September 30

Lester Maddox

September 30, 1915 - Atlanta

He was a high school dropout who would be governor.

Born in Atlanta, Lester Maddox worked at the Bell Bomber factory in Marietta during World War II.  He opened the Pickrick Restaurant in Atlanta in 1947. It became the focal point of his fierce opposition to integration and civil rights. He famously chased black patrons away with an axe–handle and closed the restaurant in 1965, rather than integrate as required by law.

Maddox unsuccessfully ran for office three times before elected governor. His image as a violent racist repelled many voters. But his outspoken opposition to civil rights boosted his popularity statewide, and he won the 1966 election.

As governor, Maddox surprisingly appointed more African-Americans to state positions than all previous governors combined. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1971.

Before his death in 2003 at age 87, Maddox ran unsuccessfully for governor again, and ran for president as an independent in 1976, unapologetic to the end.

One of the most controversial figures in Georgia history was born on September 30, 1915, Today in Georgia History.