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Yale 62

“Georgia On My Mind”

Georgia On My Mind

This Week’s Focus of the United States’ Polarized Politics
Five Georgia Resident Classmates Offer Their Perspectives

By Al Chambers

As the Georgia Senate dual run-offs grew in importance, Yale 62.org sought out classmates living in the Peach State, inviting each to submit a short point of view about any subject of their choice having to do with Georgia or living in the state. Civility and brevity were the only requirements.

For the record, there has never in U.S. history been a double run-off in one state for national office. This was not something that was ever supposed to happen, but now the outcomes of January 5’s voting will determine party control of the U.S. Senate. More than $800M dollars have been spent on the David Perdue/John Ossoff and Kelly Loeffler/Raphael Warnock races.

Thanks to Georgians Terry Croft and Ellery McLanahan for leading the classmate search. (See further details below.). We are pleased to share the words of five wise classmates, printed in order from the most recently submitted to the earliest. All were completed a few days before the dramatic and highly controversial actions and behavior of President Trump, in his increasingly desperate and seemingly doomed-to-fail efforts to reverse the will of the five million voters in Georgia and the approximately 160 million total voters in the November Presidential election.

Although Presidents and challengers have always grumbled about process and results, none has ever attempted or seemingly contemplated what Donald Trump has been doing since November, while at the same time all but withdrawing from the official responsibilities of his office.

Comments are welcome in response to each classmate’s viewpoint or about the American political situation at the bottom of our ‘Georgia on My Mind” report. Thanks also to Hoagy Carmichael (1930) for writing and performing the song whose title we borrowed for this report, and to Ray Charles (1960) taking it to his first #1 Billboard hit — making it famous forever and such an appropriate reference for this feature.


Roscoe Sandlin (Macon)

Roscoe Sandlin

Roscoe Sandlin

 

When Georgia became a colony in 1733, slavery was banned, then allowed 16 years later after protests about labor shortage. The colony had rival governments during the revolutionary war. The state was a founding member of the Confederate States of America; a hundred years later it was the core of the “New South.” It produced a staunch segregationist governor (Lester Maddox), a peanut farmer president (Jimmy Carter), an iconic civil rights leader (MLK), and rock music stars (Allman Brothers & Little Richard). Solidly Democratic until 2002, Georgians elected Sonny Perdue as the first Republican governor since reconstruction. With a current Republican governor, Georgians narrowly favored Biden over Trump in the 2020 election.

With the impending runoff election for its Senate seats, Georgia voters will determine the balance of power in Washington. Whatever happens, we will still have our lovely mountain views, fantastic seascapes, tasty pecans, the juiciest peaches, sweet onions, the worst traffic and the nicest people – many of whom still say “bless your heart” no matter what.



James Keaten (Rome)

Jim and Helen Keaten

Jim and Helen Keaten

I am a native Georgian. Many of my ancestors were also native Georgians, including among others my great-grandfather, who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. I was born and raised in Atlanta during a period of strictly enforced racial segregation. There were no Black students in the schools I attended. There were no Black congregants in the church I attended. No Black persons were permitted in the restaurants I patronized or the parks and swimming pools where I played and swam. At public facilities, such as the Atlanta airport, there were separate restrooms and water fountains for “White” and “Colored.” There were no Black civic leaders in local government. I did not object to this state of affairs because it seemed to be normal.

When I returned to Atlanta after law school, the situation was changing, but ever so slowly. I joined a law firm with no Black lawyers (and no women). Under the leadership of another native Georgian, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., along with such other giants of the civil rights movement as John Lewis and Andrew Young, progress toward racial justice inched forward.

Fast forward to 2021. My wife Helen and I now live in Rome, Georgia, a lovely town in the heart of a very conservative Congressional district. Helen and I have participated in marches and demonstrations with other Georgians, Black and White, in protests against the murder of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter. Diversity is blooming in Georgia like our beautiful dogwoods and azaleas in spring. Outstanding leaders such as Stacey Abrams (Yale Law, 1999) have brought that diversity to the voting booths.

