“The United States Supreme Court by its decision today has reduced our Constitution to a mere scrap of paper... The people of Georgia believe in, adhere to, and will fight for their right under the United States and Georgia Constitutions to manage their own affairs. They cannot and will not accept a bald political decree without basis in law or practicality which overturns their accepted pattern of life.
The Court has thrown the gauntlet before those who believe the Constitution means what it says when it reserves to the individual states the right to regulate their own internal affairs. Georgians accept the challenge and will not tolerate the mixing of the races in the public schools or any of its tax-supported institutions. The fact that the high Tribunal has seen fit to proclaim its views on sociology as law will not make any difference.
If adjustments in our laws and procedures are necessary, they will be made. In the meantime, all Georgians will follow their pursuits by separate paths and in the accepted fashion. The U.S. and Georgia Constitutions have not been changed. The Georgia constitution provides for separation of the races. It will be upheld.”
Editor's Note: During his last year as Georgia’s governor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in its landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education. This case resulted in strong opposition from governors and politicians across the south, including Governor Herman Talmadge. The above excerpt comes from a press conference Talmadge held outside the governor’s mansion following the court’s decision.
As the fight for civil rights continued, Talmadge stood his ground and remained staunchly opposed to integration. In 1955, he published a book titled You and Segregation arguing against the legitimacy of Brown v. Board of Education and suggesting ways for southern states to oppose desegregation.
Campaigning on a platform of opposition to integration, Talmadge successfully ran for a Georgia senate seat in 1956, a position he would hold for 24 years. Throughout his early years in the U.S. Senate, he vehemently opposed all civil rights legislation including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Outside of his opposition to desegregation, much of Talmadge’s time in the Senate was devoted to protecting the interests of farmers by helping to pass legislation such as the Rural Development Act that provided federal grants and loans to rural areas of the country.