His One and Only Defeat

Lessons in Campaigning

"You've got to fight every time."

“I thought I did such a helluva good job that I didn’t need to campaign, but that’s not right. You’ve got to fight every time. You could pave the streets with gold, reduce taxes to a nickel a year and scent the sewers with Chanel No. 5 – and they wouldn’t remember you unless you reminded them!”

Editor's Note: In September 1940, Hartsfield lost his second campaign for mayor to Roy LeCraw. This loss would prove to be his only campaign defeat during his long tenure in politics. The quote above comes from a 1961 interview with Hartsfield in which he discussed the reasons for this defeat.

By the end of his first term as mayor, Hartsfield was confident in everything he had accomplished for Atlanta. He had cleaned up the city’s finances, reorganized the police force, and invested in Atlanta’s infrastructure. So confident in these accomplishments, Hartsfield failed to spend much time campaigning. His 1940 defeat taught Hartsfield an important lesson: he must always fight for the city he loved so much.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Mayor LeCraw resigned his office and reported for active duty as a member of Georgia’s National Guard. Remembering the lessons from his 1940 defeat, Hartsfield dedicated all his time to winning the 1942 special election for mayor. Hartsfield would never lose an election again, remaining in office until 1961. When Hartsfield began his first term as mayor, Atlanta was struggling to recover from the Great Depression. During Hartsfield’s second term as mayor, the city was facing a world at war. In both crises, Hartsfield proved himself to be a strong leader.