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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.

Charles Weltner

"Representative from Georgia; born in Atlanta, Fulton County Ga., December 17, 1927; attended the public schools of Fulton County, Ga.; graduated from Oglethorpe University at Atlanta, Ga., in 1948 and from Columbia University School of Law at New York City, in 1950; received M.A. from Columbia Theological Seminary, 1983, and LL.M., University of Virginia Law School, 1983; commenced practice in Atlanta, Ga., in 1950; served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army, 1955-1957; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-eighth and Eighty-ninth Congresses (January 3, 1963-January 3, 1967); was not a candidate for reelection in 1966 to the Ninetieth Congress; unsuccessful candidate for election in 1968 to the Ninety-first Congress; deputy chairman, Democratic National Committee, and director of young Americans division, 1967; resumed the practice of law; judge, Superior Court, Atlanta Judicial Circuit, 1976-1981; chairman, Judicial Council of Georgia, 1980-1981; justice, Supreme Court of Georgia, 1981-1992, chief justice from June 1992 until his death in Atlanta, Ga., on August 31, 1992; was a resident of Atlanta."--Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.; Interviewed by Mel Steely on May 16, 1999 at Weltner's office. The interview begins with a discussion on Weltner's childhood and education. Weltner refuses to discuss his religious beliefs, stating that he does not want to use them as an excuse or as protection from any of his poor decisions. He answers questions about his time in law school at Columbia and his knowledge that he would always be a lawyer and get involved in politics. He then discusses his entrance into politics and addresses being referred to as an example of the "new wave of politicians." He says the idea was to be a lot like Kennedy-- but not too much like him. In regards to President Kennedy, Weltner reflects on him as a man and remembers his assassination. He summarizes the attitudes of Congress towards Civil Rights, Vietnam, and the economy during his time in office. Weltner addresses his voting against and then changing his mind and voting for the Civil Rights Bill of 1967. One of the main themes of the interview involves Weltner's stance on race in politics. He repeatedly says that race was not why he decided to vote on certain things, but rather he made decisions and changed his mind if he felt like it-- he said he was content to be called a flip-flop. Later, when it came down to running again, he withdrew from the electoral race because he refused to support Lester Maddox. Later in the interview, Weltner talks about his return to law after his time in politics as a judge.