Carl Sanders

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Carl Sanders
Carl Sanders.jpg
74th Governor of Georgia
In office
January 15, 1963 – January 11, 1967
Lieutenant Peter Geer
Preceded by Ernest Vandiver
Succeeded by Lester Maddox
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
Member of the Georgia Senate
In office
Personal details
Born Carl Edward Sanders
(1925-05-15)May 15, 1925
Augusta, Georgia
Died November 16, 2014(2014-11-16) (aged 89)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Resting place Westover Memorial Park, Augusta, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Betty Bird Foy
Alma mater University of Georgia
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1943–1945
Unit U.S. Army Air Corps
Battles/wars World War II

Carl Edward Sanders Sr. (May 15, 1925 – November 16, 2014) was an American attorney and politician who served as the 74th Governor of the state of Georgia from 1963 to 1967.

Early life and education

Sanders was born in Augusta in Richmond County in eastern Georgia, and attended the University of Georgia at Athens on a football scholarship. A backup, left-handed quarterback, Sanders received little playing time, which prompted coach Wally Butts to recount years later, "Carl, if I had known you were going to be governor, I'd have played you more."[citation needed] He was a member of the Chi Phi fraternity, Order of the Greek Horsemen, Gridiron Secret Society and the Phi Kappa Literary Society. He left to fight in World War II, enlisting in the United States Army Air Corps in 1943 and became a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber pilot. After the war, he returned to complete his bachelor's and law degrees.


In 1954, Sanders won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. In 1956, he was elected to the Georgia Senate and served two years as president pro tempore of the chamber.

In the 1962 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Sanders defeated former Governor Marvin Griffin. Sanders received 494,978 votes (58.7 percent) to Griffin's 332,746 (39 percent).[1] Thereafter, Griffin largely retired from politics. Sanders was the first Georgia governor from an urban area since the 1920s. He was the first modern Georgia governor nominated in the Democratic primary by the popular vote after the abolition of the County Unit System, a kind of electoral college formerly used to elect Georgia governors. When Mr. Sanders became governor in 1963 - age 37, he was the youngest in the nation at the time. [2]

As governor, Sanders worked to improve education and the environment and led the transition toward racial desegregation, cooperating with U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson on complying with civil rights laws.

Under the term limit law then in effect, Sanders was ineligible to run for re-election in 1966. In the general election campaign that year, he endorsed Democratic nominee Lester Maddox, a segregationist, as his successor though the two had disagreed on many issues. At the Democratic State Convention in Macon on October 15, 1966, Sanders told the delegates: "A man should be loyal to his country, his family, to his God and to his political party -- and don't you ever forget it."[3]

In his speech, Sanders likened Maddox's Republican opponent, U.S. Representative Howard Callaway, to the "arrogance of Richard Nixon, the chameleon ability of Ronald Reagan to switch rather than fight, and the callous concern for human needs that is a throwback to McKinley, Harding, and Coolidge."[4] The Marietta Daily Journal said that Sanders in supporting Maddox had glorified party at the expense of statecraft.[5] Callaway criticized Sanders for mishandling the state budget surplus, a position which weakened the Republican among anti-Maddox moderate voters.[6] Callaway led Maddox in the popular vote but failed to win a majority, and the Democratic-controlled Georgia General Assembly chose Maddox as governor.

Sanders left office at the peak of his popularity and turned down several offers from President Johnson. Instead he returned to mount an unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1970 against future U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who was accused by some[according to whom?] of employing race-baiting tactics to defeat Sanders in the Democratic primary. Fifty-three newspapers throughout the state endorsed Sanders and only one major daily (the Columbus Enquirer) backed Carter.[7] Carter's campaign criticized Sanders for paying tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and distributed grainy photographs of Sanders arm-in-arm with two black men. At the time, Sanders was part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, and the two black men were Hawks players celebrating after a victory.[8] Carter won both the gubernatorial primary and the general election (Maddox, ineligible to run for re-election as governor in 1970, successfully ran for lieutenant governor that year).

Later life and death

After the loss in the primary to Carter, Sanders left electoral politics to concentrate on the practice of law. He served as chairman of the law firm of Troutman Sanders LLP for thirty years, and in 2007 became the firm's chairman emeritus. He died in Atlanta on November 16, 2014 at the age of 89, after a fall at his home.[9][10]

In recognition of his role in encouraging the construction and expansion of airports in Georgia, he was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997.[11]


  1. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, p. 1677
  2. ^ Yardley, William (November 18, 2014). "Carl Sanders, 89, Dies; Led Georgia in '60s" – via
  3. ^ Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South, XXXI (1987-1988), p. 42
  4. ^ Atlanta History, p. 42
  5. ^ Marietta Daily Journal, October 4, 1966
  6. ^ Atlanta History, p. 42
  7. ^
  8. ^ David Freddoso, "Jimmy Carter's racist campaign of 1970" Washington Examiner, September 16, 2009
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  10. ^ Yardley, William (November 18, 2014). "Carl Sanders, 89, Dies; Led Georgia in '60s" – via
  11. ^ "Carl E. Sanders". Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2017-06-02. Retrieved October 9, 2018.

External links

  • Profile on Troutman Sanders
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Vandiver
Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia
1962, 1966
Succeeded by
Lester Maddox
Political offices
Preceded by
Ernest Vandiver
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Lester Maddox
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