Lester!
The strange but true tale of Georgia's unlikeliest governor

by Hal Jacobs, Creative Loafing, March 20, 1999

"Why would Jimmy do such a thing?" says Lester Maddox.

The 83-year-old former governor of Georgia is squatting in front of the TV in his den, balancing on his knees like a baseball catcher behind home plate. Jimmy, of course, is former President Jimmy Carter.

Maddox watches a 1997 videotape of Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" in which Carter, between a smile and a grimace, confesses that God has abandoned him twice during his life. Once following his father's death, once after he lost Georgia's 1966 Democratic gubernatorial primary.

"The guy that beat me," Carter explains, "was Lester Maddox, a racist who won the race because he would stand in front of his restaurant with a pick handle and anybody who came up that was black, he would beat him over the head with it."

Maddox shakes his head. In a quiet voice, his eyes still focused on the TV, he says, "Nobody ever got hit with a pick handle at my restaurant."

"Nobody ever swung anything," he says. Not him, not his friends, not his 20 white employees, not his 40 black employees. A racist? "Would a racist hire 40 African-Americans?" he asks. Would a racist appoint more blacks to state government during his term in office than any Georgia governor before him?

Would a racist, asks Bob Short, Maddox's former press secretary, join up with a black musician and play nightclubs for 20 months under the headline of "The Governor and the Dishwasher"?

"There are two Lester Maddoxes," says the former governor, who often refers to himself in the third person. "One created by God -- one created by the media." If he believed all the cruel things said about him over the years, he wouldn't have voted for himself either.

So why would Jimmy Carter, after all he's been through -- globetrotting for peace and human rights, all that nasty business with the 62 American hostages in Iran -- still be bothered by a little guy named Lester Maddox?

Maddox is slightly bewildered and more than a little tickled. He's always enjoyed his role as political outsider, the thorn in the side, the mouse who stampedes elephants. Maddox has been a burr under the saddles of many Georgians, black and white, ever since he ran for mayor of Atlanta in 1957 and lost, then ran again and lost, then ran for lieutenant governor and lost, then ran for governor in 1966, and -- to the surprise of everyone but God and Lester Garfield Maddox -- won.

I recently spent an afternoon with Maddox at his home in Marietta. I was curious to see if the "ardent segregationist" of the 1960s had mellowed with age. Or if he had become more acidic. Or, perhaps, politically correct like conservative politicians Rep. Bob Barr and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who got into hot media water recently by hanging out with the pro-white Council of Conservative Citizens, later saying they had no idea who they were sitting down to chicken dinner with.

Over the telephone, Maddox sounds frail but sharp.

"I'm alive, thank God," he says. "I've got a bad aorta valve, cancer in my ear, a bad colon, two cancer operations, and I lost my precious wife." His voice cracks at the mention of Virginia Maddox, who died 21 months ago.

Maddox has lived on Johnson Ferry Road since 1978. The farm and pastures across the street are gone, replaced by a strip center parking lot anchored by Blockbuster video. From the Blockbuster entrance, customers renting Something About Mary look across the busy four-lane to the governor's lawn and porch. The only clues that inside the plain, brick suburban ranch house lives one of Georgia's most colorful politicians are flagpoles bearing the U.S. and Georgia colors -- and a hand-painted sign along the driveway.

The first half of the sign reads: "Thanks be to God he has given me my precious Virginia for 61 years as of May 9, '97." And below, in more flowing letters: "and God took her from me and carried her home 45 days later."

The first part was a "welcome home" surprise for Virginia on the day she was brought back from the hospital. Maddox added the postcript shortly after her death.

The sign has a Howard Finster quality about it, as do other Maddox "art installations" over the years, including his mock grave to the "World's Greatest Health Care" and a three-story, white frame tower ("monument to the death of free enterprise") he once built on the parking lot of his restaurant. Like the Summerville, Ga., folk artist, Maddox has never held back from pouring out his heart and need for salvation in public. They both also have strikingly similar backgrounds: born in 1915, fashioned careers as "outsiders" and dedicated their lives to a code of God, country and hard work.

Maddox greets me at the side door of the attached garage. Thanks to a macrobiotic diet and a passion for carrot juice, he looks trim. He's dressed somewhat formally in a white dress shirt with cufflinks, a tie and dark slacks. He's instantly recognizable by the trademark black-rimmed glasses, the bald dome and the ears -- called "jug ears" in less sensitive times -- which have always lent him a disarming, Snow-White-elf appearance.

