Thursday, December 03, 2009

1954, In Five Minutes Or Less

The recently donated M.E. Thompson Papers contain a small but precious set of films: five one-minute campaign spots from Thompson's unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1954. Having a look at these is five minutes well spent.

Thompson, who had won election as Georgia's first lieutenant governor in 1946, found himself governor in March 1947 after emerging victorious in Georgia's famed Three Governor's Controversy. Defeated by Herman Talmadge in a special election in 1948, Thompson ran unsuccessfully for a number of offices over the following years, and in 1954 attempted to regain the governorship.

The ads from his campaign ably summarize what southern gubernatorial candidates of that period believed needed to be addressed in order to get elected. As one might expect, front and center in two of the commercials is advocacy of enforced racial segregation, through the County Unit System of electoral politics and continued segregation of the schools. A dose of populism emerges through spots dedicated to auto tags and highways, which demonstrate also the growing pains Georgia was going through in the 1950s, while in "Taxes" Thompson explains why his government would be fiscally efficient. The ads give us a window into 1950s Georgia, although Thompson's candidacy could not withstand the onslaught that was Marvin Griffin. Despite his stance on segregation, Thompson was considered a liberal in that 1954 race, falling victim to the very County Unit System he vowed not to change.

County Unit:




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Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library.

For more information on these films, call (706) 542-5788 or email The Russell Library is open for research Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm.

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