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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Justifications for supporting Talmadge and Carmichael in the Georgia gubernatorial election of 1947

Johnson discuses the political run-off between James Carmichael and Eugene Talmadge during the gubernatorial election of 1947. Johnson explains that although many people she worked with on social welfare issues supported Talmadge because of his approach to economics, she privately supported Carmichael because he seemed the more liberal of the two. (Johnson notes here that she could not take a public stance on political issues during these years; her work with the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare necessitated that she remain nonpartisan publicly.)

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. 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

GUION JOHNSON:
I asked a leading social worker in Savannah why it was that most of the influential people in Savannah were supporting Talmadge instead of Carmichael for governor? She said, "I'm going to support Talmadge." I said, "You are? Why?" "For the same reasons that the members of my Board are supporting Talmadge."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Her Board in Savannah?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, her Board in Savannah. She was director of the Department of Public Welfare. She said, "Because we think that economic stability will be maintained in Georgia if Talmadge is elected rather than Carmichael. We do not think that Carmichael has the backing of the Southern Bell Telephone Company, the Trust Company of Georgia, the railroad, all the big economic interests, the mills". (although, you know, I think that Carmichael was a mill owner. I know that Ellis Arnold was a lawyer for the mill in Newnan.). "And that is the reason. We think that it is important for Georgia to be maintained strong economically and we think that we can suffer through a Talmadge regime without the threat of an economic depression. Remember, the war is over and we don't know what is going to happen after the war is over. We may have an economic collapse. And we do not think under Talmadge it will, and after all, Talmadge is a charitable man. He is a leader in his church. He is a humanitarian. He is not a wicked man. This is only a political tactic that he is using to get in. He doesn't hate Negroes. He has paid for the college education of his cook's son. They are devoted to him. The Negroes in Albany support Talmadge." And I found this to be true. A Negro doctor from Albany, he was the first Negro [man] that I got on my Board, and he said, "Yes, we will have to support Talmadge."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was his reason economic stability?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Now, where did you fit politically? Were you involved in politics? Could you afford to be?
GUION JOHNSON:
I could not afford to be, and was not very much . . . I would go to small group meetings, closed meetings, and say, "I'm doing this not as Director of the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare, but as Guion Johnson, very much interested in a liberal regime in Georgia and I will give you the names of key leaders and I will help you in that way . . . "
MARY FREDERICKSON:
For Carmichael?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, for Carmichael. And I soon found that I knew more key leaders than the top management in the Carmichael campaign. "I will give you names of key leaders, but I cannot have any publicity." Then, I opened the Atlanta Constitution [one morning] and saw a full page ad with names, oh, at least it looked like a thousand names endorsing Carmichael, and here was my name in the group. And I had not been asked permission for my name to be used, and I was very much distraught, because I did not know what my Board would do. We were not supposed to engage in politics. I could promote social and economic issues for the health and welfare of the state, but I could not participate in any political activity. I did not have one word, none of them said anything.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were they supporting him also?
GUION JOHNSON:
I doubt it. I would guess that most members of my Board were supporting Talmadge. A few spoke outright in his behalf, in Carmichael's behalf, but most of them . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was Carmichael a real liberal?
GUION JOHNSON:
Probably not. He was not an Ellis Arnold liberal, but he had been chosen by Ellis Arnold to succeed him as the most liberal of the potential candidates. He had very little political experience, I think. That's my recollection.