The combination of those distinctive features and a cocky grin makes for one of the most recognizable icons in Georgia history. Maddox was God's gift to editorial cartoonists - as well as to himself. He still wears one of the 17-jewel signature Lester wristwatchs -- "a quality watch, not like that trash Wallace sold" - that he sold at the souvenir shop he ran during the '70s in Underground Atlanta. On the dial is a caricature of Lester riding backwards on a bicycle. The letters in his name spell out the hours. The hour hand is a chicken drumstick, a pick handle tells the minutes.

The pick handle. It takes a peculiar sense of irony to laugh at the pick handle, which became, thanks to Maddox, an internationally known symbol of brute force on the side of white segregationists. At first, the handle was a decoration near the fireplace at the Pickrick restaurant, which Maddox built in 1947 alongside Northside Drive and Georgia Tech in the steel-mill neighborhood where he was raised. At the Pickrick, customer could "pick" their food and Maddox's employees would "rick," or pile, it up. Good food at rock-bottom prices attracted a large working-class following. So did Maddox's quirky, homespun advertisements in the Atlanta newspapers, which always began with "Pickrick says ... ." Over 17 years and many 16-hour work days in which Virginia Maddox and the four children pulled their share of the load, the restaurant evolved into a cafeteria big enough to seat 400 diners - 400 white diners, that is.

When African-Americans tried to integrate the restaurant in April 1964, after an unsuccessful attempt the year before, Lester "Pickrick" Maddox put the pick handles -- and a high-pressure water hose -- to another use. No, he and his employees never assaulted anyone, but on July 3, 1964, Maddox did swing a handle and bash the car roof of a black minister. He also waved a pistol and was hauled into court on gun charges, but was later acquitted by an all-white jury.

By not serving blacks in his restaurant, Maddox says he was merely exercising one of the rights of private ownership guaranteed all Americans by the Constitution. When he closed the restaurant rather than integrate under a federal injunction, he said that "my President, my Congress and the Communists have closed my business and ended a childhood dream."

It was never solely about race, Maddox says; it was about free enterprise. But because he had injected ugly race talk into his earlier political campaigns for mayor, his racial views now colored everything. Instead of the media covering the story about the little guy who defended his restaurant against the big, bad government, reporters covered the story of the little, white racist threatening black ministers and college students with ax handles.

To his blue-collar customers, who bought thousands of red handles known as "Pickrick drumsticks," Maddox became a folk hero. To the Atlanta business and social elite, he became the bumbling redneck who tarnished the reputation of "The City Too Busy To Hate." To the media, Maddox became the archetype of the Southern racist businessman, albeit a quick-witted one who was always available for a sound byte or a platter of delicious fried chicken, as he circulated through the restaurant, shaking hands and entertaining customers. State Rep. Billy McKinney of Atlanta remembers shaking Maddox's hand in 1964.

"He was selling his ax handles, and we went out to the place there, out to the Pickrick, and I fooled him. I grabbed his hand to shake it, and I wouldn't turn it loose. I had him. He had a little .22 or a little .25 or something -- one of those little, bitty guns -- and he tried to get his gun.

"But I held his hand. And I told him, 'I got your goddamn hand.'"

Years later, the pick handle resurfaced when Rev. Hosea Williams, former state representative and assistant to Martin Luther King Jr., introduced a bill to give the former governor a state pension. (By all accounts, Maddox left the governor's office more impoverished than any modern governor. He never parlayed his connections into high-paying consultant work or corporate board appointments.) On the day the bill was to be discussed, however, McKinney brought an axe handle to remind fellow legislators why Maddox didn't deserve a pension.

"Maddox was a segregationist and an obstruction to black progress," McKinney says, taking a break from this year's legislative session. "Had he prevailed, we'd still be segregated. And I don't want anybody to forget that."

The bill was defeated, much to the chagrin of Williams, who says he doesn't know of any other elected state official who spent eight years in office without drawing a dime of state pension. Williams has always seen a different side of Maddox.

"Lester Maddox did more for black people than any governor in the history of Georgia," Williams says. "He talked that racist talk, but the walk he walked was much different."

He lists Maddox's accomplishments. During his one term, which lasted from 1967 to 1971, Maddox appointed the first African-American to head a state department (the Board of Corrections). He also named the first black GBI agent, the first black state trooper and the first blacks to draft boards. He integrated the lines of farmer's markets throughout the state. He ordered state troopers to address African-Americans without using the "N" word. He expanded food stamp programs from 13 to 158 counties.

