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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.

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman was born in Dodge County, Georgia, in 1943. Coleman began his political career in 1973 as a Democrat representing the 14th District in the state legislature. He served as speaker when Tom Murphy stepped down in 2003. Coleman also served on the Appropriations Committee. He decided against running for re-election in 2006.; Interviewed by Dr. Mel Steely on September 22, 2004 in Terry Coleman's office at the state capitol in Atlanta, Georgia.; Coleman briefly describes his youth in the small town atmosphere of Eastman in Dodge County, Georgia. He attended Dodge County High School and was actively involved with the football team. After graduating in 1961, Coleman went directly to Georgia Southern. Coleman admits that he had struggled with schooling at Georgia Southern and, after already beginning to serve with the Georgia House of Representatives in 1972, decided to enroll at Reinhardt College around 1977, where he obtained his Associate's Degree. He continued his schooling at Brenau University where he received a B.S. in Criminal Justice and decided to go on to law school at Woodrow Wilson College of Law where he received his law degree in 1981. Coleman describes the personal decisions he had to make at this time, selling his family store after owning it for ten years, starting an insurance agency, owning a couple Huddle House franchises, being a volunteer firefighter and juggling all of this with going to school, working with the legislature and having a family. Coleman goes on to describe how his interest in politics arose, noting his grandfather's and uncle's involvement in politics as being an inspiration. In 1962, Coleman helped to rally teens together for Marvin Griffin's campaign for governor. Around 1966, Coleman worked with Jimmy Carter's campaign for governor. After Carter lost the race, the two men continued to stay in touch and eventually Coleman and two of his brothers all worked for Carter. Coleman talks about the advantages his friendship with Carter allowed him as he was given various responsibilities in the Georgia House of Representatives, such as becoming Chairman of Public Safety and the Appropriations Committee. Coleman continues with discussion of Tom Murphy and the struggle for the position of Speaker of the House.