Georgia Department of Agriculture

Commissioner Eugene Talmadge, 1927 - 1933

Commissioner Eugene Talmadge

Eugene Talmadge was born on the family farm near Forsyth on September 23, 1884, to Carrie Roberts and Thomas R. Talmadge. After attending the University of Georgia and briefly teaching, Talmadge returned to Athens to earn a law degree in 1907. While at UGA, Talmadge was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity. He practiced law briefly in Atlanta before moving to Ailey and then Mt. Vernon to start his own practice. In 1909 he married Mattie Thurmond Peterson; they had three children: Margaret, Vera, and Herman Eugen (Georgia's 70th Governor). The Talmadges would later move to Telfair County.

After holding minor offices in Telfair County, Talmadge made unsuccessful runs for state legislative office in 1920 and 1922. He finally won state elective office by defeating Commissioner of Agriculture J. J. Brown in 1926. Talmadge was overwhelmingly reelected in 1928 and 1930. He used the department's newspaper, The Market Bulletin, to give advice to farmers on how to improve their farming skills and operations. But more importantly, Talmadge used the paper to express his views on political issues and to present himself as an outspoken advocate for the farmers. He extolled the virtues of a laissez-faire economic policy and individual action to improve the well-being of farmers.

Still popular with his rural constituency, Talmadge considered running for higher political office in 1932. Talmadge entered the Democratic Party's crowded gubernatorial primary and won without a runoff. He promised to run the government economically, balance the state budget, lower utility rates, reduce the price of automobile tags to three dollars, and recognize the state highway board. In the 1934 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Talmadge easily won reelection, carrying every county but three.

A controversial and colorful politician, Eugene Talmadge played a leading role in the state's politics from 1926 to 1946. During his three terms as state commissioner of agriculture and three terms as governor, his personality and actions polarized voters into Talmadge and anti-Talmadge factions in the state's one-party politics of that era. He was elected to a fourth term as the state's chief executive in 1946 but died on December 21 before taking office. To date only Governor Joseph E. Brown and Eugene Talmadge have been elected four times as Governor of Georgia.

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