Who Will Be Governor?


“The galleries packed with folks who had always voted for Papa and who now saw me as their champion.”

“When I had come home from the Navy a year earlier, I had wanted nothing more than for my daddy to be elected governor again and for me to be set up in a law practice where I could make a living for myself and for my family. Now here I was, with my hand on the Bible, being sworn in as the second youngest governor in the history of Georgia. It was two A.M., January 15, 1947, when I took the oath of office. As I stood at the podium to give an impromptu inaugural address, I looked out over both houses of the Georgia legislature and at the galleries packed with folks who had always voted for Papa and who now saw me as their champion. But I was also entering a political arena that went beyond the Georgia legislature and the wool hat boys in red suspenders. My speech went out over a nationwide radio hookup to homes all across America. I had one foot in Papa’s world and the other in a strange new world he had never lived to see.”

Editor's Note: The above excerpt from Herman Talmadge’s memoir describes the first time he was sworn in as Georgia governor. On January 15, 1947, the Georgia General Assembly elected Talmadge to fill the vacant governor’s seat, but he would only serve in this position for 67 days. When Talmadge arrived at the offices for the governor, the incumbent, Ellis Arnall, refused to leave. The next day, Talmadge ordered state troopers to forcibly remove Arnall from the building. In response, Arnall set up a separate governor’s office in downtown Atlanta but he would shortly relinquish his claim to the title of governor in order to support the swearing in of a second governor, M.E. Thompson.

Even after Arnall surrendered his claim, Georgia was still left in a state of chaos and confusion. Both Talmadge and Thompson set-up separate offices and began to appoint parallel government officials. The matter was not decided for another two months when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled on the question in March 1947. The court decided that M.E. Thompson would serve as the rightful governor until a special election could be held in 1948. Talmadge chose not to challenge the decision, vacated the governor’s offices and mansion, and threw his efforts into campaigning for the 1948 election which he won in a landslide.