FDR’s Controversial Speech in Barnesville
Sometimes even the best politicians can make big mistakes. President Franklin Roosevelt took a risk on this day in 1938 in Barnesville, Georgia. Giving a speech, he openly campaigned against Georgia Senator Walter George, who was sitting directly behind him.
Running for re–election, George had become an outspoken opponent of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs. The Democratic primary that summer pitted George against former Governor Eugene Talmadge, a fierce New Deal critic, and Lawrence Camp, a strong pro–Roosevelt New Dealer. FDR urged Georgians to vote for Camp, confident they would follow his lead. He had made regular visits to Georgia since his first visit to Warm Springs in 1924 for polio treatment, and he had strong support across the state, but Roosevelt miscalculated; voters resented his attack. Senator George easily won the primary and re–election in November. FDR’s margin of victory in Georgia in his third and fourth terms fell considerably from his earlier wins.
The popularity of even the most beloved presidents has its limits, as FDR found out on August 11, 1938, Today in Georgia History.