Chamblee54

Mike Pence And Lester Maddox

Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, Politics by chamblee54 on April 8, 2020

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This is a repost from 2015. In the five years after, Mike Pence has served as Vice President of the United States. In the post was this sentence: “It is highly unlikely that anyone will know who this Pence person is in forty four years.” Political predictions are risky.

Salon posted a festive piece the other day. The headline: “Indiana’s Mike Pence is starting to look like Lester Maddox — without the spine.” What about the Governor’s breast, thigh, and wing?

Mr. Pence is the media punching bag of the moment. In a few days, someone else will screw up, and the nabbering classes can pick on someone else. The riffraff law will be lawyered out in the courts.

The question here is the connection to the former Georgia Governor. It turns out to be a rhetorical gimmick. In the first paragraph, author Joan Walsh essentially repeats the headline. “… even before Pence began to look like a 21st century Lester Maddox — without the spine.” This is the last time Lester is mentioned. He is used as a bald headed Honey Boo Boo.

It is ironic that Lester is this famous, forty four years after his term in office ended. There are many bad things you can say about Mr. Maddox. However, Georgia survived both him, and smiling Jimmy, as Governor. It is highly unlikely that anyone will know who this Pence person is in forty four years.

The second part of this feature is a previously published piece about Lester Maddox. PG was twelve when Lester was elected, and has many memories of the four years that followed. The post goes into some of the mixed feelings, and tells a couple of stories. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”.

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There has never been a politician like Lester Garfield Maddox. He was elected Governor of Georgia (with help of a quirk in the state constitution) in 1966. PG was 12 at the time, and saw the spectacle of the next four years with amazement.

Before we get started on this, we should remember a couple of things. Lester Maddox became notorious when he shut down his restaurant, The Pickrick, rather than serve a black customer. He was a segregationist, which means he did not want black people to have the same rights as white people. Looking back from 2020, it seems incredible that civil rights legislation was needed, 56 years ago, so that 30% of Georgia could eat in a restaurant. PG does not condone the actions, and attitudes, of Lester Maddox, or the people who supported him.

There is style, and there is substance. While the substance of Lester may have been horrible, the style was a sight to behold. He could ride a bicycle backwards, and did so whenever a crowd was there to watch. (PG saw this at halftime of the Peach Bowl.) Lester was on The Joe Pyne Show and The Dick Cavett Show, and walked off of both.

This section from a previous post tells one story. The Governor was speaking to a group of reporters. He was announcing the appointment of a Black man to a Selective Service Board.. The reporter said it was the first Black man to serve on a draft board since reconstruction. What did the Governor think about this? The Governor said “Gee”

The screen returned to the Channel Five newsroom. The men at the desks were all laughing. The weatherman looked up at the camera and said “That’s a tough act to follow”
Whatever you might say about Lester Maddox…and there is no shortage of bad things to say…there has never been a public official that entertaining. As for being a tough act to follow, the next Governor was Jimmy Carter. As for the weatherman, PG saw him in a parking lot once. It was raining heavily. The “Gray Ghost” looked at PG with an ironic smile, as if to say “I am sorry”. The weatherman, Guy Sharpe, is on the right in the picture below this post. He is signing a book.

In 1970, the Governor of Georgia could not succeed himself. Lester ran for Lt. Governor, and spent the next four years feuding with Governor Jimmy Carter. Lester ran for a second term in 1974, and was trounced by George Busbee. (The slogan: “Elect a work horse, not a show horse.”) When Jimmy ran for President in 1976, Lester made a point of badmouthing Jimmy. In his own way, Lester Maddox helped Jimmy Carter get elected President.

Lester appeared on the Joe Pyne show. Lester was later on the Dick Cavett show. Another Cavett guest was Truman Capote. After Lester walked off the show, Mr. Capote said, in his own inimitable way, “I ate at his restaurant one time, and all I have to say is, it was not finger licking good”.

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One Response

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  1. Harry Hay And Joe Pyne | Chamblee54 said, on January 16, 2021 at 7:44 am

    […] before his death in 1970. One of his guests was Georgia Governor Lester Maddox. While writing a blog post about Lester, PG did a bit of research on Joe Pyne. Wikipedia had an intruiging comment. “Gay activists […]


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