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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.

Thomas Bailey "Tom" Murphy

Thomas Bailey "Tom" Murphy (1924-2007) was born in Bremen, Georgia on March 10, 1924, and lived there for most of his life. After graduating from North Georgia College in Dahlonega he joined the U.S. Navy, serving in the south Pacific during World War II. After returning home he earned a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1949, and returned home to practice law with his older brother James. In 1960, Murphy was elected to represent his hometown and the surrounding area as a Democrat in the state legislature, where he remained until defeated in 2002. In the state House of Representatives, Murphy served as Governor Lester Maddox's floor leader from 1967-1970, and as Speaker pro tem from 1970-1973. He was elected Speaker in 1973 and became the longest serving house speaker of any U.S. state legislature. Murphy held power using hardball politics, closely controlling the state's finances and redistricting every ten years. He was instrumental to the growth of Atlanta, and Georgia, having a hand in transportation, economic, and building issues. He was defeated by Bill Heath in 2002, unable to hold back a Republican tide any longer. Murphy suffered a stroke in 2004, and died in December 2007.; Interviewed by Mel Steely on December 27, 1985 at Murphy's office in Bremen, Georgia.; Dr. Mel Steely interviews Georgia Speaker Tom Murphy on his experiences with Senator Herman Talmadge.The interview begins with Murphy talking about his childhood in Bremen, attending North Georgia College, and entering the Navy in 1946.He then speaks of his brother, former state representative James Murphy, and his entry into politics that began with holding a position on the Bremen school board.; The interview next tackles the subject of Murphy's experience in the Georgia state assembly.Murphy tells of being elected to the house at the age of 38 during a time when the governor had control over the legislation to the point that he could choose both the Speaker and the committee chairs.Murphy first ran for speaker pro tem following the election of Jimmy Carter as Governor and won on position on the third ballot.He was then elected speaker under the governorship of George Busbee.; The interview ends with Steely asking Speaker Murphy about Herman Talmadge.Murphy says that Talmadge was extremely powerful due to his position as chairman of the agricultural committee and that much of his work was tailored to benefit the south.Murphy did not have much experience working with Talmadge as the speaker didn't have any interest in the politics of Washington, D.C.According to Murphy, Talmadge was not a staunch segregationist as he hired more African-Americans during his time as governor than any previous holder of the office.Finally, Murphy declares that Talmadge was a legend in Georgia, an excellent senator, and one of the best politicians Murphy had ever seen.