Turning Point

Former President Jimmy Carter not only describes his 1962 campaign for the Georgia state senate but also places that campaign in a regional and national context. At a time when the nation seemed poised to effect changes in education (in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court had found “separate but equal” unconstitutional) and in politics (in 1962 in Baker v. Carr, the Court had ruled in favor of “one man, one vote”), Carter’s eventually successful race was achieved despite the opposition of forces committed to white supremacy and the rural domination of government. Although his ostensible opponent was Homer Moore, Carter’s real adversary was Joe Hurst, a shrewd political boss who used old-boy networks, patronage, and election fraud to elect his candidates and maintain his power.

Carter describes his campaign, his loss due to ballot-stuffing, his appeals to the Georgia Democratic party, his courtroom battles, and his eventual victory; but he seems less interested in events than in the context in which the campaign was conducted. He discusses family political ties, the Talmadge political machine, racism and its effect on his business, the county unit system, the political clout of civic clubs, and the influence of the liberal ATLANTA JOURNAL. In effect, the campaign serves as a microcosm that mirrored political developments throughout the South.

Carter’s book does not end with his winning his seat in the Georgia state senate; in an appendix, he demonstrates his continuing concerns with fairness and equal opportunity. Carter’s current “campaign” is the Atlanta Project, which is dedicated to solving the problems of urban poverty and to combating the resurgence of segregation and discrimination that has occurred since 1980. Carter recommends increased dialogue between civic leaders, prospective employers, and would-be workers and calls for a volunteer effort similar to that which made Habitat for Humanity successful.