Monday, August 27, 2018

Remembering Powell A. Moore—Russell Foundation Trustee, Washington Insider, and Georgia Original

Speaking to Bob Short in 2010, Powell Moore said of his hometown, “I’m proud of the fact that I’m from Milledgeville, Georgia. Some people say it’s a small town in Middle Georgia. I think it’s a lot more than that.” Moore and Short would go on conjuring the names of several individuals of considerable import who had called Milledgeville home over the years.

Powell Allen Moore, who died on August 13, surely belongs on any shortlist of that city’s—and this state’s—prominent citizens. Although he never held elective office, Moore served for over five decades in the penumbras of power—both inside and outside government while living and working in Washington D.C. His was truly a life of achievement and significance, and his extensive career is documented in the Powell A. Moore Papers, which he donated to the Russell Library in 2014. His complete Reflections on Georgia Politics interview with Bob Short can be viewed online
Born on January 5, 1938 to Jere and Sarah Moore, Powell spent his entire childhood in Milledgeville where his father co-owned and edited the city’s Union-Recorder newspaper. He attended high school and junior college at the Georgia Military College Preparatory School.  

Powell Moore with Senator Richard Russell in Milledgeville ca. 1946
After graduating from Georgia Military College, Moore completed his college education, receiving an ABJ, at the University of Georgia’s Henry Grady College of Journalism in 1959. He then entered the United States Army as a junior infantry officer serving a tours of duty in West Germany. After returning from Europe in 1963, Moore put his UGA degree to good use, working briefly at the Union-Recorder before joining the Birmingham, Alabama, based Southern Natural Gas Company as a public affairs specialist.  

Like the vast majority of Georgians in those days, the Moore was reared by Democrats, but he became an early Republican convert after a visit to the newly erected Berlin Wall and a careful reading of Arizona senator Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative while stationed in Germany. Moore went on to support Goldwater for president in 1964, and he played a part in the conservative takeover of the Georgia Republican Party that same year.  

Two years later, in late 1966, Moore received an unexpected, fateful phone call. Bill Bates, Senator Richard B. Russell’s press secretary, was preparing to step down, and he was seeking his replacement. Always a great admirer of the senator, Moore felt obliged to inform Senator Russell that he was, in fact, a Republican. “I’m not hiring you for your politics. I’m hiring you because I want you to do what I tell you to do,” Moore recalled Senator Russell responding.

And with that, Moore joined Russell’s Washington office staff, which was led at that time by Charles E. Campbell. An energetic, young staffer, Moore collaborated closely with his counterparts, participating in the Senate Press Secretaries Association as well as the Congressional Staff Conservative Luncheon Club.  

Despite a difference in partisan labels, Powell Moore proved an attentive and loyal assistant to the aging, and increasingly infirm, Russell. According to historian and Russell biographer Gilbert Fite, Moore’s tenure as press secretary coincided with a thaw in relations between the Georgia senator and the press. In fact, Russell even acceded to a request from the Atlanta Constitution’s Wayne Kelley to tape record an interview. With a wary Moore perched nearby, Senator Russell spoke for over an hour. Unfortunately for Kelley (and posterity), the recorder captured only silence! 

Moore was at his post on January 21 in what is currently the Russell Senate Office Building when he received a telephone call from Charles Campbell informing him that the ailing senator had died. Moore shared the news privately with fellow staffers as well as Russell family members before making the official announcement at approximately 2:40 p.m.

Moore during his time as a Nixon presidential staffer
Following Senator Russell’s death, Moore returned to the Republican fold when he accepted a position in Nixon White House as Deputy Director of Public Information at the Justice Department. While at Justice, Moore served under Attorney General John Mitchell and his successor, Richard Kleindienst.

He soon joined Mitchell at the newly established Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) in May 1972. As CRP’s Director of News and Information, Moore served as one of the primary points of contact between the committee and the Washington press, including two intrepid Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as the pair investigated a “third-rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. The ensuing scandal that unfolded over the next two years, embroiled the White House, and forced President Richard Nixon from office in disgrace.

Moore (left) shaking hands with President Gerald Ford in August 1974  
Although Moore provided testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee, he was never implicated in any criminal wrongdoing. Reflecting on the Watergate saga in 2010, Moore maintained, “It was not only illegal. It was not only immoral. It was just stupid.” He also admitted frankly, “[I]t’s a period of my career that I wouldn’t want to relive.” But on a brighter note, Moore and Bob Woodward became friends and, eventually, neighbors.

