Talmadge as Vice President of the United States. During his time as U.S. Senator, Talmadge remained a foe of civil rights legislation. After President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Talmadge, along with more than a dozen other southern Senators, boycotted the 1964 Democratic National Convention. With the help of Richard Russell, Talmadge was appointed to the Agriculture Committee during his first year in Washington and to the Senate Finance Committee shortly thereafter. Talmadge would eventually be named chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He sponsored bills to help farmers, an important constituency, and served on the Senate Watergate Committee.

On October 11, 1979, Talmadge was "denounced" by an 81–15 vote of the Senate for "improper financial conduct" between 1973 and 1978, after accepting reimbursements of $43,435.83 for official expenses not incurred and for improper reporting of such as campaign expenditures.

Talmadge also went through a divorce from his wife and a tough primary challenge from Zell Miller in 1980. Talmadge defeated Miller but lost to Mack Mattingly in the general election, making Mattingly the first Republican to represent Georgia in the Senate since Reconstruction.

After his defeat, Talmadge retired to his home where he died at age 88. Talmadge fathered two sons, Herman E. Talmadge Jr. and Robert Shingler Talmadge.

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Herman Talmadge, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

August 9, 1913
March 21, 2002
Age 88