Our Georgia History

1966 Election for Governor of Georgia
September 15, 1966 In one of the tightest races for governor in the history of the state, Ellis Arnell, Lester Maddox, Jimmy Carter and James Grey all finish with more than 150,000 votes. Arnell and Maddox are forced into a run-off
  Jimmy Carter
  1966 Election for Governor of Georgia
  Lester Maddox
September 28, 1966 Lester Maddox defeats Ellis Arnell in a Democratic run-off. Arnell announces he will run for governor as a third-party candidate
  1966 Election for Governor of Georgia
  Lester Maddox
November 8, 1966 No one wins the Election for governor of Georgia. "Bo" Callaway, Republican, wins the popular vote but not a majority, thanks to Ellis Arnell's third party run for the position. According to Georgia law at the time the legislature must decide the outcome. They choose segregationist Lester Maddox (Democrat) to the lead the state. Final totals in the election: Howard H. "Bo" Callaway: 449,894 (47.07%) Lester G. Maddox: 448,044 (46.88%) Ellis G. Arnall: 57,832 (6.05%)
  Lester Maddox
  1966 Election for Governor of Georgia
December 5, 1966 The U.S. Supreme Court hears the case involving the election of the Governor of Georgia.
  1966 Election for Governor of Georgia
December 12, 1966 U. S. Supreme Court overturns a lower court ruling, permitting the election of the governor of Georgia by a vote in the Georgia legislature.
  1966 Election for Governor of Georgia

Controversy reigned in the 1966 Georgia election. A wide field of Democratic contenders included future President Jimmy Carter, former Governor Ellis Arnall and segregationist Lester Maddox. Going into the Democratic primary, Arnall was favored, winning the popular vote by 45,000. Unfortunately, he did not win a majority, thanks to unexpectedly strong runs by Jimmy Carter and James Gray.

Carter did not pull enough votes, however, to come in second. That place went to segregationist Lester Maddox, who had shot to fame a couple of years earlier when he closed his Pickrick Restaurant rather than serve African-American patrons. Ellis Arnall's past was about to come back to haunt him.

It seems that Gene and Herman Talmadge supporters had never gotten over Arnall's role in the three-governors controversy, or the defeat of good ol' country boy Gene in 1942 by Arnall, a polished millionaire lawyer. Arnall effectively dismantled the machine Talmadge had created by introducing a merit system for state employees and abolishing the poll tax, a favored means of keeping African-American voters away from the polls. Talmadge supporters backing Maddox also drew support thanks to the riots that occurred in Atlanta earlier in the month.

Combining these elements with a large Republican crossover vote, Maddox supporters managed to defeat Arnall in the run-off election two weeks later. Republicans believed that Maddox was so unappealing to moderate Democrats that they would not vote for him.

Moderate Republican "Bo" Callaway stood a good chance of becoming the first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Gallup polls had him leading by wide margins even in the last week before the election. Georgia's "yellow dog" Democrats could not vote Republican, even if other Southern states had started to, and the Democratic candidate was so distasteful. Callaway drew 47% of the vote to Maddox's 46.9%

Unlike the primary, governor's races did not have run-off elections. The duty to elect the next governor fell on the legislature. Led by Speaker George Leon Smith II, the legislature chose Lester Maddox governor.

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