An Insurance Policy

The 1946 Gubernatorial Election

"So I passed the word to a few reliable friends to arrange some write-in votes for me."

“We all reached the conclusion that if Papa died, the legislature would have to elect a governor from the two candidates getting the most write-in votes in the November general election... We knew that some die-hard Jimmie Carmichael supporters would write in Jimmie’s name in the general election and that there would be some scattered write-in votes for all kinds of crank candidates. If we allowed that to happen without devising a counter-strategy, then we would be letting down the tens of thousands of people who had supported Papa and the things he stood for. So I passed the word to a few reliable friends to arrange some write-in votes for me. You might call it an insurance policy. If I couldn’t keep Papa from dying, at least I could keep him from dying in vain.”

Editor's Notes: Upon returning to Georgia at the end of World War II, Herman Talmadge planned to continue practicing law and he had no plans to enter politics. These plans changed, however, when his father, Eugene Talmadge, decided to run for a fourth gubernatorial term in 1946. Herman agreed to manage his campaign and he would ultimately become governor himself when his father passed away before taking office.

His father won the Democratic primary election and later, ran unopposed in the general election when the Republican Party failed to nominate a candidate. Family and friends close to Eugene began to worry when his health rapidly declined after months of intense campaigning for the Democratic primary election.

In the excerpt above, Herman described the plan he and his friends decided upon if his father passed away before his inauguration or even before the general election. At the time, Georgia’s state constitution, failed to provide clear guidelines for how to proceed if the governor-elect died before taking office. Talmadge and his supporters argued that in the case of Eugene Talmadge’s death, the Georgia legislature could choose between the second- and third-place candidates in the general election.

Since Eugene was running unopposed, Herman and other Talmadge supporters quickly encouraged voters to write-in Herman’s name in an attempt to ensure he would become governor if his father passed away. Later, it became clear that many of these write-in votes were fraudulent, sent in by those who had died several years before the election.