Visit with Carl Sanders recalls tumultous time in Georgia – MySwainsboroNews.com: Editorials

25
Jun

Visit with Carl Sanders recalls tumultous time in Georgia – MySwainsboroNews.com: Editorials

This is an excellent piece by Dick Yarbrough, worth reading in its entirety for political junkies, history buffs, and those who either lived through the events, or spent a lot of time reading about them.

When Jimmy Carter ran for the state Senate in 1961 and was defeated, he claimed voter fraud. Carl Sanders, president pro tem of the state senate, supported Carter’s claim and provided legal counsel from the Democratic Party. Carter prevailed.

Fast forward to 1970. After serving as Georgia’s governor from 1963-67, Sanders ran again. In those days a governor could not serve consecutive terms. In the campaign, he was subjected to a barrage of racist attacks, including criticism for having attended the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His opponent? Jimmy Carter, the eventual winner. Sanders says wistfully, “I guess I started him on the road to the presidency.”

No good deed goes unpunished. The governor said he has made peace with Carter’s nasty campaign. I have not and never will.

I went to visit Gov. Sanders recently. Now 88, the governor has lost maybe a step or two since he was a left-handed quarterback on the University of Georgia’s 1945 Oil Bowl championship team, but he has lost none of his aura.

Carl Sanders served Georgia during a tumultuous time of civil rights upheaval and helped guide the state safely to our better side, unlike governors across the South who were posturing in schoolhouse doors and defying the U.S. Supreme Court. His moderation helped vault Atlanta ahead of Birmingham as the Capitol City of the South, where it remains today despite its dysfunctions.

I wondered how he was able to avoid the actions of neighboring governors, who played to the racist instincts of their constituencies.

“When I became a lawyer,” he said firmly, “I swore to uphold the law and I was not going to disobey it. It’s that simple.” I won’t dispute the man but I lived through those days. It wasn’t simple. Those were tough times, but Sanders’ obedience to the law kept federal troops out of our schoolhouses.

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