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Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program

The Georgia Political Papers and Oral History Program is comprised of over 3,000 linear feet of archival collections, along with an extensive number of oral history interviews, that document the unique political culture of the state of Georgia.

Roy E. Barnes

Roy E. Barnes was born in the town of Mableton, Georgia in Cobb County on March 11, 1948. He earned his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1972 and went to work in the district attorney's office in his home county right out of school. He was elected to the state senate in 1974 as a Democrat, serving eight terms, including a stint as floor leader for Governor Joe Frank Harris. After an unsuccessful run for governor against Zell Miller in 1990, Barnes moved over to the state House of Representatives. Barnes made a second, successful run for the governor's mansion in 1998. His tenure in office focused on education and patients' rights, but was also marked by controversy over the state flag. His support for removing the Confederate battle emblem from the flag cost him re-election in 2002, and Sonny Perdue became the first Republican governor of Georgia since Reconstruction. Barnes went on to work with legal aid groups and opened his own law firm in the Atlanta area.; Interviewed by Dr. Mel Steely on August 7, 2001 at the Georgia State Capitol.; Barnes begins the interview by discussing his family and early life in Cobb County, Georgia, including his childhood church and high school years. He then goes into his experience at the University of Georgia, which was much bigger than anything he had ever seen and challenged him academically. He goes into detail about integration and its moderation during Governor Maddox's tenure as well as Bo Callaway's. He cites Watergate and his participation in UGA's debate club as the turning points in his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He notes that working in his father's store helped him get into politics because that was all people talked about there. Governor Barnes then talks about his years in basic training and his time at the District Attorney's office, followed by his campaign in 1974 against Jack Henderson, who was killed in an automobile accident before the election. He discusses his initial impressions of the Senate, including Al Holloway and Culver Kidd, along with Zell Miller's creation of the Committee on Committees, which appointed him Chairman of Judiciary. He ends with a discussion of George Busbee and his effectiveness as Governor in comparison to Joe Frank Harris.