And now, we have two wonderful candidates for the United States Senate in a rare double run-off — the Reverend Raphael Warnock, an African-American pastor from Dr. King’s church in Atlanta, and Jon Ossoff, the son of a Jewish father and an Australian immigrant mother.

Whatever the results in the election, Helen and I are optimistic for our State (and our children and our grandchildren). In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a-changin’.”


Norm Allen

Normand “Norm” Allen (Savannah)

Having lived in Connecticut my entire life, following retirement in 2003, my wife Gail and I moved from Avon, Connecticut to Savannah, Georgia. We live on Skidaway Island, southeast of Savannah. Our gated community, with 6 golf courses, 36 tennis courts, 2 marinas, and 4 dining clubs, is a destination for retirees from across the country, as well as local professionals. With this varied population and the available cultural, educational, and historic amenities of Savannah, our very comfortable lifestyle is not representative of the entire state, but rather like Atlanta, is a distinct bubble of diversity as demonstrated in the recent presidential election.

The climate allows us to pursue a year-round active outdoor life, focused on tennis. My main hobby, other than tennis, is watercolor painting. I enjoy painting Georgia coastal landscapes and marine scenes. Lecturing on art topics and attending lectures and classes at the excellent local Senior Center has facilitated lifelong learning. During the pandemic, we’ve been fortunate to have a place of natural beauty so we can enjoy the outdoors while quarantined. I’ve spent much time reading classic literature, enjoying especially the works of Dickens and watching film noir. These activities have been a welcome distraction to the political circus of the past years.

It was great to see record-breaking numbers of voters turn out in Georgia for the primary election, and to have the Governor and Secretary of State stand up to extreme outside pressure to uphold the responsibilities of their offices. The unusual upcoming run-off election for two senators, which will determine control of the Senate, has brought the nation’s focus to Georgia. As residents, we have been bombarded with constant negative television ads and daily mailings.

Our take-away from all of this is the need for election reform, to limit the length of campaigns and contributions to candidates. It has been sad to witness the huge amounts of money pouring into this run-off election in Georgia, at a time when there is so much need, due to the loss of businesses and jobs during the Covid pandemic. But we are also heartened to see evidence that many are ready to really deal with systemic racism in this country.

We’re hoping for another record-breaking voter turn-out on January 5th, and proud that whatever the election results, Georgia will help to preserve our democracy.


Ellery McLanahan (Atlanta)

(Editor’s Note: Ellery is teaching a series of classes for seniors at Emory University Extension in Atlanta starting January 7, where he contrasts the work of two different famous authors that he likes. This week’s duo is Herman Melville and Ernest Hemingway.)

Ellery McLanahan

Ellery McLanahan

I am reminded today here in Georgia of my Yale classes years ago about Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick.

Was the story about the Ahab who loaded the Pequod with sailors eager to work for their share of the whale oil catch?

Or about the Ahab whose real intent was on finding and killing the white whale Moby Dick, his carnal nemesis?

The sailors and Ismael thought it was the former, and were unwitting victims of Ahab’s true intent to use the voyage to avenge the loss of his leg in his previous encounter with Moby Dick.

So I feel many of Trump’s followers were victims of his dream to lead the country while in fact instead his real actvity was to fulfill some overwhelming, personal, inner need.

In the novel only Ismael lived to tell the story. We are lucky here in Georgia, as we, like Ismael, have lived to tell the story and to live the dream.

Lux et Veritas!


Terrence “Terry” Croft (Atlanta)

Terry Croft

Terry Croft

Fifty-one years ago, when I first came to Georgia to practice law in Atlanta, there were two distinct Georgias, metropolitan Atlanta (the City too busy to hate) and the rest of the State, which was not too busy. Both Georgias viewed me as a Yankee, even though I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, where your high school was more important than your college.

As a civil trial lawyer, I have tried cases to juries in both Georgias, and as a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS (a large, private provider of ADR services), I have resolved disputes with lawyers throughout Georgia. I have experienced local and geographic prejudices and biases that impacted on my personal, vocational efforts as a lawyer and a neutral. This was an eye-opening experience for me. The Civil War (sometimes called the War of Northern Aggression) has not been forgotten in either Georgia, even though most Atlantans, like me, came from somewhere else.

