Benjamin W. Fortson Jr.

Last updated
Benjamin Wynn Fortson Jr.
21st Secretary of State of Georgia
In office
1946 May 19, 1979
Governor Ellis Arnall
Eugene Talmadge
Melvin E. Thompson
Herman Talmadge
Marvin Griffin
Ernest Vandiver
Carl Sanders
Lester Maddox
Jimmy Carter
George Busbee
Preceded by John Bryan Wilson
Succeeded by David Poythress
Personal details
Born(1904-12-19)December 19, 1904
Wilkes County, Georgia
DiedMay 19, 1979(1979-05-19) (aged 74)
Atlanta, Georgia
Resting placeResthaven Cemetery Washington, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s)Mary Cade (d. 10/21/1966)
ChildrenAnn McNeill Fortson Mandus (d. 06/21/2013)
Alma mater Emory University

Benjamin Wynn Fortson Jr. (December 19, 1904 – May 19, 1979) was a Secretary of State of Georgia. After being selected by Ellis Arnall, the governor in 1946, Fortson kept his title as secretary until 1979, making him the longest-running secretary in Georgia history.

Contents

Background

Benjamin Wynn Fortson Jr. was born in 1904 in Wilkes County, Georgia. [1] At 24, he was in a car accident that permanently paralyzed him from the waist down. Fortson served two terms in the Georgia House of Representatives. He was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1938 and served until he was appointed secretary of state by Governor Ellis Arnall in February 1946 to fill the unexpired term of John B. Wilson. Fortson was elected in the next election and every four years thereafter. [2]

He was serving his ninth term at the time of his death on May 19, 1979, in Atlanta, Georgia. After funeral services in the rotunda of the state Capitol, he was buried in Wilkes County in Resthaven Cemetery. [2]

Secretary of State

Georgia Flags by Fortson, 1963 Georgia Flags by Ben Fortson.jpg
Georgia Flags by Fortson, 1963

In 1946, Fortson was appointed secretary of state. While in office, he was assigned many different jobs that were not originally responsibilities of the office. Fortson was in charge of the preservation of the Capitol and looked after the Confederate cemeteries. [2] [3]

In 1965, Fortson had the Georgia Archives relocated to a building on Capitol Avenue because the archives were too big for its previous location. [2] "Fortson often said this was his proudest accomplishment". [2] The building was later renamed for him. Another accomplishment Fortson had while he was in office was the custom of giving information on Georgia history to teachers and allowing children to visit the Capitol. [2] At one point there was a report that he was going to move up in office until he said that "Secretary of state is a fascinating job, not like being governor," [2] revealing that he was running for another re-election. [2]

Three governors controversy

The three governors controversy took place from 1946 to 1947. Eugene Talmadge was elected to be the next governor of Georgia, but he fell ill and died before he was inaugurated. Because of this, the General Assembly decided to elect Herman Talmadge, the son of Eugene Talmadge, to be the new governor of Georgia. However, two other people claimed the position. Ellis Arnall, the governor who was about to leave office, decided to stay governor and refused to leave his office. The other man was Melvin Thompson, the just-elected lieutenant governor. [4] Fortson, who was secretary of state, was in charge of the state seal. Neither man could do official government actions without this seal, so Fortson hid the seal and refused to tell anyone where it was until the government issue was resolved. This caused the council to take action. [2] After the dispute ended, he revealed the location of the hidden seal. Fortson had put the seal under a cushion in his wheelchair and had been sitting on it during the dispute. Fortson later quoted that he was "sitting on it like a setting of duck eggs." [3] [5] The controversy ended with Melvin Thompson being declared the governor by the Georgia Supreme Court, which created a precedent in Georgia law.

Related Research Articles

Lester Maddox Georgia politician

Lester Garfield Maddox Sr. was an American politician who served as the 75th Governor of the U.S. state of Georgia from 1967 to 1971. A populist Democrat, Maddox came to prominence as a staunch segregationist when he refused to serve black customers in his Atlanta restaurant, in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He later served as Lieutenant Governor during the period when Jimmy Carter was Governor.

Governor of Georgia Wikipedia list article

The governor of Georgia is the head of the executive branch of Georgia's state government and the commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. The governor also has a duty to enforce state laws, the power to either veto or approve bills passed by the Georgia Legislature, and the power to convene the legislature. The current governor is Republican Brian Kemp, who assumed office on January 14, 2019.

Herman Talmadge

Herman Eugene Talmadge was a Democratic American politician who served as a U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1957 to 1981. A staunch segregationist, he was denounced by the Senate for financial irregularities, which were revealed during a bitter divorce from his second wife. He previously served as governor of the state from 1948 to 1955, taking over after the death of his father Eugene Talmadge, the governor-elect. Talmadge was known for his opposition to civil rights, ordering schools to be closed rather than desegregated.

