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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.

George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III

George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III was born in Perry, Georgia on December 20, 1946. Perdue graduated from Warner Robins High School and then went on to attend the University of Georgia. In 1971, he earned his doctorate in veterinary medicine and then went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force from 1971 to 1974. After his career within the Air Force, Perdue practiced veterinary medicine in Raleigh, North Carolina before returning to Georgia and opening a small business in Bonaire, Georgia. His political career began as an elected member of the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board. In 1990, Perdue was elected to the state senate serving for eleven years--eight as a Democrat and three as a Republican. In 2000, Perdue sought and won the seat of governor within Georgia, becoming the first Republican governor since Reconstruction.During his two terms as governor, Perdue faced a variety of challenges, including resolving the state flag controversy and managing the impact of a national economic recession. He also focused on education and school-system reform. Perdue left office in 2011 and became a founding partner at Perdue Partners, an Atlanta-based economic development firm specializing in global commodities trade and consulting services.; Interviewed by Mel Steely on July 25, 2013 at Perdue's office in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.; Perdue begins the interview by discussing his childhood in Perry on his family's farm. He talks about his family's careers and learning about meaningful work by doing chores around the farm. He talks about his high school experience at Warner Robins where he played baseball and football, and then goes on to talk about his football career at the University of Georgia as a walk-on for the team which was then led by Coach Dooley. When discussing his college career, he talks about his goal of becoming a veterinarian and getting his doctorate, but also about the patriotic emotion that emerged in 1967 and his reasons for deciding to join the Air Force after college. He then discusses his assignments while in the Air Force as a public health official on the Ohio base he was assigned. The conversation then follows his decision to move to Raleigh, North Carolina in order to practice as a veterinarian with Jim Jackson and his ultimate decision while there to become involved with business management. He talks about the reasons his brother-in-law and he decided to open the Grain Elevator Company and how it led to his shift into politics and his election to the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board. From this point, the conversation turns to discuss Perdue's role in politics. It opens with a discussion about his first campaign running for a Democratic seat in the Georgia Senate and the trip that led him to desiring a political career. He discusses his role as a new senator in a period of change and the motives and reactions to his decision to switch political parties in 1998. He then talks about the 2001 campaign to become governor and the motivations behind seeking the office which includes a conversation about governor Roy Barnes. The interview concludes in a discussion about his tenure as governor, including the financial crisis over the budget, the controversy of the Georgia state flag, and his improvements of the educational system in Georgia.