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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 Roy Rowland

James Roy Rowland, Jr. was born in Wrightsville, Georgia on February 3, 1926. He attended local schools and the University of Georgia before earning a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia in 1952. He served as a sergeant in the United States Army from 1946-1948 and was a practicing physician from 1952 until 1982. Rowland entered politics late in life, serving in the state legislature as a Democrat from 1976-1982.He represented the 119th District, Dublin and the surrounding area. He was elected to represent the eighth District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983- 1995, when he chose to retire.; Interviewed by Dr. Mel Steely on May 12, 1997 (probably at UWG-TV studio).; Rowland begins by describing his youth in rural Johnston County, Georgia in the 1930s during the Great Depression. He expresses that he would not have changed a thing about his youth, having grown up near his aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents, referring to it as a sort of family enclave. Although times were tough during the Great Depression, he reflects on it not having been too bad for his family, as his father had employment. Rowland's father was an attorney and others among his paternal family, including his grandfather, were involved in politics; his maternal family on the other hand worked in the medical field. Having spent much of his youth at his maternal grandfather's drugstore, Rowland had decided upon becoming a physician by the time he had turned twelve years old. Rowland goes on to talk about the impact of the 'common enemy' of the Great Depression upon the community, the beginning of WWII, rationing and victory gardens, his time in high school from which he graduated in 1943, and the academic issues he faced at Oxford at Emory. Having felt he was not faring well in school, Rowland decided to enroll in the Army Division after only his second quarter in school. He speaks of his time in the infantry, his training, and the time he served in WWII. He was rewarded a bronze star after helping men who were wounded while attempting to capture a bridge in southern Germany. He continued to fight up to the war's end in 1945 and continued to serve until 1946. After Rowland returned and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1948, he held odd jobs, and he and his wife had their first child by the time he enrolled in medical school. He became the sixth physician in Dublin and focused on his medical practice for a couple of decades. He decided to run for office in 1976, noting that it was his dislike of the direction that the medical sector had been heading that spurred his decision. Rowland went on to win eleven political races. He talks about his time campaigning and mentions how his wife, Louella Rowland, was particularly good at it. Rowland speaks of his time in the Georgia Legislature, from 1977 to 1982, commenting at length upon the committees with which he served. He speaks of the only governor he served under as legislator, George Busbee, and goes on to enumerate and elaborate upon the issues he felt were most important, such as Living Wills, the state debt, the legal status of Quaaludes, Georgia's Certificate of Need and several other health care issues. He talks about his time in Congress, the committees on which he worked, the belief that he had initially been perceived by others in Congress as a "redneck doctor from the South," and his role in the Democratic Party. Having lead eleven successful campaigns, Rowland commented that his first campaign was the most interesting, especially having gone against an incumbent and that the last, against Cunningham, was the worst of his campaign experiences. He tells anecdotes of his experiences in Congress and with President Clinton, and gives his opinion of others he has worked with, such as Tom Foley, and Ben L. Jones. Rowland speaks about his communication and connection with his constituents and the importance of the quality of his personal staff. He speaks about his decisions behind voting on issues such as the Martin Luther King Holiday, AIDS and provides insight into his relationships with other politicians, such as Gingrich, John Lewis, Jim Cooper, Gephardt, etc. He lists his interests as a politician as being primarily veterans' affairs, occasional budget issues, public works, and particularly health issues. Rowland gives his opinions on working with Presidents George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and goes on to discuss the numerous scandals that arose while in office, such as those dealing with Barney Frank, Gerry Studds and Dan Crane as well as his conflict with the Christian Coalition of America. He considers his involvement with the healthcare bill during Clinton's term to be his greatest pride as well as his greatest disappointment.