By Frederick H. Lowe
Sen. Herman Talmadge, the Georgia segregationist, treated Joe Biden, his U.S. Senate colleague, with great civility, calling him son not boy, Biden, the black favorite for the Democratic nomination for president, recently said during a speech.
Sen. Kamala Harris, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, was angered by Biden’s comments and took him to task during the Democrats’ political debate. (Biden has since apologized).
The resulting uproar, however, opens the door to a look at the Talmadge family, especially the father.
Talmadge’s father, Eugene Talmadge, who was governor of Georgia from 1933 to 1937 and 1941 to 1943 certainly wasn’t civil to blacks. Voters elected him to office again in 1946, but he died in December before he was scheduled to be sworn in January 1947.
He was not a nice guy when it came to dealing with blacks.
The FBI investigated Gov. Talmadge for encouraging the July 25, 1946, murders of two black couples, Roger and Dorothy Malcolm and George and Mae Dorsey.
The governor reportedly did this to win the rural vote and sew up the 1946 governor’s election. Talmadge’s opponent, James Carmichael, also a Democrat, won the popular vote but lost the rural vote in Walton County by 200 votes and thus the governorship.
Although the FBI believed Gov. Talmadge might have encouraged the murders of the two couples at Moore’s Ford, Georgia, agents never questioned him.
A fight between Roger Malcolm and Barney Hester, a white farmer, led to the murders of the Malcolms and the Dorseys.
During a fight, Roger Malcolm, who was a sharecropper, stabbed and seriously wounded Hester.
The FBI agent in charge said Gov. Talmadge spoke to George Hester’s Barney’s brother. According to FBI documents, the governor agreed to offer immunity to “anyone who took care of the negro.”
The sheriff jailed Malcolm after the stabbing. LeRoy Harrison, a white farmer, paid $600 to bail Malcolm out of jail. Harrison was driving Malcolm, his wife, and George and Mae Dorsey to their homes when a gang of whites surrounded the car and dragged the couples out of the vehicle.
The crowd tied them to a tree and repeatedly shot them, leaving their bodies in the dirt. Dorothy Malcom was seven months pregnant.
An angry President Harry Truman ordered the FBI to investigate the murders, but black farmers who sharecropped for white farmers and had their economic survival tied to them were too frightened to speak. One of the black farmers even ran into the woods and hid to avoid talking to the FBI. Whites stuck together in a Southern form of Omerta.,
The FBI identified 55 suspects. They never arrested anyone for the murders that remain unsolved to this day.
Gov. Talmadge was a vicious racist, and as far as his son, U.S. Sen. Herman Talmage, who served as a U.S. Senator from 1957 to 1981, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He was a staunch segregationist. The Senate even censured him for financial irregularities during a bitter divorce from his second wife.