Moore, who had worked as Director of Press Relations for Nixon’s 1973 Inaugural Committee, was serving as a senior legislative affairs staffer when Nixon resigned in August 1974. He remained briefly in that position as a so-called “Nixon holdover” under President Gerald Ford, but he resigned in January 1975 before joining Ford’s presidential campaign.  

President Ford and Moore in the Oval Office
After almost a decade in government service, Moore rejoined the private sector in 1976. He established a consulting firm, the Marketing Corporation of America, where he advised clients on Washington’s complex federal bureaucracy.  

Ronald Reagan’s presidential election in 1981 signaled Moore’s return from the political wilderness. He joined the new Republican administration as Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, overseeing Senate-White House relations. In that role, Moore helped guide Sandra Day O’Connor’s historic Supreme Court nomination successfully through the confirmation process. Afterward, Moore moved to the State Department where he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs under both Al Haig and George Schultz (both former Nixon White House alumni).

After leaving the Reagan administration toward the end of 1983, Moore joined the Lockheed Corporation as its Vice President of Legislative Affairs. Thus began Powell Moore’s longest sustained period of private sector work. In 1985, he stepped down from Lockheed to form the consulting firm of Ginn, Edington, Moore, and Wade. Like Moore, former Congressman Bo Ginn and Rogers Wade were both native Georgians. He moved on to the Capitoline International Group in 1992 and to Global USA in 1998.

Moore left K Street for Capitol Hill in 1998 to become chief of staff in Tennessee senator Fred Thompson’s office where he remained until 2001 when President George W. Bush appointed Moore as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Moore devoted the bulk of his time and attention to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as on the wider “War on Terror” following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was awarded U.S. Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2005.
Powell briefly joined McKenna, Long & Aldridge (now known as Denton’s) as Managing Director for Federal Government Relations after Bush’s first term came to a close. By 2006, however, Moore was back in government as the Representative of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A lifelong Europhile, he had long harbored a desire to return to the continent. Working out of Vienna, Austria, Moore represented the U.S. government on such security-related issues as arms control, human rights, and conflict prevention. He returned stateside following President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Moore speaking with Bob Short in 2010
Moore was working as a senior legislative advisor with Venable, LLP in Washington D.C. when he passed away.  

On a personal note, I first met Powell Moore when I was still a graduate student in the UGA History Department. At that time, I did not know the full extent of Powell’s impressive resume. If I had, I would have probably been too nervous to strike up conversations for fear of exposing my ignorance of issues and events that he had participated in firsthand. He shared freely with me of his time, insights, and experiences, and I never saw him in a less-than-genial mood. As a former Russell staffer and foundation trustee, Powell was an unflinching supporter of and advocate for the Richard B. Russell Library—its mission, programming, and staff.  

The last time I saw Powell was this past January in Milledgeville at a symposium examining the long life and career of Congressman Carl Vinson. And that’s where Sheryl Vogt and I were this Saturday to bid Powell farewell as he was laid to rest in his beloved hometown.

Ashton Ellett

Postscript: Remembering Russell Library’s Powell A. Moore

Powell Moore first visited the Russell Library in the late 1970s. I remember coming in on a Saturday, when we were normally closed, to accommodate his visit. He was, after all, a former Press Secretary to Senator Russell. The tour was short; there was not much to show in the early days, but we shared at least three hours of reminiscing about the senator and imagining the library’s future.

As Ashton has written, Powell was a busy man. Even so, he never missed an opportunity to benefit the library. He was a mentor, adviser, advocate, colleague, and co-worker. Over the years, I treasured his friendship. Many members of our staff were touched by his engagement.

Powell arranged special visits for two of the senator’s closest colleagues, John Stennis and Robert Byrd; not only attended programs, recommended and engaged program speakers but also participated in one of our highly rated programs on intelligence gathering as well as several others; agreed to donate his papers, and helped to organize them; assisted in signing other donors; wrote articles and generated publicity for us; gave annually to the Russell’s oral history program and served as one of our expert interviewers on numerous occasions.

One of our favorite memories is a trip four of us made to McLean, VA, to collect more papers from Eugene Methvin, a Georgian and former editor of Reader’s Digest. Powell met us there to interview Gene, while some of us packed files and loaded a van. For lunch, he took us to one of his and Gene’s favorite Greek restaurants in the area and followed that with a quick driving tour of the cherry trees in bloom. The conversation was lively and fun. I believe we made one of our first Russell Tweets that afternoon.

Every visit with Powell ended in a conversation prompted by his “What can I do for the library?” That he will be missed is true on so many levels, yet all too inadequate in light of his generosity and spirit.

