The Three Governors Controversy
download cover image ►

The Three Governors Controversy

Skullduggery, Machinations, and the Decline of Georgia's Progressive Politics

Title Details

Pages: 312

Illustrations: 10 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 10/01/2017

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5292-3

List Price: $25.95


Pub Date: 05/15/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4734-9

List Price: $34.95


Pub Date: 05/15/2015

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4837-7

List Price: $34.95

The Three Governors Controversy

Skullduggery, Machinations, and the Decline of Georgia's Progressive Politics

A rousing account of a watershed event in American politics

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

The death of Georgia governor-elect Eugene Talmadge in late 1946 launched a constitutional crisis that ranks as one of the most unusual political events in U.S. history: the state had three active governors at once, each claiming that he was the true elected official.

This is the first full-length examination of that episode, which wasn’t just a crazy quirk of Georgia politics (though it was that) but the decisive battle in a struggle between the state’s progressive and rustic forces that had continued since the onset of the Great Depression. In 1946, rural forces aided by the county unit system, Jim Crow intimidation of black voters, and the Talmadge machine’s “loyal 100,000” voters united to claim the governorship.

In the aftermath, progressive political forces in Georgia would shrink into obscurity for the better part of a generation. In this volume is the story of how the political, governmental, and Jim Crow social institutions not only defeated Georgia’s progressive forces but forestalled their effectiveness for a decade and a half.

The Three Governors Controversy is a compelling narrative of the widespread notoriety engendered by Georgia's 1946 election and its aftermath. This history reveals the underlying conflicts of the succession battle by bringing together a careful analysis of the politics of the period with an array of popular and scholarly accounts.

—Timothy J. Crimmins, coauthor of Democracy Restored: A History of the Georgia State Capital

At last we have a comprehensive analysis of one of the most colorful episodes in the rich annals of southern political history. Bullock, Buchanan, and Gaddie have succeeded not only in telling an oft-told tale from a fresh yet still thoroughly engaging perspective but also in sorting out its various immediate and long-term implications. This book will be essential reading for scholars and simply irresistible to southern politics junkies.

—James C. Cobb, Spalding Distinguished Professor, Department of History, University of Georgia

Subjected to scholarly examination, the three governors controversy turns out to have been even crazier in fact and more far-reaching in effect than the popular imagination has conjured. A big part of the reason the book succeeds so well in elucidating this confrontation is its careful depiction of the historical context—who all the major players were, how they came to be assigned their parts in the drama and what lessons the audience could take away, after the curtain came down.

—Pete McCommons, Flagpole Magazine

In this first book-length account of this key election (and post-election constitutional crisis), the authors immerse readers in the historical record, incorporating an array of primary source documents and interviews with key figures. . . . The result is a fine piece of research on a consequential election during the South's transitional period.

—J. Barth, Choice

The best piece of Georgia political scholarship to happen in a decade or so.

—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For a short time in early 1947, Georgia had three men claiming to be governor. The Three Governors Controversy: Skullduggery, Machinations, and the Decline of Georgia’s Progressive Politics describes the events leading up to this unusual circumstance in great detail.

—Maarten Zwiers, Journal of Southern History


Award for Excellence in Research, Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council

About the Author/Editor

Charles S. Bullock (Author)
CHARLES S. BULLOCK III is Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia and the author and editor of numerous books on American political culture, the South, and electoral politics.

Scott E. Buchanan (Author)
SCOTT E. BUCHANAN is professor of political science at the Citadel. He is the author of Some of the People Who Ate My Barbecue Didn’t Vote for Me: The Life of Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin.

Ronald Keith Gaddie (Author)
RONALD KEITH GADDIE is Executive Faculty Fellow of the University of Oklahoma and Presidential Professor of Political Science.