Tags: Carl Sanders | Georgians | segregation | harmony

Ex-Ga. Gov. Sanders' Death Recalls 'Nasty' Jimmy Carter Race

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Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 10:50 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As Georgians begin mourning their late Gov. Carl Sanders, who died Monday at age 89, much is being written and broadcast about the Democrat who was nationally recognized for leading their state out of segregation and into a period of racial harmony while governor from 1963 to 1967.

But somewhat surprisingly, next to nothing is being said about Sanders' final campaign, in 1970, in which he was defeated after a mean-spirited, racially charged campaign run by the man who would become Georgia's best-known politician of all: Jimmy Carter.

"Carter had been a moderate state senator, but ran in 1970 as a very conservative segregationist," Bill Shipp, longtime political editor of the Atlanta Constitution, recalled to Newsmax. "It was a nasty, rough race."

With the Peach State poised for a funeral for Sanders that Shipp predicts will be "gigantic," the veteran reporter told Newsmax that "very little is being said about the campaign against Carter. It's like it didn't happen."

When Sanders was termed out as governor in 1966, then-state Sen. Carter placed third in the all-important Democratic primary. The nomination was eventually won by arch-segregationist Lester Maddox, who went on to be elected governor.

Four years later, with Maddox unable to succeed himself, all signs pointed to Sanders' returning to the governorship with ease. He had overseen construction of 70 airports throughout the state, had wooed fresh industry to Georgia (including the Hawks and Falcons sports teams to Atlanta), and left the state with a $187 million surplus.

There were no racial incidents during his stint in the governor's office, and blacks began serving in the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.

To no one's surprise, a poll commissioned by Carter in September 1969 showed Sanders trouncing him among likely Democratic primary voters by a margin of 53 percent to 21 percent.

"Some images have to be projected regarding Carl Sanders," Carter wrote in a pre-campaign memo. "More liberal . . . pretty boy . . . nouveau riche . . . excluded George Wallace from the state . . . You can see some of these are conflicting, but right now we just need to collect all these rough ideas we can."

Shipp, who covered the 1970 campaign, recalled how Carter repeatedly referred to Sanders as "Cufflinks Carl" (even though the former governor never wore shirts with cufflinks) and "said that the 'big-money boys' planned Sanders' campaign in the Capital City Club [an exclusive private club in Atlanta]."

Although Carter differed little on issues from Sanders, the Plains peanut farmer styled himself "a working man" and "basically a redneck."

Carter media man Gerald Rafshoon's TV salvos featured a shot of a country club where "people like us aren't invited" and "big-money boys play cards, drink cocktails, and raise money for their candidate: Carl Sanders."

Front-runner Sanders dubbed Carter "Jimmy the Fabricator" and said his opponent "has absolutely no credibility."

At a time when racial tensions were rising because of court-ordered school integration, Sanders biographer James Cook noted, Carter "made a point of visiting a segregated academy, cozying up to George Wallace and Lester Maddox, and injecting profanity into his speeches."

Such tactics won Carter the support of such rabid segregationists as former Gov. (1954-58) Marvin Griffin and political operative Roy Harris of Augusta, who had run Wallace's winning campaign in Georgia in the 1968 presidential election.

On the eve of the primary, Sept. 9, leaflets hit Georgia's white Baptist communities. They showed Sanders, part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, being doused with champagne by Hawks star Lou Hudson, an African-American.

This leaflet "interjected . . . race, alcohol, and high-living" into the campaign, according to the Constitution's Shipp. Another noted that Sanders had attended the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Carter had not), and still another charged an alliance with Sanders and Julian Bond, the black civil-rights leader and Georgia state legislator.

Fifty-three newspapers throughout the state endorsed Sanders and only one major daily (the Columbus Enquirer) backed Carter. Syndicated columnists Evans and Novak predicted a Sanders primary win without a runoff.

But on Sept. 9, Carter surprised everyone by topping the race with 48.6 percent of the vote to 37.7 percent for Sanders. Two weeks later, Carter demolished Sanders in a runoff by a 3-2 margin.

Having won the Democratic nomination, Carter reached out to hostile black voters and handily won the governorship in November. At his inauguration, he made national news by declaring "the days of discrimination are over," and he was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Six years later, he was elected president.

In 2007, this reporter emailed Sanders, then 81 and a partner in an Atlanta law firm, requesting an interview on the 1970 campaign. He replied: "I have no interest in making any comment about Carter. I hope you understand."

As news of Sanders' death was reported Monday, Carter, 90, issued a statement saying: "Carl Sanders was an outstanding governor of Georgia, a champion of education and a courageous proponent of ending racial segregation in our state. Rosalynn and I extend our sincere condolences and prayers to his wife, Betty, and to his family and friends."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.





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As Georgians begin mourning their late Gov. Carl Sanders, who died Monday at age 89, much is being written and broadcast about the Democrat who was nationally recognized for leading their state out of segregation and into a period of racial harmony while governor from 1963 to 1967.
Carl Sanders, Georgians, segregation, harmony
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2014-50-18
Tuesday, 18 Nov 2014 10:50 PM
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