Eugene Talmadge

Eugene Talmadge was an American Democratic politician who served two terms as the 67th Governor of Georgia from 1933 to 1937, and a third term from 1941 to 1943. Elected to a fourth term in November 1946, he died before his inauguration, scheduled for January 1947. Only Talmadge and Joe Brown, in the mid-19th century, have been elected four times as Governor of Georgia. He is known for having actively promoted segregation and white supremacy, and for advocating for racism in the University System of Georgia.

Melvin E. Thompson

Melvin Ernest Thompson was an American educator and politician from Millen in the U.S. state of Georgia. Generally known as M.E. Thompson during his political career, he served as the 70th Governor of Georgia from 1947 to 1948 and was elected as the first Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 1946.

Ellis Arnall American politician, Governor of Georgia

Ellis Gibbs Arnall was an American politician who served as the 69th Governor of Georgia from 1943 to 1947. A liberal Democrat, he helped lead efforts to abolish the poll tax and to reduce Georgia's voting age to 18. Following his departure from office, he became a highly successful attorney and businessman.

Bo Callaway

Howard Hollis "Bo" Callaway Sr. was an American politician and businessman from the state of Georgia. Initially a Democrat and a supporter of racial segregation, in 1964 he was the first Republican elected to congress in Georgia since Reconstruction in the 1800s. In 1966, he narrowly lost a contested election for governor. He later served as Secretary of the Army, appointed by Richard Nixon. He worked with his family to develop what is now Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia and owned Crested Butte ski resort in Colorado.

Ernest Vandiver

Samuel Ernest Vandiver Jr. was an American politician who was the 73rd Governor of the U.S. state of Georgia from 1959 to 1963.

Marvin Griffin

Samuel Marvin Griffin, Sr. was an American politician from the U.S. state of Georgia.

Seal of Georgia (U.S. state) Official government emblem of the U.S. state of Georgia

The Great Seal of the State of Georgia is a device that has historically been used to authenticate government documents executed by the state of Georgia. The first great seal of the state was specified in the State Constitution of 1777, and its current form was adopted in 1799 with alterations in 1914. Its specifications are currently spelled out by statute.

Georgia State Capitol United States historic place

The Georgia State Capitol is an architecturally and historically significant building in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The building has been named a National Historic Landmark which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. As the primary office building of Georgia's government, the capitol houses the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state on the second floor, chambers in which the General Assembly, consisting of the Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives, meets annually from January to April. The fourth floor houses visitors' galleries overlooking the legislative chambers and a museum located near the rotunda in which a statue of Miss Freedom caps the dome.

The following table indicates the party of elected officials in the U.S. state of Georgia:

Three Governors controversy Political crisis in the U.S. state of Georgia in 1946-47

The three governors controversy was a political crisis in the U.S. state of Georgia in 1946-47. On December 21, 1946, Eugene Talmadge, the governor-elect of Georgia, died before taking office. The state constitution did not specify who would assume the governorship in such a situation, so three men made claims to the governorship: Ellis Arnall, the outgoing governor; Melvin E. Thompson, the lieutenant governor-elect; and Herman Talmadge, Eugene Talmadge's son. Eventually a ruling by the Supreme Court of Georgia settled the matter in favor of Thompson. Georgia's Secretary of State Ben Fortson hid the state seal in his wheelchair so no official business could be conducted until the controversy was settled.

1948 Georgia gubernatorial special election

The 1948 Georgia gubernatorial special election took place on November 2, 1948, in order to elect the Governor of Georgia.

James V. Carmichael

James Vinson Carmichael was member of the Georgia General Assembly, an attorney, business executive, and candidate for Governor of Georgia.

1946 Georgia gubernatorial election

The 1946 Georgia gubernatorial election took place on November 5, 1946, in order to elect the Governor of Georgia.

1942 Georgia gubernatorial election

The 1942 Georgia gubernatorial election took place on November 3, 1942, in order to elect the Governor of Georgia. The governor was elected to a four-year term for the first time, instead of a two-year term.

Statue of Eugene Talmadge

The Eugene Talmadge statue is a public monument located on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. Designed by Steffen Thomas, the statue was unveiled in 1949 and depicts Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge. The statue has been the subject of recent controversy given Talmadge's white supremacist and racist views.

Statue of Ellis Arnall

The Ellis Arnall statue is a public monument located on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. Honoring Georgia Governor Ellis Arnall, the statue was sculpted by Zenos Frudakis and unveiled in 1997.

References

  1. Who was who in America with world notables. 1943. ISBN   9780837902104 . Retrieved 2013-03-12 via Google Books.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "New Georgia Encyclopedia: Ben Fortson (1904-1979)". Georgiaencyclopedia.org. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  3. 1 2 Ronald Sullivan (May 21, 1979). "Ben Fortson Jr. Is Dead at 74; Ex‐Secretary of State in Georgia". The New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  4. "New Georgia Encyclopedia: Three Governors Controversy". Georgiaencyclopedia.org. 2002-12-08. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  5. Ronda Rich (April 17, 2017). "RICH: 'Mr. Ben' Fortson had his way". Jackson Progress-Argus. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
Preceded by
John Bryan Wilson
Secretary of State of Georgia
1946–1979
Succeeded by
David Poythress