When our Governor appointed a wealthy, female Atlantan to succeed a longtime and well-respected Senator, he probably was influenced by her ability to self-fund her own campaign for re-election and her ability to attract affluent, north-side female voters. In a few days, we will see how that worked. Maybe it won’t matter in the face of all the outsider dollars funding the incessant, daily barrage of robo-calls, TV/radio/internet ads, and multiple mailers, but that excessive surplus of (dis)information is certainly unpleasant and disrespectful to all Georgians.

As with the pandemic, I will be glad when it’s over. Regardless of the outcome, Georgia needs to overcome its historical biases and prejudices and become a leader in equality. It is a geographically pleasant place to live. Atlanta is bustling, and our second home, a little cabin in the woods of North Georgia, is a tranquil delight. Come visit, but wear your mask!


Postscript A Sad Note: When Terry Croft called the home of Frederick “Spike” Burns (Jonesboro) on December 22, his wife answered and said that he had died the previous day. She explained that he had been ill for some time with various comorbidities and quite probably Covid19 in the final days. Bob Oliver was advised and will prepare an obituary for the website.

On a far happier note, classmate Frederick Meine (Columbus) chose not to write for the posting. His family has a long association with Yale and he and his wife, also named Freddie, were proud to share that their grandson had just been admitted Early Application to the Class of 2025.

Donald Banks (Atlanta) said it was a busy time and that he could not participate.

Our team was disappointed that in the short time we had, we connected only with eight of the fifteen affiliated members of Yale’62. What was surprising was that the email addresses and phone numbers for several on the Yale Alumni Association list were no longer active or in service. Our classmates were widely disbursed around this large and increasingly dynamic state and, with a couple of exceptions, did not know each other.

Another noteworthy and troubling item was that a few classmates were not receiving Yale or Yale62 communications, apparently because of active spam collectors. Please check to be certain that Yale62.org is not on your blocked list — that is unless you want it to be!

If any of you is in contact with or has information about the seven classmates that we did not reach, we would be grateful if you let them know that we had hoped they could be part of this Georgia posting.

Those seven are Garrett Brass (Roswell), Henry Childs (Blue Ridge), J. Timothy Heames (Rome), Rodney Hunter (Decatur), Burton Metzger (Savannah), John Minneman (Peachtree City) and David Mohr (Dalton).
 

We invite your comments below.

10 comments to Georgia On My Mind

  • Roman L Weil

    Atlanta politics began to integrate earlier than you might infer from the comments here. My uncle, Cecil Alexander, Yale ’40, winner of the Yale Medal, was active from the 1950s, integrating Atlanta politics. I have linked here a picture of him [second from right] with John Lewis on the right and Rosa Parks, third from right. This picture was shown at the Democratic Convention last summer, although Cecil was not the subject of the discussion there — Lewis was. You can see how long ago this photo must have been taken from the youthfulness of Lewis. Uncle Cecil had a strong hand in guiding me to Yale.

    I’m not making a prediction here. You know about the concept of the Shy Trump Voter. Be aware of the Shy Anti-Semite and the Shy Racist. The former will vote against Ossoff, but would not tell a pollster. The latter will vote against Warnock, but would not tell a pollster. If we see the results different from polls’ expectations, I’d expect these are the reasons. I can’t think how to test this hypothesis.

  • Abel Alberto Mestre

    Read all comments made by our five classmates and I was surprised by their essentially nonchalant attitude towards this election which to me is a very important one, that could decide the future of our country. The feeling that I get from reading this is that Georgia, which is indeed a very nice place, will pretty much remain the same and things won’t change much.

    I could not disagree more with this way of thinking. Ossoff and Warnock are radicals and socialists and we have seen Schumer many times say that if they win, they will change America, and I am sure it is not going to be for the better knowing what their program is.

    As a Cuban who has seen the destruction of his country by socialist and communists and also as a Venezuelan who had to leave that very prosperous country where I lived for more than 40 years because it democratically elected Chavez, a disguised socialist and communist who destroyed everything. Later in very fraudulent elections taken over by Maduro who further has destroyed whatever little was left, I think that our fellow classmates are simply out of touch,with reality, with all due respect to them.