McKinney has one word for all that: "tokenism."

James Cook, professor of history at Floyd College in Rome, Ga., and author of The Governors of Georgia, sides with Williams.

"Maddox is a misunderstood, unique person," Cook said last month on the telephone. "He was not as anti-black as it was perceived. He genuinely believed in state's rights."

Cook doesn't believe Georgia has ever had a more unlikely governor. He writes that Maddox lacked legal training, a college education (Maddox dropped out after eleventh grade), political experience, family prominence, professional distinction, financial backing, military service, inhibitions and guile. And, if that's not enough, he adds that Maddox was "physically unimpressive."

So how did he become the first man to move into the new governor's mansion on West Paces Ferry Road?

Maddox says it was simply a "divine mission." Cook describes a weird chain of events in which the unthinkable happened.

After the closing of the Pickrick made Maddox a national symbol of defiance, he edged out progressive candidates Jimmy Carter and Ellis Arnall in the Democratic primary. Two weeks later, he pulled off a major upset in the runoff against the overconfident Arnall -- a highly regarded former governor. Some Democrats grumbled that thousands of Republicans crossed over in the runoff to vote for the weaker candidate, Maddox, because they figured he'd be easier to beat later on.

After the primary, Martin Luther King Jr. said he was "ashamed to be a Georgian." Republicans could already smell their victory over the backward-bicycle-riding yahoo who drove his stationwagon everywhere tacking up "Maddox Country" signs. They had a strong candidate in the person of conservative textile heir Bo Callaway. Democrats, running scared, mounted a huge write-in campaign for Arnall. It was a close race.

In the general election, Calloway edged Maddox by only 3,000 votes, but Georgia law required a majority, so the election was turned over to the heavily Democratic State House of Representatives, which decided in favor of Maddox.

Liberals predicted disaster. In Cook's words, they were "expecting severe persecution of blacks, race riots, bitter confrontations with the federal government and possibly the collapse of state government."

What they heard at the governor's inaugural address was far different. Maddox reassured everyone that his "administration will be one of compassion and concern."

Bob Short help draft the speech. "Lester Maddox was a riddle to liberals and educated people," he told me recently over lunch in Brookhaven. "They didn't understand him, so they didn't trust him."

By some strange twist of fate, Short, a former sports writer who always considered himself politically progressive, became Maddox's press secretary.

Short has written a biography of Maddox -- he describes it as a collection of anecdotes -- which will be published this fall by Mercer University Press. He says he wrote the book to offer students and scholars another side of Maddox, one that balances out "the ardent segregationist" they read about in most history books. The title of the book is Everything's Pickrick, which was a Maddox expression meaning everything was OK.

And Maddox's term might have been remembered as largely OK if not for one noteworthy event. Despite his political inexperience, Maddox achieved major reforms in the prison system and health care. Everyone agrees that he was a good judge of character; among those who got career boosts in his administration were future Gov. Zell Miller and future Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, both of whom he appointed as executive secretaries, and future House Speaker Tom Murphy, who was his House floor leader.

But his undoing, what may have cost him a chance at being remembered as Georgia's true-blue populist governor, is the way he mishandled the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 9, 1968. Maddox, who considered King "an enemy of our country," refused to attend the ceremony or close state government for the day. He even considered personally raising the flags outside the Capitol that were at half-mast, but journalists say the presence of news cameras made him back away. As 200,000 mourners walked peacefully through downtown, Maddox holed up in the Capitol with 160 riot-helmeted state troopers, waiting for a blood bath that never happened.

Because Georgia's governors weren't allowed to succeed themselves in those days, Maddox ran for lieutenant governor in 1970 and won easily. With his support, Jimmy Carter was elected governor and, not long after, began planning a bid for the White House in '76.

In 1974, when Maddox was favored to win a return trip to the governor's mansion, he was swamped in a Democratic primary runoff by state Rep. George Busbee, the kind of business-oriented, moderate conservative who has since dominated Georgia politics. It was the last time Maddox was taken seriously as a candidate for elective office.

