November 17

Three Governors Controversy

November 17, 1948 - Atlanta

It was one of the most bizarre political episodes in American history. For a brief period of time in 1947, Georgia had three governors.

Eugene Talmadge won election to a fourth term as Georgia’s governor in 1946, but died before his inauguration. To fill the vacancy, Eugene’s son, Herman, was appointed by the state Legislature. But the anti-Talmadge Melvin Thompson had been elected to the newly created office of lieutenant governor, and he claimed to be governor as well.

With no clear winner, outgoing governor Ellis Arnall—also anti-Talmadge–refused to vacate the office. Fistfights broke out, and after the legislature chose Herman Talmadge, he ordered state troopers to remove Arnall from the governor’s office.

At one point, both men occupied the governor’s suite and Herman changed the locks. With tensions mounting, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that Thompson was acting governor until a special election was held in September 1948, which Talmadge won easily.

The controversy solidified the Talmadge dynasty in Georgia when Herman was sworn in as governor on November 17, 1948, Today in Georgia History.