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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.

Wyche Fowler Jr.

Wyche Fowler, Jr. was born in Atlanta on October 6, 1940, attended public schools and earned a law degree from Emory University in 1969. He served in the U.S. Army from 1963-1964 and worked as chief of staff for Representative Charles Weltner from 1965-1966. After leaving school he worked as an attorney and served on Atlanta's city council from 1970- 1977. In 1977, Fowler won a special election as a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives 5th District. He was re-elected four times in the majority African American district, beating civil rights leader John Lewis who would later win the seat. Fowler was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986, and became known as a liberal on social issues and a moderate on economic and security concerns. He lost re-election in a close runoff to Paul Coverdell in 1992. Fowler was appointed Ambassador to Saudi Arabia by President Bill Clinton in 1996, and served until 2001. He has since served on various corporate and academic boards including the Carter Center. Fowler currently practices law in Washington, D.C. and in late 2007 joined the University of Georgia's School of Law and began teaching in the 2008 Spring semester.

Interviewed by Mel Steely on September 22, 2003 at the University of West Georgia.
After a discussion about Fowler's childhood and family heritage, the interview dives into his time in college and his decision to join the Army. He says that he put down Vietnam as his first choice for deployment in 1964 before there was a conflict there. However, he says that that is what got him started in Washington, D.C. Fowler talks about his time working with Charles Weltner, and how he decided not to run again in conjunction with Lester Maddox in 1966. After his time in the Army, Fowler attended law school and practiced law into the 70s, where he was also elected to work on the city council. Fowler answers questions about his relationships with the mayors of Atlanta during his time on city council, as well as his role in the development of MARTA. Fowler spends a great deal of time discussing his advantages in the "black voting constituency," and his opponents in the Senate race. Fowler also talks about how running for office because an incumbent is retiring changes the dynamic of a campaign. The second disc continues the discussion on his time in Congress, and how it was like coming back as a Congressman as opposed to a staffer. Fowler also answers question about his opinions on Newt Gingrich and other members of the Georgia delegation. He states his criticisms of Gingrich are only on the side of policy, not his personal life. Steely asks Fowler what he is most proud of and most disappointed with in regards to his time in office. For the latter part of the interview, Fowler gives his opinions on presidents and newer members of politics.