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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 >>

Former segregationist and civil rights activist agree over changes to Voting Rights Act

Talmadge briefly discusses his relationship with African American politicians, such as Maynard Jackson, during the 1960s and 1970s. Previously known for his staunch adherence to segregation, Talmadge explains his stance on the Voting Rights Act later on. In particular, he argues that he believed the act should apply to the nation as a whole, rather than strictly to the southern states. He argues that John Lewis of SNCC supported this view as well and describes a brief meeting he had with this unusual political ally.

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:
What is your relationship, if any, with Maynard Jackson?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
Oh, it is very pleasant. He calls on me all the time for things for the city of Atlanta and on most occassions, I have been able to deliver. He took a shot at me on this voting rights bill the other day, which I thought was somewhat gratuitous, but that was his business.
JACK NELSON:
What did he say?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
He was denouncing me for trying to make it apply to the nation as a whole rather than restricting it to the southern states. Now, the voter rights man, John Lewis, who probably has had more experience in voter registration than anybody in the United States, supported my position and I quoted him in my speech on the floor of the Senate the day before yesterday. He wanted to make it nationwide.
JACK NELSON:
Have you known John Lewis very well at all, Senator?
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
I've seen him a few times in recent years. I have not known him a long time, no.
JACK NELSON:
I used to cover him, of course, when he was with SNCC and then when he broke with SNCC because of black power and he has always seemed to me to be a very . . .
SENATOR HERMAN TALMADGE:
I had an opportunity to visit with him a few weeks ago. Curtis Atkinson, my aide down in Atlanta, Georgia told me that John Lewis wanted to see me and I was going up for a cocktail party at Andy Young's brother's home, Dr. Young, and I said, "Curtis, why don't you just pick up John and you bring him down to the farm and we can drive back together and we can visit at the farm and also in route to Dr. Young's home." So, he said, "Fine," and he did that. Lewis came in and we talked fifteen or twenty minutes at Lovejoy and then it took us forty-five minutes to drive to Dr. Young's home and we had an opportunity to visit during that period and I must say that I was quite impressed with him. He was born and reared in Alabama on a farm, very humble circumstances in the beginning. I found him to be quite a reasonable and impressive young man.