Returning to the Governor's Mansion

Fighting for an All-White Primary

"Championing the restoration of a Democratic white primary..."

“You G.I. boys are my campaign managers. You’re the ones that I’m countin’ on next Wednesday to match that solid block of Nigra votes that I know’s gonna’ vote a’ginst me. And I think you can do it... 

Now I’ve come to the one issue on which all of my opponents and I vitally disagree. And at this point, I want to thank the Atlanta Journal for comin’ out about two months ago and statin’ plainly that Talmadge was the only candidate for governor in this race that was championing the restoration of a Democratic white primary in Georgia. 

My country men, when they said that, they told the truth and the whole truth. Now what do my opponents say? They say that it’s the law, and Nigras will vote in the primary this year, next Wednesday – and it stops right there! 

What do I say? I say it’s the law this year, and some of the Nigras will vote, the fewer the better, but I add to it this: if I’m your governor, they won’t vote in our white primary the next four years... Let’s get the great majority, and then come on to the convention in Macon. And there won’t be anybody in that convention but white women and white men if I am your governor.” 

Editor's Note: The excerpt above comes from a radio address Eugene Talmadge gave during his 1946 gubernatorial campaign, what would prove to be his final election. Running against moderate James V. Carmichael, Talmadge promised to reinstate the all-white primary in Georgia. 

The white primary in Georgia and across the South was used to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote. However, in the 1945 court case, King v. Chapman, the Georgia courts ruled that white primaries were unconstitutional. This court case opened the way for African American citizens across the state of Georgia to cast their ballot in a Democratic primary for the first time since Reconstruction.  

Talmadge claimed King v. Chapman threatened segregation and white supremacy in Georgia and he promised as governor he would defend both. As in previous campaigns, Talmadge used Georgia’s county unit system of votes to his advantage and appealed to rural voters. While his opponent, Carmichael, received the most popular votes in the primary, Talmadge won the majority of the county unit votes and thus, the election.