1946 Governors Race

1946 was a beginning for African-Americans, they could vote for Governor.  1946 was also the beginning of the Three Governor’s Crisis.  Here is a video of Herman Talmadge, and how he “remembers” it:

Photograph of E. Melvin Thompson with Herman Talmadge, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1947. geo036, Photography, Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State Melvin Thompson & Herman Talmadge, two of the three governors in January, 1947—-image courtesy of Vanishing Georgia; http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/html/vanga_homeframe_default.html
Ellis Arnall Signing Document Ellis Arnall, the last of the three, and the first to step down in February,1947—-image courtesy of Vanishing Georgia; http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/html/vanga_homeframe_default.html
Photograph of E. Melvin Thompson with Herman Talmadge, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1947. geo036, Photography, Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.
Photograph of Ellis Arnall signing statement, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1947, geo035, Photography, Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.

How did Georgia end up with three governors?

Georgia had just created a new constitution in 1945. In Article 5, the office of Lieutenant Governor was created. Issues of contested elections were covered as well as succession if the governor became disabled or died. What it did not elucidate was what happens if the “Governor-elect” dies before he takes the oath of office.

Figure out why:  go to the link below, read Article 5, and determine why the crisis occurred when the Governor-elect, Eugene Talmadge, died.

Section 5 of the 1945 Georgia Constitution

Eugene Talmadge was elected governor in November, 1946, but died the next month.

No one had thought to stipulate what happens if the governor-elect dies before taking office. Legally speaking, there has to be some sort of succession, but the constitution was silent on the issue. A legal “mess” resulted.

Ellis Arnall, the outgoing governor, figured he was still governor because there was no one to replace him.

Herman Talmadge (Eugene’s son) thought he should be governor because he had received write-in votes during the ’46 election.

M. E. Thompson was elected Lieutenant Governor—-he felt the office of governor fell to him because the Georgia constitution stipulated he would become the chief executive upon the death of the governor.

It was quite embarrassing for Georgians.

Herman Talmadge manipulated the Georgia Legislature into electing him governor in early 1947.

Ellis Arnall refused to accept the vote, saying the election of Talmadge was unconstitutional.

M. E. Thompson said he would await a Georgia Supreme Court decision—-he was quite confident the judiciary would decide he was the governor; he assumed the mantle of Governor as well.

So, there were three men who all said they were governor—-Three Governors.

Photograph of reporters during "three-governor" dispute, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1947, geo038, Photography, Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.
Reporters in a frenzy over the “Three Governors” controversy—-image courtesy of Vanishing Georgia; http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/vanga/html/vanga_homeframe_default.html
Photograph of reporters during “three-governor” dispute, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, 1947, geo038, Photography, Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State.

How did the “Three Governors” crisis resolve itself?

Meanwhile, “Governor” Talmadge changed the locks on the executive office, so Arnall couldn’t get into the office.

“Governor” Arnall moved his office to the lobby.

The rest of the country viewed the comic opera as typical of Southern politics; many Georgians, however, were not happy about the tarnish on their state’s image.

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that M. E. Thompson was the proper governor in March, 1947, and called for a special election in September, 1948, to resolve the issue permanently.

So, Arnall left office.  Talmadge accepted the Court’s decision, and M. E. Thompson was governor until Talmadge beat him in the September election.

Here is a video that Thompson made during his campaign for governor. What do you think about his topic?

For more info, please visit http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/3governo.htm.
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There is an audio presentation from Georgia Public Broadcasting on the subject. GPB warns that there is some “questionable” language used.

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