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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.

Elliott Harris Levitas

Elliott Harris Levitas was born in Atlanta on December 26, 1930, and attended local schools including Emory University, where he earned a law degree in 1956. He was also a Rhodes Scholar, and obtained a master of law degree from Oxford University in 1954, as well as being a member of the United States Air Force from 1955 to 1958. Levitas served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1964, and was also elected that year to represent DeKalb County in the Georgia House of Representatives, where he served for a decade. In 1974 he was elected as a U.S. Congressman from the 4th District and was re-elected to four subsequent terms, until being defeated by Pat Swindall in 1984. Levitas returned to private practice in Atlanta, where he resides today.; Interviewed by Mel Steely and Ted Fitz-Simons in 1996.; The interview is spread out over four different days in the fall of 1996: August 12, September 10, September 24, and October 7. Levitas begins by discussing his family and background during the Great Depression and into his education. He answers questions about what his life was like during the Great Depression as well as World War II, saying that his family was middle class "in the almost Norman Rockwellian sense." He describes his time in college and law school, juggling marriage and a burgeoning career in law, and the decision to join the Air Force. By the time the conversation shift to politics, Levitas reveals that he and his politically-active friends flipped a coin to see who could run against James Davis in Congress, and Weltner won the toss (and eventually won the election). Levitas got out of the Air Force and became more active in the DeKalb community, and he was elected to the Georgia legislature in 1965. The interview discusses large issues, including integration, anti-Semitism, and reapportionments. Levitas discusses his relations with several other Georgia politicians, stating that when it comes down to it, all politicians try to work together to better the state.; In the interview on September 24th, Levitas begins with a discussion on the differences between the US House and the Georgia House. They discuss election tactics, free press, and former candidates and presidents. The interview covers party politics, campaigns, and Levitas' opinions on Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter. The last portion, from October 7th, begins with Steely asking Levitas who his most memorable Democratic colleagues were in the Congress, as well as Republicans. He compares Newt Gingrich and Tip O'Neill, and then talks about national security and the nuclear era during Carter's and Reagan's administrations.