As we walk through his kitchen, Maddox explains that the house is just as his wife left it, but messy. Actually, the kitchen is spotless. Chickpeas and short-grain rice simmer on the stove. The rest of the den looks like a country boutique. Rugs, decanters, stuffed dolls, commemorative plates, rocking chairs and recliners. A Royal manual typewriter commands a cluttered dining table near a calendar photo of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. On a nearby counter are 1,100 pages of Maddox's FBI file -- the Feds won't let him have the other 200 pages. Formal family photographs of the Maddoxes crowd the wall behind the TV, then overflow onto the fireplace mantle at the far end. In front of the hearth is a formal oil painting of Virginia, dressed in a white evening gown. Next to Maddox's burgundy recliner is his "shrine to his wife": a matching recliner with three Bibles on its seat, one of them a gift from the 1975 Georgia Legislature. Small, framed photos of Virginia Maddox line the headrest.

He hands me the reading materials -- a press kit of sorts -- that he's put together for my visit. One stack, I can take home with me. It includes news clippings with his comments oftentimes typed in the margin, state Senate and House resolutions honoring him, and a letter he mailed to each of the 100 U.S. senators dated January 18, 1999. Halfway through the letter, Maddox asks: "Don't you sincerely believe that President Clinton is an amoral and/or mentally ill person?"

The other stack are originals that can't leave the room. "Nobody else has ever seen them," he says, adding that I am free to make notes from them or record them on a tape recorder. Later, I find many of the anecdotes, asides, digressions, medical reports and strange-but-true Maddox facts in a promotional pamphlet, "Prelude to One of a Kind," which he handed out in 1994 to drum up excitement for the autobiography he planned to write and still hopes to finish.

In the official Maddox version of his life, I see no mention of pick handles. In his den, there's no sign of them either. When asked by a photographer a few weeks later if he'd pose with a Pickrick drumstick, Maddox declines and says softly: "That wouldn't do any good."

Gov. Maddox reclines in the way-back position of his La-Z-Boy and studies the afternoon newspaper while I finish leafing through the press kit. The telephone rings frequently. He contributes to a few conservative causes, so he's always fending off more pleas for donations. With the help of friends, he retired his enormous political debts years ago. Now, he lives just above average financially, according to his daughter, Linda Sue Densmore. She and the doctors are mostly worried about his health, especially the ear cancer. Maddox stays in close touch with his children -- all four live only 20 to 40 minutes away. He also drives his Cadillac Brougham regularly to meet with old friends, attend church and eat an occasional dinner at a nearby Piccadilly Cafeteria, where his meals are occasionally interrupted by autograph seekers.

I ask if he's ever heard the 1974 Randy Newman song "Rednecks"? I read him the opening lines:

Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart-ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too.

Maddox shakes his head. "That's awful to write things like that just to sell something, isn't it?" What offends him most is Newman's crude reference to the Jewish man. Maddox says he occasionally attends synagogue with Jewish friends.

Does he still consider himself a segregationist? The answer is yes. He believes in the right to segregate one's business.

He proudly admits that he is an active member of the Council of Conservative Citizens -- the rightwing group that current politicians like Barr and Lott disavow when their links to the organization are exposed in the media. He opposes "the amalgamation of the races." He speaks out against the "New World Order."

No, he will not repent like George Wallace, who recanted at the end of his life and acknowledged that he did things for political gain. Maddox says he has no regrets, no need of repentance for anything he's done or said.

"I was Lester Maddox," he says. "How could I do anything different?"


Gov. Maddox's rebuttal of this article ("cruel, biased, untrue") in a 6-page, single-spaced letter to the author.

The following is Governor Maddox's second reply to my Creative Loafing article. The letter was six pages, single-spaced. This reply is more detailed than the first and zeroes in on his specific objections to the article.


August 9, 1999

Dear Mr. Jacobs:

I write now to acknowledge the letters I received from you and Mr. Ben (sic) Edelstein, Managing Editor of Creative Loafing, in response to my objection to the article you wrote about me that appeared in Creative Loafing, March 20, 1999. As you will recall, I objected to the numerous false statements that appeared in the article; which still stand as objectionable to me. Further, I am convinced that had someone written and caused to be published such false statements (in a major publication) about you two gentlemen - you would each object as I have done,

I am amazed and surprised that you both would oppose and have no sense of under- standing as to why I object to the lies and fiction that appeared in your story about me, especially in that they were presented to your readers as facts and truths. The front page and the featured message on Page 29 of the March 20, 1999 edition of Creative Loafing both declare the story to be "true". However, there are many false statements included, both by the writer and others.

