Eugene Talmadge served as governor of Georgia from 1933 to 1937 and 1941 to 1943. Elected to another term in 1946, he died before inauguaration, sparking the "three governors" controvery.
After attending classes at the University of Georgia he graduated from the law school. He tried running for the Georgia state legislature from McRae, Georgia (Telfair County), but lost. Elected State Agriculture commissioner in 1926 he served in that capacity until 1932. During his service he was rebuked by the state legislature for repeatedly abusing the office.
In 1932, Governor Richard B. Russell, Jr.
decided to run for the U. S. Senate. Talmadge ran for Governor, winning a majority of the county unit votes in the Democratic primary. He was re-elected in 1934.
Over the years, Talmadge learned to use Georgia's county-unit voting system to his best advantage, both in how he ran his election and how he governed, frequently to the benifit of rural Georgia counties at the expense of the larger counties with significant black population. He showed serious disregard for the office of the President. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
wondered why no blacks were being inducted into the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) in Georgia. Talmadge had ordered the workers not to accept blacks, although the unemployment rate was twice that of whites. When Roosevelt called him to talk about the problem, Talmadge refused to induct blacks. Roosevelt, in a friendly tone, told Talmadge that "...the federal government is getting ready to give away a good deal of money. If Georgia wants any, you will begin inducting blacks." Talmadge backed down, but when black enrollment later dropped, FDR did nothing.
Talmadge challenged Russell in the Democratic primary for Senator, but Russell easily defeated the governor. He also tried to unseat Senator Walter George in 1938.
During his third term he fired Walter Cocking, who had pointed out the disparity between black schools and white schools. The Regents board overrode the firing, terming it "unfair." Talmadge then fired 3 members of the Regents and replaced them with cronies who would do as ordered. The Southern Association of Colleges de-certified all Georgia state schools, leading to Talmadge's downfall in 1942.
Talmadge ran for Governor again in 1946. The "white only" Democratic primary had lost a challenge by the Reverend Primus King of Columbus and now 'Ol Gene' might have to change his tone to get elected, but Talmadge's 1946 campaign was as racist as all the others, including a pledge by Talmadge to re-institute the "white only" primary.
Talmadge lost the popular vote to James V. Carmichael but won a majority of the 'county unit votes'. However, he died in December 1946, before he could be sworn in for his fourth term; his death precipitated the 1947 "three governors" controversy between Arnall, Melvin E. Thompson and Talmadge's son Herman.