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GUEST COLUMNIST: Georgia politics and Uncle John

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Pam Terrell Walker, a native of Rome, is a paralegal in Calhoun. Readers may email her at pamtwalker@gmail.com.

Because the Georgia Legislature is currently in session, I have been thinking a lot about my uncle John Elwin Sheffield Jr. He represented Brooks County, (Quitman) Georgia in the legislature in the mid 1950s.

It all starts with the woman whom he met in the governor’s office, and whom he later married. Mama’s sister, my Aunt Melba Griffin.

In 1954, Aunt Melba graduated from Berry College with a business degree. A native of Bainbridge,  Marvin Griffin (no relation) ran for governor that year. Aunt Melba was actively involved in his campaign. Mr. Griffin called her one day, right before graduation, and said, “Melba, the campaign is going great. It looks like we are going to win! If I win, please don’t take a teaching job. Come to Atlanta and be in charge of my office.” He won. And so, fresh from Berry College, Aunt Melba was off to Atlanta to the Governor’s office. More about that later.

The three governors controversy

A somewhat confusing turn of events, I will briefly state the disagreement.

Then Gov. Eugene Talmadge began his fourth term as Georgia’s governor in November, 1946. However, his health was failing and in December, 1946, he died. In the wake of his death, his supporters put forth a plan that allowed the Georgia legislature to elect a governor. In January, 1947, the Georgia General Assembly elected Eugene Talmadge’s son Herman, to be Georgia’s Governor. However, the newly elected lieutenant governor Melvin E. Thompson claimed the office of governor. Further, the outgoing governor Ellis Arnall refused to leave office. This is what created the situation of Georgia having three governors. The Georgia Supreme Court settled the controversy.

In March, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Melvin E. Thompson was the rightful governor. He was lieutenant governor-elect when Gov. Eugene Talmadge died. Herman Talmadge began campaigning almost immediately for the special election that would decide the remainder of the 1947-1951 term. Herman won that special election.

IN HINDSIGHT, the controversy appears comical. A relic of an era of Georgia politics that is long dead. Georgia received a lot of unwanted national attention during the controversy. Georgia’s reputation was unsavory due to the strong segregation sentiment. The three governors calamity was a source of immense embarrassment for business leaders of Georgia. Georgia’s national reputation then took an even further blow.

LT. GOVERNOR Melvin E. Thompson was lieutenant governor elect in 1947. However, as I mentioned, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that he was the rightful governor, after Eugene Talmadge died in office. Marvin Griffin was the first lieutenant governor to actually serve in office. Georgia voters overwhelmingly reelected him to that position in 1950.

THE 1954 GOVERNOR’S RACE

Griffin ran for governor in 1954, in a field of nine candidates. He won the election because most Georgia voters saw him as the favored candidate of outgoing governor Herman Talmadge. That’s just about the time Griffin called Aunt Melba at Berry College.

JOHN ELWIN SHEFFIELD, JR., represented Brooks County (Quitman) in the legislature in the 1950s. He met Aunt Melba when the legislature was in session one year. They dated and then became engaged. Mama said Gov. Griffin and his wife hosted an engagement party for Aunt Melba and Uncle John at the governor’s mansion.

In 1955, I believe it was, they married at the Berry College Chapel. Mama was Aunt Melba’s matron of honor. I still have a lot of great wedding pictures taken that day.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series about my uncle, the late John Elwin Sheffield, Jr., his career in Georgia politics, and a little history in Georgia politics. Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal in Calhoun. You can email her at pamtwalker@gmail.com.

 

Because the Georgia Legislature is currently in session, I have been thinking a lot about my uncle John Elwin Sheffield Jr. He represented Brooks County, (Quitman) Georgia in the legislature in the mid 1950s.

It all starts with the woman whom he met in the governor’s office, and whom he later married. Mama’s sister, my Aunt Melba Griffin.

In 1954, Aunt Melba graduated from Berry College with a business degree. A native of Bainbridge,  Marvin Griffin (no relation) ran for governor that year. Aunt Melba was actively involved in his campaign. Mr. Griffin called her one day, right before graduation, and said, “Melba, the campaign is going great. It looks like we are going to win! If I win, please don’t take a teaching job. Come to Atlanta and be in charge of my office.” He won. And so, fresh from Berry College, Aunt Melba was off to Atlanta to the Governor’s office. More about that later.

The three governors controversy

A somewhat confusing turn of events, I will briefly state the disagreement.

Then Gov. Eugene Talmadge began his fourth term as Georgia’s governor in November, 1946. However, his health was failing and in December, 1946, he died. In the wake of his death, his supporters put forth a plan that allowed the Georgia legislature to elect a governor. In January, 1947, the Georgia General Assembly elected Eugene Talmadge’s son Herman, to be Georgia’s Governor. However, the newly elected lieutenant governor Melvin E. Thompson claimed the office of governor. Further, the outgoing governor Ellis Arnall refused to leave office. This is what created the situation of Georgia having three governors. The Georgia Supreme Court settled the controversy.

In March, 1947, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Melvin E. Thompson was the rightful governor. He was lieutenant governor-elect when Gov. Eugene Talmadge died. Herman Talmadge began campaigning almost immediately for the special election that would decide the remainder of the 1947-1951 term. Herman won that special election.

IN HINDSIGHT, the controversy appears comical. A relic of an era of Georgia politics that is long dead. Georgia received a lot of unwanted national attention during the controversy. Georgia’s reputation was unsavory due to the strong segregation sentiment. The three governors calamity was a source of immense embarrassment for business leaders of Georgia. Georgia’s national reputation then took an even further blow.

LT. GOVERNOR Melvin E. Thompson was lieutenant governor elect in 1947. However, as I mentioned, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that he was the rightful governor, after Eugene Talmadge died in office. Marvin Griffin was the first lieutenant governor to actually serve in office. Georgia voters overwhelmingly reelected him to that position in 1950.

THE 1954 GOVERNOR’S RACE

Griffin ran for governor in 1954, in a field of nine candidates. He won the election because most Georgia voters saw him as the favored candidate of outgoing governor Herman Talmadge. That’s just about the time Griffin called Aunt Melba at Berry College.

JOHN ELWIN SHEFFIELD, JR., represented Brooks County (Quitman) in the legislature in the 1950s. He met Aunt Melba when the legislature was in session one year. They dated and then became engaged. Mama said Gov. Griffin and his wife hosted an engagement party for Aunt Melba and Uncle John at the governor’s mansion.

In 1955, I believe it was, they married at the Berry College Chapel. Mama was Aunt Melba’s matron of honor. I still have a lot of great wedding pictures taken that day.

This is part 1 of a 2 part series about my uncle, the late John Elwin Sheffield, Jr., his career in Georgia politics, and a little history in Georgia politics. Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal in Calhoun. You can email her at pamtwalker@gmail.com.