The following includes excerpts from your article as it appeared in Creative Loafing of March 20, 1999, and my response to same:

From Creative Loafing-

When African-Americans tried to integrate the restaurant in April 1964, after an unsuccessful attempt the year before, Lester "Pickrick" Maddox put the pick handles - and a high-pressure water hose - to another use. No, he and his employees never assaulted anyone, but on July 3, 1964, Maddox did swing a handle and bash the car roof of a black minister. He also waved a pistol and was hauled into court on gun charges, but was later acquitted by an all-white jury.

Lester Maddox response - I have never owned a "high -pressure water hose …", not in any business I have owned, nor in any residence I have lived in. The pressure on any hose I have ever owned or used, or any of my employees may have used, was determined by the government agency that supplied the water. The second lie in the above excerpt is that "Lester 'Pickrick' Maddox put the pick handles - and a high-pressure water hose - to another use." I did not put the pick handles to another use. Mostly customers, with only a few employees, voluntarily removed the twelve Pickrick Drumsticks (pick handles) from the nail kegs on each side of the large dining room fireplace. They had been forewarned by the arrival of Atlanta's news media of an impending attempted invasion of our restaurant by the racial demonstrators and once the demonstrators and agitators arrived, the customers and employees pulled the drumsticks from the kegs and went outside to defend against the threatened invasion. The third lie - no water hose, "high pressure" or otherwise was put to use.

The civil rights agitators, on a previous occasion in the presence of Atlanta Police and others in downtown Atlanta, had shouted at me - "We will soon be coming out to your Pickrick and when we have finished with you you will be wiped out and won't have one dime left." Further, on the afternoon of July 3, 1964, me and my dear wife, Virginia, had gone home for our usual daily rest period when; Mr. Duncan, my assistant manager phoned and gave me an alarming and frightening message. Mr. Duncan stated, "Four black men just left the restaurant and became argumentive and questioned my truthfulness when I told them you and Mrs. Maddox had gone home for your usual afternoon rest." He then added, "One of the men remarked 'He hasn't gone home to rest. He is running from us but it won't do him any good. You tell Lester Maddox that we will be back at 5:30 P.M. and that if he is not afraid of us we expect to see him here."'

The message I received was so alarming and frightening that I had to return to The Pickrick; telling Virginia what I had learned and insisting, because of fear for her safety, that she remain at home. I had never owned or fired a pistol in all of my life, until I had recently purchased one after the public threat that was made in front of the news media and Atlanta police officers. It was that gun that I carried with me to my restaurant following the July 3, 1964 threat of the demonstrators. As an American I had the right to do what I deemed necessary to protect my life, the lives of others and my property and business - from those who had threatened me.

When those who had threatened me arrived on my property in a car, I demanded that they leave. They refused to leave and when one of the large men got out of the car and headed in my direction, I pulled my gun and demanded that he get back in the car and leave; which he and the others did. I lost my half-million dollars business and sold my property at a sacrifice but I have no regrets for having defended myself, my employees and my property from those who had not only threatened me, but had accused me of being scared and running from them.

The third lie in the above excerpt from Creative Loafing is "… on July 3, 1964, Maddox did swing a handle and bash the car roof of a black minister." Not on that day nor in all of my life have I ever hit anybody's car with a handle or any other instrument, nor have I ever threatened to do so.

From Creative Loafing -

To his blue-collar customers, who bought thousands of red handles known as "Pickrick drumsticks," Maddox became a folk hero. To the Atlanta business and social elite, he became a bumbling redneck who tarnished the reputation of "The City Too Busy To Hate."

Your above writing is nothing but an opinion that you presented to your readers as fact. Far more "Pickrick drumsticks" were sold to white-collar business, professional, government workers and to our tourist customers than to "blue-collar customers." It was the gaining of white-collar customers (over a period of more than a decade) that led them to be the majority of customers for our restaurant. Neither, as yon claim, did I ever become a bumbling redneck who tarnished the reputation of "The City Too Busy To Hate." That is no more than your own biased help-me-sell my story opinion, or one you read or heard from others. "The City Too Busy To Hate" slogan was a good one designed to help promote my native and great city. However, the slogan "The City Too Busy To Love" may have been more truthful (then and now), but not one of us - no not one of us - would agree to the promotion of our city with such a slogan, even if it be true. The truth is that if I did become a "bumbling redneck" as you claim, it was to the biased and dishonnest in the regional news media and the Democratic and Republican political establishment and to all they deceived and lied to.

If. Mr. Jacobs, the above copy of your writing in Creative Loafing was not of your own bias and/or imagination it came from what you learned from the biased and/or imaginations of others you listened to or read about.

