The Archibald Bulloch Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution held its 20th annual Georgia Day luncheon Thursday in the Perry Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church in honor of the colonial founding of the Province of Georgia in 1733.
The program for the event was entitled “Georgia’s Crazy Days: The Three-Governor Period” and those in attendance heard the intriguing story of the time in Georgia’s history when three men felt that each had a legitimate claim to the governorship.
Jenny Foss, editor of Statesboro Magazine, delighted guests with the complicated, convoluted and sometimes humorous events that led to three men vying for the position.
The year was 1947, and for the second time in Georgia’s history, someone was elected governor for the fourth time. That person was Eugene Talmadge, but on this occasion, he was never sworn in for the term.
Unknown to many, Eugene Talmadge was a sick man, so his close supporters schemed to organize a write-in campaign for Eugene’s son and campaign manager, Herman Talmadge. Though Eugene Talmadge won the election, he passed away of cirrhosis of the liver before he could be sworn in.
M.E. Thompson, the newly elected lieutenant governor, believed he should assume the position of governor. Ellis Arnall, who was governor at the time of the election, believed he should retain the position, arguing Georgia’s constitution said he should serve until a new governor is properly elected. He refused to vacate his position.
However, Herman Talmadge thought he should be Georgia’s next governor. Interestingly, Talmadge had received 617 write-in votes, whereas two other opponents received 669 and 637 write-in votes. Just in the nick of time, Telfair County found an extra 57 votes for Herman Talmadge, giving him the lead in write-in votes.
Arnall eventually bowed out of the claim, leaving two governors for the state of Georgia and two months of chaos. The Georgia Supreme Court eventually ruled that M.E. Thompson should step into the governor’s position temporarily until a special election could be held to decide the leader for the rest of the term.
Herman Talmadge adhered to the decision, even though many of his supporters thought he would challenge it, and began preparing his campaign. Talmadge defeated Thompson in 1948 to become governor.
The fiasco also involved a related suicide, the shoving of a governor and locking him out of his office, the use of a firecracker as a scare tactic, name-calling and heated arguments.
Indeed a “crazy” time in Georgia’s history, the event fascinated the DAR members and their guests in attendance and solidified the notion that history is anything but boring.