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Gene Talmage

November 15, 2006 Times Edition

The mid-term election is over. You probably won some and lost some, which puts you in the same boat with everybody else. Now, we need to grin and bear it, and move on.

As the curtain closes on the current political season, I close this series with a story from our sister state of Georgia. From the years of The Great Depression and into the 1950's, the political power of the Talmadge Family was legendary. The leader of the clan was Gene Talmadge, who rose to the Governor's office and stayed there. Other family members occupied state and national elective offices. It was a dynasty...

At a period when Georgia was ruled by rural votes, "Old Gene" campaigned in shirt sleeves and suspenders. He ridiculed his "city slicker" opponents to the delight of his supporters from the small farms. Years later, this story came from a member of the Talmadge family, and there is little doubt that it's true.

Talmadge was up for election to another term, and made his customary personal visit to every courthouse in Georgia. An advance team preceded him, made current inquiries, and advised Talmadge on the best person to represent him in the county. This time around, the advisors chose an elderly man known as "Uncle Bud." A native of the small County in Southeast Georgia, Bud spent a lot of time hanging around the little courthouse, and was well known and liked.

"Governor Gene" greeted him in a private courthouse room. After getting acquainted, he said, "Now Bud, I don't tend to other people's personal business, but I can't help noticing that you look like you might be a little 'down' on your luck. Could you use a good part-time state job?" Uncle Bud nodded in agreement. "How about Tag Inspector?" Talmadge suggested – "Oh Yes," Bud said, "That would be just right!" "Do you have a way to get around?" the Governor asked. Uncle Bud replied that he had an old pickup truck which still worked. "Then the deal is done" said Talmadge. "I'll be watching the returns...When we win, come to see me in Atlanta the next day." The two men shook hands and parted.

For weeks, Uncle Bud worked night and day, covering the county. Gene Talmadge received a record winning vote.

The following morning, the old man put on a pressed shirt, his best pair of overalls, and brushed his black felt hat. He climbed into the truck and pointed it toward Atlanta....

Arriving at the capitol, he had hoped to be greeted by Talmadge instead, he was met by a security guard who finally escorted him to a large room filled with people. He didn't recognize anyone. Uncle Bud sat and waited all day and well into the evening. At last, a guard told him that it was his turn to meet with Governor Talmadge---

The Governor came from his desk to embrace him. "Uncle Bud," he said, "I have the returns from your county before me. What a great job you performed! I don't know how I can ever thank you enough for your good work!

They discussed the campaign at length, along with the weather and local crop prices. The old man decided to get to the point. "Governor Gene," He said, "I know you're very busy and have a lot on your mind. I need to know what job you picked out for me. Tag Inspector would be fine, but I'll work where ever you say."

Talmadge was silent. His expression became serious. "Uncle Bud," he asked, "Did you look over that crowd out there?" Bud nodded. "Well, I promised a state job to every single one of them. It turns out that I miscounted. There aren't enough jobs to go around." The Governor rose
from his chair and walked in front of his desk. "Come to me, and let me put my hands on your shoulders." Bud did as he was told – "Now, look at me. When I PROMISED you a job, I told you and OUTRIGHT LIE!"

The ancient truck limped back to the remote Georgia village. After a day or two, Uncle Bud met with his cronies at the coffee shop. His friends applauded as he approached the table. "Well Bud, we've been waiting. There's no use for you to check our truck tags. They're all
up to date! Ha! Tell us when you start!"

"Boys," he said, "I reckon I got disappointed. I didn't get a job."........

"What!?!"...."Are you telling us that you did all that work , hauled all those voters, and now you get nothing!?! That lying sneaking old rascal ought to be horsewhipped!"

Uncle Bud considered that verdict for a few moments, but then said "Now hold on boys, and let me say this: Old Gene has his faults, but when all is said and done and it comes down to the end, that man will put his hands on your shoulders, look you in the eye and tell you the TRUTH!"

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