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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of the Cocking Affair in 1942

Talmadge talks about the impact of the "Cocking Affair" on his father's 1942 gubernatorial campaign. Eugene Talmadge was a staunch segregationist throughout his political career and in 1942 when Walter Cocking, the Dean of the College of Education at the University of Georgia, publicly called for integration, Talmadge had him dismissed. This incident resulted in the decision of the Southern Accrediting Association to revoke the University's accreditation. Herman Talmadge describes this as a "tragic political mistake" on his father's part that cost him the election in 1942.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Herman Talmadge, July 15 and 24, 1975. Interview A-0331-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK NELSON:
I suppose that it also had to do with the fact that he was a very outspoken segregationist and in those times . . .
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, as a matter of fact, everyone was a segregationist at that time in the South. I don't think that segregation ever got to be an issue in any of his campaigns . . .
JACK NELSON:
Well, it was only an issue in the North, right?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes.
JACK NELSON:
It was an issue in the North and . . .
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
And it wasn't much of an issue then. I don't think that segregation ever got to be an issue in any of his campaigns until his campaign for reelection as governor in 1942. Some people over at the University of Georgia got Dr. Cocking, who was the Dean of the College of Education, as I recall, at the University at the time, with promoting integration in the colleges of the University system. That was the charge that was leveled against Dr. Cocking and he was dismissed from his position there and the Southern Accrediting Association disaccredited the University of Georgia and the papers played it up and the students thought that they had drilled a hole in their heads and drained them of what learning they had had and things of that nature. It got to be the biggest cause celebre, one of the biggest in the state and resulted in my father being defeated for reelection for governor in '42. But even in those days . . .
JACK NELSON:
There's no question in your mind that that was the reason for his being defeated?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
None whatever. He would have been overwhelmingly reelected except for that issue.
JACK NELSON:
Did he ever regret having done that?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Well, I knew that it was a tragic political mistake and I tried to disuade him and so did my mother, but once that my father made up his mind, he was the most stubborn independent minded man that I ever knew in my life. If he thought that the whole world was against him and he thought that he was right, he would head right down the same path.
JACK NELSON:
Well, did he realize at that time that it would be a political liability to do that?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
I don't know whether he did or not. Certainly he did subsequently.
JACK NELSON:
You certainly told him, though.
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes, I did.
JACK NELSON:
And so did your mother?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Yes.