Thursday, January 28, 2010

Go Bo!

1966 was going to be Howard “Bo” Callaway’s year.

As the first Georgia Republican to be elected to Congress since Reconstruction, Callaway was set to move from that success to become Governor of Georgia. Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly. In many ways he was the natural successor to Carl Sanders, with his emphasis on building business and working “within the law” (shorthand for complying with federal Civil Rights rulings). He was riding a swelling Republican wave in the wake of Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative. And, the Democratic party, much to its own surprise, went into the general election with the outsider Lester Maddox as its candidate.

However, there were two significant problems that Callaway could not have anticipated. First, that a significant write-in campaign would be waged by supporters of Ellis Arnall, one of the losing Democrats in that party’s primary. Secondly, that the progressive shift in Georgia that had brought Carl Sanders to power had significantly eroded to where a conservative populist/segregationist such as Maddox could become tremendously popular. Still, Maddox was divisive figure and Callaway had a realistic shot at winning. In fact, in the general election Callaway won the popular vote but, given Arnall’s involvement, neither candidate won the majority, and the decision was sent to the legislature. Being nearly completely Democratic, the legislature went with Maddox. To hear the full story of the race, click here for Bob Short’s account.

An often overlooked audiovisual relic in the Russell Library documenting Callaway’s campaign is a 30-minute television spot that ran the night before the general election. It demonstrates how Callaway, son of Callaway Gardens founder Cason Callaway, viewed Georgia’s future, and is also a portrait of southern Republican-ism in the early- and mid-1960s. At the end of this video is a 12-minute clip of John Sibley, prominent Atlanta attorney and, famously, chairman of the Sibley Commission. He is speaking at a Democrats for Callaway luncheon, and outlines in a reasoned and methodical manner why Lester Maddox is the wrong choice for governor of Georgia, even for Democrats. To watch the clip, click here or on the graphic above.

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

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