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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.

Joe Frank Harris

Joe Frank Harris was born in the small town of Atco, Georgia, located in Bartow County on February 16, 1936. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1958, but returned home to work in the family concrete business. In 1964 he was elected as a Democrat to represent Bartow County in the Georgia Legislature, remaining until 1982. Harris developed a close political relationship with legendary House Speaker Tom Murphy, and with Murphy's help, won the governorship in 1982. Harris governed as a conservative, helped reform education in the state, and secured funding for the Georgia Dome. He remained governor until 1991, after which he wrote a book about his experiences in public life and served on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Harris currently serves on the board of directors for the American Family Life Assurance Company (Aflac).; Interviewed by Dr. Mel Steely and Ted Fitz-Simons on December 4, 1990, at the Georgia State Capitol.; This interview takes place in the last year of his term as governor, and he cites that he most wants to be remembered for his successes in educational reform, economic growth, and resource management throughout the state. He addresses being called the "Accidental Liberal" by stating that he made choices that he saw as what was best for the state, whether they were conservative or liberal choices. His service in the Appropriations Committee and his business experience prepared him for being governor, and he notes that his personal beliefs affected his decisions in office. He addresses his dislike for gambling and his appreciation at watching Georgia's economic growth. He took the Atlanta Olympics to heart, and strived to maintain the sense of Georgia state pride that came with the Olympics. He addresses major issues like the future of healthcare, federal government involvement, and employment.