From Creative Loafing -

You wrote that "Rep. Billy McKinney who is an African-American remembers shaking Maddox's hand in 1964, "which he did not do, and followed that deliberate lie with the following two paragraphs as quotes of Rep. McKinnev:

"He was selling his ax handles, and we went out to the place there, out to the Pickrick, and I fooled him. I grabbed his hand to shake it, and I wouldn't turn it loose. I had him. He had a little .22 or a little .25 or something - one of those little, bitty guns - and he tried to get his gun.

"But I held his hand. And I told him, `I got your goddamn hand."'

Not in all of my life, nor during the life of Rep. McKinney, did McKinney ever come to my restaurant and property on Hemphill Avenue, nor to any other business and property I owned and shake my hand. The statement is not one of his imagination - it is an intentional and deliberate lie by Billy McKinney and he knows it to be so. You then quoted McKinney as saying "... and I fooled him." That, Mr. Jacobs, is another lie. I've been fooled by others but not Billy McKinney. However, from reading the quotes you attributed to McKinney in your writing, McKinney - the liar, hater and fool Billy McKinney either did a good job of fooling you or else you used his lies intentionally to help sell your story.

There was no way McKinney could fool me, grab my hand and refuse to turn it loose without his having been in my presence (at my restaurant and property) in 1964. He was never there and for each time he claims otherwise he lies again and for each time you state or write that he was - you repeat the lie. Not only did Billy McKinney not shake my hand and refuse to let it go (as he claims and you wrote), no other human being has ever done so. Further, I never (in all of my life had "a little 22 or a little .25 or something - one of those little, bitty guns..." Plus, had it been Billy McKinney or any other person being verbally and physically restrained by a stranger, said McKinney or any other person under such a threat and attack would had gotten to his gun at the immediate time, or else when said person was freed from the one who had verbablly and physically assaulted him.

The only time I carried a gun on my person at my restaurant was the day the civil rights agitators came to my restaurant and told my assistant manager that the only reason I was not present was because I was running from them and that they would be back and take care of me (at 5:30 P.M.), unless I was afraid to show up at my restaurant. That was July 3, 1964 and; I had just recently purchased the .32 revolver when in the presence of the news media and Atlanta Police officers, those same civil rights agitators (along with others of their group) shouted that they would soon come to my restaurant and "Wipe you out! And when we have finished with you, it will all be over and you won't have one penny left."

The only time Billy McKinney ever shook my hand was when I was leaving from a visit to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1992. Following my visit to the Georgia- House (a courtesy afforded all former Georgia governors by the House leadership)$' I shook the hands of various members as I departed from the rostrum and House chambers which; is the custom of former governors leaving either body of the Georgia General Assembly. As I approached the exit door, Rep. McKinney got to his feet and reached out and shook my hand; saying "I've a good mind not to shake your . . . . . . hand because . . . . ." but he did and had already grabbed it when he made that remark and other vulgar expressions of hate that I dare not include. That was the only time I ever heard him use God's name in vain but I suspect it must be included in many of his remarks. In the above excerpt, from Creative Loafing, McKinney lied to you ten times in less than eighty words and he evidently fooled you (in a big way), unless you believed it to be otherwise and felt that (true or false) it would contribute to helping you sell your story.

In your letter of response to my objections to the false statements and the fiction attributed to you and others, as published about me and my private sector and public service life, you wrote - "As for Rep. McKinney's story, I prefer to let the reader judge how honorable his actions were - grabbing your hand and holding on." How, Mr. Jacobs, could you expect even one of your readers to make a just, intelligent and honest judgement when what you presented to them as truth is no more or less than the deliberate and intentional lies of the racist and hater Billy McKinney? Shame on you.

You also included the following in your letter to me: "I agree that I should've gone into more detail on the events of your term in office - but two things prevented me - space and the fact that most of our young readers would've stopped reading." (emphasis added) That statement, Mr. Jacobs, is your own admission of having placed keeping the attention of your readers ahead of your being objective, unbiased and truthful with both me and your readers as to my private sector life and the record breaking successes and accomplishments of my administration as governor. Further, your excuse for having excluded those truthful and informative facts because of inadequate space is absurd, ridiculous and invalid - and you know it. To have done what you now agree is what you should have done would had been easy had you placed a priority on being objective fair and truthful. You could had left out a small portion of the lies and fiction of your own, the lies of McKinney and others and a small amount of the writing caused by your hang up on racial matters that helps to nurture racial distrust and discord. I do appreciate your having (either wittingly or unwittingly) now admitted your guilt and wrong relating to this important subject.

