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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.

William J. Lee

William J. Lee was born on December 15, 1925, in Forest Park, Georgia. He began working for Southern Railway as a young boy, and left for a time to serve in the United State Navy. After his service in the navy, Lee returned to Southern Railway (Norfolk Southern). He started with the railway as a messenger boy and retired as resident vice president. He earned a law degree from Atlanta Law School in 1960. Lee was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1956. He was re-elected twenty times, forty-two consecutive years, making him one of its longest serving members.; Interviewed by Mel Steely on June 3, 1997 at an unknown location.; Lee begins the interview with a brief history of his early life, his time in the United States Navy and working with Southern Railway (Norfolk Southern). The interview then goes into how he became involved in politics. His love of people is the main reason he entered politics. Lee speaks of his time under Governor Marvin Griffith as being fast-paced. He also talks about serving with Governor Vandiver and Governor Joe Frank Harris. Lee mentions his and Terrell Starr's involvement with the founding of Clayton College.; A portion of the interview is spent on integration of Georgia schools and what it meant to be a segregationist and what it meant to be a segregationist versus a racist; he saw these ideas being part of the times and accepted by the people.Lee speaks about Julian Bond and his appointment to the Georgia House of Representatives. Lee maintains that the reason that Bond was denied the appointment was not due to his race but to his opposition to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. Lee also speaks about working with Georgia Speaker of the House Tom Murphy.