Sheryl Vogt

Monday, August 06, 2018

New Collection Open for Research

Plat of the East End Subdivision on St. Simons Island ca. 1928 
The Russell Library staff is pleased to announce the Alton H. Hopkins Collection of St. Simons Island Beach Case Records is now processed and opened. Researchers and others interested in civil litigation, property ownership, and private development along the Georgia coast will find this collection particularly useful. The Hopkins Collection contains materials related to a series of six court cases spanning from the late 1960s through the early 2000s. Holdings include legal briefs, contracts, exhibits, and court transcripts as well as correspondence, news clippings, and numerous maps, plats, drawings, and photographs.

View the complete finding aid here:

Friday, August 03, 2018

Abit Nix: The Classic City Candidate for Governor

Abit Nix in retirement

Last Tuesday, Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp scored a come-from-behind victory over Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the Republican gubernatorial primary runoff. As Charles Bullock, the University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Chair of Political Science, has recently observed, Kemp’s margin of victory represented a swing of 43.9 percent from the primary to the runoff—a new Georgia election record. Kemp now advances to the general election where he faces former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams and Libertarian Ted Metz in what promises to be one of the most expensive and closely watched races in the 2018 election cycle.

An Athens native, Brian Kemp graduated from Athens Academy and the University of Georgia. Prior to becoming secretary of state in 2010, he represented Athens in the State Senate from 2003 until 2007. His grandfather, Julian H. Cox, Sr., served in both the Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate during the 1950s and 1960s. His father-in-law, Robert E. Argo, Jr., represented Athens in the House from 1977 to 1987. Unlike Democrats Cox and Argo, though, Brian Kemp is a Republican.

Brian Kemp is also the first serious gubernatorial contender from the Classic City since Athens attorney Abit Nix waged two pitched campaigns against Eugene Talmadge in 1932 and 1940.

Hosea Abit Nix was born near Commerce in Jackson County where his father was a well-to-do farmer, county commissioner, and state senator. Nix moved south to attend the University of Georgia where he graduated with an A.B. in 1911 and an LL.B. in 1912. Nix continued his legal studies at University of Chicago and Harvard, but he returned to Athens in 1913 to work and teach at his alma mater. Nix became a prominent Athens attorney rising to the rank of partner in the local firm of Erwin, Erwin & Nix (subsequently Erwin, Nix, Birchmore & Epting).

Nix's 1911 Pandora yearbook photo

Aside from his teaching and professional duties, Nix belonged to a dizzying array of fraternal and civic organizations such as the Elks, Moose, Freemasons, and Shriners. He was also a founding member of the Rotary Club of Athens, and he served as a club president, district governor, international director of that organization at various points in his career.

In 1932, Governor Richard B. Russell Jr. opted to run for the United States Senate rather than reelection. This triggered a free-for-all in that year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Agriculture Commissioner Eugene Talmadge, espousing his signature brand of reactionary populism, emerged as the frontrunner. The centerpiece of Talmadge’s 1932 campaign was a promise to sell automobile tags for a flat, three-dollar fee—a pledge immortalized in song by Fiddlin’ John Carson and Moonshine Kate.  

Nix, drawing heavily on his civic background and legal experience, launched his own gubernatorial campaign in May 1932. Nix could not hope to match Talmadge’s personal flamboyance and populist fervor so he sought to compensate with sober policy prescriptions, which he outlined in a lengthy, twelve-point platform. In it, he pledged “efficiency, economy and honesty” in government, the “elimination of waste and extravagance” in state affairs, and improved roads and schools. That message carried Nix to a respectable second place finish in 1932. Amassing just over 28 percent of the popular vote to Talmadge’s 42 percent, Abit Nix ran best in the urban centers and college towns the rural-oriented Talmadge disparaged so gleefully on the campaign trail.

Unlike that year’s other aspirants, Nix generally avoided attacking Talmadge directly. Instead, he railed against “professional politicians,” a distinction that included Eugene Talmadge as well as former governor Thomas Hardwick and State Highway Board chairman John Holder. Nix’s 1940 campaign for governor, however, was an entirely different matter altogether.