In your story of me that appeared in Creative Loafing you called me a "yahoo," meaning "an uncouth or rowdy person," according to the dictionary. I campaigned in seven campaigns for open, honest, efficient and representative government. In my campaign for governor I promised the people of Georgia "The most efficient, honest, open and representative administration of previous 20th century Georgia. State records - not the regional news media, the libraries, nor the history books of Georgia prove that I succeeded in doing for my state and fellow Georgians all of that which I promised them, both as Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. You were made aware of those records and that our salary increases (in dollars) during my four years as governor were more than for the two previous administrations combined; that the percentage of salary increase for elementary and secondary teachers was a record breaker that was not reached again until fifteen years later, and that Georgia teachers had gained one- fourth of their basic salary during the four years of the Maddox Administration while; it had taken them ninety-six years to gain the other three-fourths of their basic salary. In higher education, the State Board of Regents received the highest budget increase of the last half of the 20th century; and has been reported as probably having the largest percentage increase for higher education of any state during the four fiscal years of the Maddox approved state budget appropriations. Also, the percentage of the total state budget for higher education has dropped from sixteen percent (during the Maddox Administration) to less than thirteen percent for Fiscal Year 1999. Additionally, and you were aware of all the facts, the dollars gained for new and expanded industry during the Maddox Administration) equaled that of the five previous four year terms from 1947 through 1966. Equally amazing was the spectacular record we set for the Department of Public Safety, a record in budget increase that still stands to be fifty percent greater than for any other four year tem of available state records during the past nine four year terms. No records are available for earlier terms. Similar records are available in state government as to the open, efficient and cost effective measures I insisted upon and had implemented in the Georgia Building Authority, State Purchasing, the Department of Revenue, the Department of Defense and throughout state government.

Mr. Jacobs, I do not believe your claim that readers of Creative Loafing would had stopped reading your story had you wrote about open, honest, efficient and representative government having actually occurred and had also read of the record breaking accomplishments of any state government administration. You may be right, but God forbid that it be so for, if you are, our country as a free republic is doomed.

You also wrote in your story that if I were elected, "Liberals predicted disaster... they were expecting severe persecution of blacks, race riots," bitter confrontations with the federal government and possibly the collapse of state goverrment." What you did not write is that all of the regional news media leaders in the state and county Democratic and Republican Parties and leaders in business, industry, education, religion, agriculture, Labor, banking and leaders in the Arts and legal professions, etc.; (including conservatives, the deceived and the lied to) had all made such forecast. They predicted there would be four years of martial law should I be elected; that schools would close and there would be a disastrous shortage of teachers, and that industry would leave Georgia and no new industry would come to our state. It was the most vicious, dishonest and biased campaign ever conducted against one candidate for governor in all the history of our state and was designed by the above and some of the gubernatorial candidates running for governor to frighten the people. How sad it was that their odious behavior succeeded in causing the 1966 Georgia gubernatorial election to have to be decided by the Georgia General Assembly. And writers hide it!

All of the prognostigators of doom (as above identified - candidates included) were all proven to be dead wrong. Right the opposite of their frightening around-the-clock rhetoric of odious, dishonest and scare tactic campaigning occurred. They all (each and every one of them, without execption) were proven to have been wrong, but not one of them has displayed the honor, decency and integrity to apologize to the citizens of our state, nor to my family. And neither will you, Mr. Jacobs, nor other writers and the authors of history dare to write and publish the truth.

There are many other false and fictional writings in your story but I will exclude all of them except for the most absurd and ridiculous below:

And Maddox's term might have been remembered as largely OK if not for one noteworthy event. Despite his political inexperience, Maddox achieved major reforms in the prison system and health care. Everyone agrees that he was a good judge of character; among those who got career boosts in his administration were future Gov. Zell Miller and future Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin, both of whom he appointed as executive secretaries, and future House Speaker Tom Murphy, who was his House floor leader.

But his undoing, what may have cost him a chance at being remembered as Georgia's true-blue populist governor, is the way he mishandled the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 9, 1968. Maddox, who considered King "an enemy of our country," refused to attend the ceremony or close state government for the day.

He even considered personally raising the flags outside the Capitol that were at half-mast, but journalists said the presence of news cameras made him back away. As 200,000 mourners walked peacefully through downtown, Maddox holed up in the Capitol with 160 riot-helmeted state troopers, waiting for a blood bath.

