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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.

James Mackay

James Mackay (1919-2004) was born in Fairfield, Alabama, the son of a Methodist minister. During World War II he served on a Coast Guard destroyer escort in the Mediterranean, where he earned the bronze star. After his service, Mackay returned home to earn a law degree from Emory University in 1947. He was a liberal Democrat in a mostly conservative state, representing DeKalb County in the state legislature from 1951-1952, and from 1955-1964. Mackay was elected from the 4th Congressional District to serve in the United States Congress in 1964. He was one of two Southerners to vote in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and was not re-elected to a second term. Among his accomplishments were founding the Georgia Conservancy in 1967, acting as a mentor to future Senator Max Cleland, and serving as an attorney for Martin Luther King, Jr. Mackay spent much of his later years working on environmental issues and died in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee in 2004 at the age of 85.; Interviewed by Mel Steely on January 15, 1999 at Mackay's home.; The interview begins with Mackay discussing his family and upbringing. His mother was born in China, the daughter of missionaries, and he was born in Fairfield, Alabama. Mackay talks about the various places he lived growing up, as his father was a pastor who moved around to different churches. He talks about his years in college leading right up to World War II, citing his friends and most influential teachers. Mackay then answers questions about his military service and being stationed in Florida when the war broke out. After a year of enlistment, Mackay came back to finish law school and entered politics, aiding Mack Mattingly. He discusses his elections, his committee appointments, and alliances he made in Washington. Major issues discussed include the Vietnam War, segregation, and the changing of the Georgia flag. The interview concludes with Mackay citing some of his favorite book passages in relation to his political and spiritual philosophies.