Jimmy Carter first ran for governor in 1966 as a moderate, losing to Lester Maddox. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.
In 1970, Carter ran as the candidate of the ordinary guy, making not-so-subtle racial appeals to white conservative Georgians. In the Democratic primary, he denounced former Governor Carl Sanders as a crony of Atlanta liberals and chastised him for not inviting Alabama segregationist Governor George Wallace to Georgia.
After winning, Carter did an about face during his inaugural address by denouncing racism and segregation. Outgoing Governor Lester Maddox said Georgians had been deceived and betrayed by Carter during his campaign. But the man from Plains kept his word, promoting an ambitious reform agenda that streamlined state government. He appointed more women and minorities to state positions than all his predecessors combined.
The nation took notice, and five years before his successful presidential campaign, Time magazine featured the new Georgia governor on its cover with the caption “Dixie Whistles a Different Tune,” on May 31, 1971, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.