Nothing you wrote in your story about me could include more untruths and fiction than the above writing. You wrote that my undoing, what may have cost m a chance at being remembered as Georgia's true-blue populist governor, is the way I mishandled the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. How, Mr. Jacobs, could I have mishandled the King funeral when I had nothing to do with it? Undercover agents of the Atlanta Police Department had informed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation of a planned storming of the State Capitol by some of the participants in the march as the some 200,000 people marched by the State Capitol. Having been forewarned of the attack that was scheduled to take place, I, as Governor, unhesitatingly and without fear assumed my duty and the first responsibility of government; that of protecting the lives and properties of the people. After having been warned of the planned attack on the State Capitol I took the necessary action to protect the Capitol and my fellow Georgians therein. Further, I had the City of Atlanta undercover agents instructed to inform the would-be rioters and anarchists that if they carried out their planned storming of the State Capitol that they had better be prepared to meet their Maker. How can you dare, Mr. Jacobs, to write that in my having taken the necessary precaution to preserve the peace and protect the lives and properties of our people and our state - write that I "mishandled the funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr"? Surely, you did not intend to suggest that I would have properly handled the tragic and untimely death of Dr. King and his funeral by my not having taken the necessary precaution to protect the Capitol, Atlanta and our people from the planned and known attack that was scheduled to take place.

You also falsely accused me of personally considering my raising the flags outside the Capitol that were at half-mast, and that journalists said that the presence of news cameras made me back away. There are two intentional and deliberate lies in that one sentence, either by you or from others that lied to you. I never gave any thought to personally raising the flags. They had been lowered at the request of then Secretary of State, the Honorable Ben Fortson, and it was because of my respect, admiration and love for Mr. Fortson that the flags were not raised. Had it not been for Mr. Ben Fortson, the flags would had been raised, but not by me. Had I wanted the flags raised, I as Commander In Chief would had ordered it done by the National Guard or State Patrol officers. I would not have raised the flags personally and you and/or "journalists" that wrote or said otherwise have written or spoken untruths. Further, "the presence of news cameras made him back away" is another false statement that you included in your story. Never in my life time have I failed to do something I wanted to do because news cameras or the news media were around. No action I have ever taken or refused to take was tainted by the presence and/or the influence of the news media or by polls and political correctness.

Much of what you wrote in the last sentence of the above excerpt (as published in Creative Loafing) is deceptive and untrue as is a large percentage of your entire story. As I heretofore informed you, I had been warned by officers of the Atlanta Police Department that a group marching with the 200,000 mourners would leave the mourners and storm the State Capitol. I took the necessary action I deemed necessary to assure that the threatened and planned attack would be successfully repelled. You claim that I placed "... 160 riot-helmeted state troopers" (in the Capitol ("waiting for a blood bath that never happened." How cruel, biased and shameful that you would write such a false and wrong statement. Neither I nor any one else was "waiting for a blood bath that never happened." I took the necessary precaution as Governor and Commander In Chief of the Georgia National Guard to protect the State Capitol and the lives and properties of Georgia citizens. In doing so I may have well prevented Atlanta and Atlantans deaths and destruction that Americans were then being confronted with at that time. Additionally, I did not have 160 riot-helmeted state troopers in the Capitol as you claim. I had eight exceptionally well armed riot-helmeted state troopers at each of the eight entrances to the Capitol, for a total of 64. However, I had many other Georgia State Patrolmen and National Guardsmen nearby in the event the rioters struck as they had planned. As Governor of Georgia I took the necessary action that I believed would prevent a blood bath. Why, Mr. Jacobs, be so cruel and so intent on keeping your readers as to write that I was waiting on a blood bath? Is it impossible for you to be objective, honest and fair in your writing and sell your stories? If it is, Sir, why not change to another occupation?

Finally, I appreciate the kindness and courtesy of both you and Mr. Ken Edelstein having responded to my letter raising objection to your story about me. However, neither of you provided an answer or offered an excuse for the multitude of false statements by you and others in the article, nor for all of the fiction.

Very sincerely,

Lester Maddox

*Proof that you were dead wrong on what you identified as (his undoing) is the fact that two years later I left the Office of Governor with a favorable poll rating of above 84% and won the Office of Lieutenant Governor in a landslide vote of over 73% - which remains the greatest percentage of votes for any governor or lieutenant governor against a Republican opponent in a Georgia General Election. The King funeral had absolutely nothing to do with my future political activities!