Eugene Talmadge, having been rebuffed by voters in back-to-back bids for the U.S. Senate in 1936 and 1938, was seeking a third term as governor that year. Talmadge had demonstrated a penchant for spectacle, demagoguery, authoritarianism during his two previous administrations. When the General Assembly balked at Talmadge’s “Three-dollar tag” in 1933, he lowered the fee by executive order. When the State Highway Department refused to comply with various demands, Governor Talmadge seized the department’s funds, ejected the board from office, and appointed loyalists who would do his bidding. Most controversial of all, perhaps, was Talmadge’s response to the United Textile Workers strike in September 1934. The governor declared martial law, dispatched the National Guard, and arrested pro-union picketers to quash the protest. The jarring images of bayonet-wielding guardsmen and labor activists incarcerated behind barbed wire at Fort McPherson dismayed Talmadge critics who worried the governor’s heavy-handed style flouted the rule of law and tarnished the state’s reputation.

Eugene Talmadge on the stump

Abit Nix launched his second campaign for governor in June 1940. Present as always were Nix’s acclamations of “honesty, efficiency and economy,” but he also denounced—constantly and vigorously—Eugene Talmadge in the most unflattering terms. “The people don’t want a blitzkrieg governor again,” Nix declared, referencing the style of warfare Nazi Germany was employing with terrible effect across Western Europe that summer. “I am making the fight to put our government on a common sense, democratic basis where law and respect of constituted authority shall prevail over the wishes of political officials armed with the bayonet.”  

An anonymous letter supporting Nix's 1940 campaign 

The race, which also featured Agriculture Commissioner Columbus Roberts, grew increasingly nasty in the run up to the September Democratic primary. A fistfight between Talmadge and Nix supporters erupted at one Warm Springs gathering when a fashionably late Eugene Talmadge arrived just in time to interrupt Nix’s stump speech. The tumult flared back up when Talmadge took the stage, and by the end of the day, a wheelchair-bound man had reportedly been hospitalized and an automobile torched. Both sides traded blame for the donnybrook, and Nix persisted in comparing his primary opponent to German chancellor Adolf Hitler for the remainder of the campaign.

For his part, Eugene Talmadge offered a more progressive platform and milder image in 1940 than he had in previous campaigns. Most historians now credit Herman Talmadge, Gene’s son and political heir, for smoothing his father’s rougher edges that year. Combined with incumbent governor E.D. Rivers’ numerous scandals and a divided opposition (which Talmadge exploited deftly), “Ole Gene” cruised to victory while Abit Nix ran a distant third.  

Talmadge, however, reverted quickly to his old ways when he instigated a purge of college administrators, teachers, and University System of Georgia regents on trumped up charges of advocating “communism or racial equality” in the summer of 1941. The original and most high-profile target of Talmadge’s ire was University of Georgia College of Education dean Walter Cocking. (Cocking served with Nix in the Athens Rotary Club.) Talmadge’s political interference in what became known as the “Cocking Affair” cost all state-supported white colleges and universities their accreditation, and it cost Talmadge reelection in 1942. Improbably, Talmadge would make one, final political comeback in 1946. But that’s another story entirely.  

Throughout his political career, Abit Nix was one of those Georgians who was, in the words of esteemed political scientist V.O. Key, Jr., “damned with the designation of ‘respectable.’” There is perhaps no clearer example than Nix of what another scholar, Joseph Bernd, dubbed “the best element” in Georgia politics. “The member of ‘the best element’ is the sort of person who places a high priority on high moral standards of official conduct, believing that the method of government aside from questions of policy, is important in its own right.”

Unfortunately for Nix and those subscribing to his political brand, he never had the opportunity to implement his vision. Abit Nix died in March 1959 at age 70. Harold Martin, an Atlanta Constitution columnist and editor who had volunteered on Nix’s 1932 campaign, reflected on the Athenian’s inability to break through with voters. “In that time…people didn’t want the quieter virtues in their candidates for governor. They wanted to see a showman on the stump, a ranter and snorter, a leaper and shouter. Abit Nix, somehow, just didn’t have it in him to play the demagogue.” To Nix, respectability in personal decorum and political affairs weren’t simply preferable—they were essential elements.    

The Richard B. Russell Library houses a collection of papers and artifacts related to Abit Nix’s political career and civic activities. His unsuccessful 1940 gubernatorial campaign is extensively documented. Researchers will gain particular insight into Mr. Nix’s rationale for launching his campaign as well as his supporters’ political attitudes and outlooks. The Russell Library also holds the papers of state representative Bob Argo as well as the Rotary Club of Athens records.  

N.B. If elected, Brian Kemp would become the first native Athenian to hold that office. Two other prominent residents, Wilson Lumpkin (1831-1835) and Howell Cobb (1851-1853), have served as governor, but neither were born and raised in Athens. 

Ashton Ellett