  • Jim Breese

    The Congress was designed to allow, even encourage, discussion and compromise. Over the last few decades, it has become Red vs. Blue, and “don’t let the other side succeed”. This is why many voters think that the entire country’s future will be determined which of these two senators wins. The system is jammed; maybe Biden’s administration can un-jam it.

  • David Bingham

    So great to read comments from our classmates who have worked to promote understanding and unity in a state with such a divided history.

    My mother was from Waycross, GA, daughter of a a hardware salesman who put her through college. She married a Yankee diplomat she met on a trip to England. They were later stationed in Marseille, France when France fell in WW II. She was sent home to Waycross, Georgia, where I was born (as was candidate Warnock, on the other side of the tracks). Having evangelical Baptist relatives in GA who raised a daughter who loved Blacks as servants and nannies, but was concerned that we would socialize with them in New England, my mother evolved to accept fully having people of color marrying into our large extended family (my father had 6 brothers, and I was one of 11 children, so the circle grows ever bigger on both side of the political aisle).

    As a physician who worked in a working-class diverse community (Norwich, CT) I too have evolved, politically. from a young Republican Conservative to an ardent supporter of a much stronger role of government in health care and education, infrastructure and environmental sustainability. While I deeply hope that GA votes for Ossoff and Warnock (and we sent funds to support their campaigns), I also have great respect for the Republican GA Governor and Secretary of State who are standing strongly for the rule of law which is so necessary to prevent the kind of authoritarian dictatorships found in Venezuela and Cuba.

    Whatever the outcome in tomorrow’s election, I am delighted to see the state of my birth has become far more inclusive and democratic, so different from the segregated society I visited in the 1960’s.

  • Ken Merkey

    As a resident of Hilton Head, SC I am in the Savannah media mass market. Consequently, I had to endure the idiotic amount of TV advertising for 4 unremarkable candidates. None of them have what it takes to be a quality public servant. If I were a resident of Georgia, I would vote GOP as I don’t believe that one party should control both houses. We need checks and balances.

    I am disappointed that the editor who prepared the introduction to this article had to insert his biased vitriol and hatred of Trump. It is this kind of journalism that adds to the polarization of our country.

    • Al Chambers

      Thanks, as always, Ken, for your interest and competitive spirit. Let me set this record straight.. My plan was to include a short Editor’s Note to explain the project. That changed last Saturday following President Trump’s unusual and threatening one-hour phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State, which Raffensperger told the President he would be recording. His office released the tape to the media. I felt this development needed to be included in our “Georgia on My Mind” report. My introduction was accurate and similar to most coverage.. I do not read it as “biased vitriol and hatred of Trump.” Having said that Ken, I am surprised and frankly disappointed that you are not upset by the President’s continuing accusations of fraud that have been repeatedly rejected by Courts in Georgia and elsewhere. Do you really believe that the President of the United States asking a state official to “recalculate” the votes and reverse the result is acceptable? I do not.

  • Ellery McLanahan

    Alberto…It is hardly nonchalant to compare Trump to Ahab as i did in my piece above. And now i read that Trump is
    pressuring Pence to reject the Electoral College vote. Let’s keep our bogeymen in
    perspective so that maintaining democracy in the USA is not subverted by either the left or right.

  • Tim Adams '62

    Kudos to our class editors and contributors for such an interesting discourse!

    As a conservative Minnesotan and a comfortable Snowbird in AZ, I watch the drama in Georgia unfold. Seems the good people of Georgia (old and new) are going to impact the future of our country by voting *or not) for somewhat flawed candidates with unprecedented outside pressure from the country’s elite. Could our Founders have imagined such a situation?

    Mary & I will be watching the 2nd half of Gone with the Wind tonight (Couldn’t make it thru the whole thing) – awaiting the outcome of this drama. Not unaware of our slowly improving culture, I remain hopeful that we will preserve the good things we all enjoy, and continue to improve our quest for fair elections, racial and economic opportunity, and a great place to live and raise a family.

  • Ellery McLanahan

    Time for the 25th ammendment.

  • I spent many moths working in Atlanta on different projects. The result of some of my work is the BeltLine, which I invented and designed.

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