He’s the only person who ever beat Gene Talmadge.
Ellis Arnall was born in Newnan in 1907. He earned a degree in Greek from the University of the South, and a law degree from the University of Georgia. He was a young man on the rise: elected to the state legislature at 25 and attorney general at 31.
After Gov. Eugene Talmadge’s meddling with the Board of Regents cost Georgia’s state colleges their accreditation, Arnall ran for governor in 1942 and won.
As governor, Arnall couldn’t have been more different from Talmadge. He championed progressive reforms in education and prisons; revised the state constitution, abolished the poll tax, lowered the voting age, and erased the state’s $36 million debt without raising taxes. The legislature approved his 10-point reform program within 24 days of his taking office—a record that still stands.
Constitutionally limited to one term, Arnall never held office again, but his legacy has lasted. One of Georgia’s most effective governors ever was born on March 20, 1907, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.