Marvin Griffin ran for governor as a staunch segregationist, but when it came to actually defying federal orders, as he said, “being in jail kind of crimps a governor’s style.”
Griffin was born in 1907 in Bainbridge and was elected governor in 1954, six months after the Supreme Court’s decision that outlawed segregated schools. Griffin promised to close Georgia’s schools rather than integrate and segregated schools continued until 1961.
Griffin also promised not to raise state taxes, a promise he didn’t keep, but he managed to pave 12,000 miles of Georgia roads while boosting the education budget and raising teacher salaries. Griffin built a new science complex at the University of Georgia, a nuclear reactor at Georgia Tech, and purchased Stone Mountain for use as a state park. He was tainted by charges of corruption by the time he left office in 1959, and his political career was over.
The man who promised to keep Georgia segregated “come hell or high water” took the oath as Georgia’s governor on January 11, 1955, Today in Georgia History.
Today in Georgia History is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.