Friday, February 20, 2015

“Took by Tuck”: Audley Tucker and the Photographs of the Democratic Party of Georgia

Last month, the Russell Library completed the year-long Georgia Political Parties Detailed Processing Project to make available the records of the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) and the Georgia Republican Party (GAGOP), funded by a generous grant of up to $58,777 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). Though she has wrapped up her work with the political parties’ records, project archivist Angelica Marini has left us with some additional blog posts to provide further insight into these collections.

For over twenty-five years, Audley Tucker served as the official photographer for the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG). A University of Georgia graduate and a Phi Delta Theta fraternity brother of Governor Ernest Vandiver, Tucker was appointed as the DPG staff photographer in late 1970 by Governor-elect Jimmy Carter after he also named Tucker the “Governor’s Photographer for Special Events.” David Gambrell, then-chairman of the DPG, called Tucker an “excellent photographer” and an “outstanding Democrat.” (Rome News-Tribune, 1970)

Judging by the images found in the Democratic Party of Georgia Records, Tucker was an excellent photographer, documenting Democratic officials such as Carter, Senator Sam Nunn, and Georgia Governors George Busbee and Joe Frank Harris. He also captured lesser known individuals and  the campaigns of nearly forgotten Georgia politicians: Marge Thurman, DPG Chairman from 1974 to 1982; Mary Hitt, who forced Zell Miller into a runoff for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in 1974; and Pinkie, a political fixture and proprietor of Pinkie Master’s Lounge in Savannah.

The photographs presented here include some of Tucker’s best, early Jimmy Carter images. As he often did, Tucker identified and described events and people in his own hand on the back of the photographs, making his images a unique and important part of the collection. For the image of Carter campaigning at a Fourth of July parade, Tucker noted, “My favorite photo--because of sign in background. Makes a good prop. I could not have set it up any better.” The photo shows Carter standing in the street, signing autographs, with a large “Carl Sanders for Governor” sign prominently in the frame. Tucker captured Carter speaking with the press later in the campaign and on victory night, November 3, 1970. Other images that night include campaign manager Hamilton Jordan, state representative Ward Edwards, and cousin Hugh Carter.

While he didn’t always provide substantive information for his photographs (the image of Congressman Carl Vinson and Jimmy Carter is simply identified as “Dublin,” and the 9th District Rally image only denotes that it was held in the 9th district in Gainesville), Tucker’s annotated photos often bore a simple credit line on the back -- “Took by Tuck.”

Overall, the Audley Tucker photographs offer a visual representation of the people and events that made up the DPG in the 1970s and 1980s and provide a different kind of record of political activity in the state during a period of Democratic dominance. They highlight important individuals and often capture the people who made the party function on the ground. His notes also provide important context for the people and political events, like the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner, documented elsewhere in the collection. A searchable inventory of the Audley Tucker photographs can be found at DPG Records.

Jimmy Carter campaigning at a Fourth of July parade
in downtown Atlanta, 1970. 

Jimmy Carter speaks at the podium on the night of gubernatorial election, 
November 3, 1970.

Jimmy Carter celebrates his victory over Republican Hal Suit
in the 1970 Georgia gubernatorial race.

U.S. Congressman Carl Vinson chats with Governor Jimmy Carter
in Dublin, Georgia, circa 1971. 

Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin,
U.S. Congressman for the 9th District Phil Landrum,
Governor Jimmy Carter, and U.S. Senator Sam Nunn
at a 9th District Rally in Gainesville, Georgia, circa 1975. 

Post by Angelica Marini, Project Archivist, Russell Library

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