Thursday, August 26, 2010

Case Mail Now Open

The Russell Library is pleased to announce that Senator Richard B. Russell’s case mail (1931-1935) is now open to the public for research.

People write to their elected officials for any number of reasons, but often they write to ask for help – for their senator or congressman to step in on their behalf regarding a personal matter that requires government assistance. These personal requests from constituents are referred to as “case mail.” Due to the sensitive nature of these materials, case mail is restricted for 75 years from the date of creation in order to protect the privacy of constituents. Often, case mail is not even transferred to a repository along with the rest of a manuscript collection due to the storage space required to accommodate such large quantities of correspondence, which are subject to lengthy restrictions during which time no one is allowed to access the material. In light of all this, the opening of Senator Russell’s case mail from the early 1930s is a relatively unique event.

This portion of the Richard B. Russell Collection documents the issues that Senator Russell worked on during his term as Governor of Georgia and his early years in the U.S. Senate. Most dominant among the concerns expressed by his constituency in this period were those about unemployment and economic relief provided by federal organizations and New Deal programs. The majority of these letters are from Georgians asking the Senator for recommendations and help in securing federal positions and, to a lesser extent, recommendations for admission to military academies and universities. Many express a keen interest in New Deal projects that provided opportunities for work, including the Civil Works Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, and Tennessee Valley Authority.

Other letters requesting relief were redirected by Senator Russell to various organizations such as the Red Cross, Federal Emergency Relief Administration, Georgia Emergency Relief Administration, or county-level organizations. These letters illustrate the overwhelming impact of the economy on an already struggling population in rural Georgia but also show the pride people expressed, even when asking for help. Many sought to find a position for themselves that could benefit the state – such as working in the Department of Agriculture to address the screw worm epidemic killing off cattle. Others suggested the creation of more rural mail routes in the state, on which they could be hired to serve.

Senator Russell also assisted Georgians with immigration issues. In one series of correspondence, the Senator aided a man trying to bring his French wife and child into the United States. In another, he corresponded with a Jewish medical student trying to leave Europe amid rising political tensions.

The case mail contained in the Russell collection provides a glimpse of a cross section of the events of the time. Local, national, and even international happenings are recounted through these personal stories and requests for assistance from people across the state.

The Russell Library is open for research from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, with the exception of University holidays. For further information on the case mail contained in the Richard B. Russell Collection contact or call (706) 542-5788.

Post by Laura Starratt, Russell Library Volunteer

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Fond Farewell

We were saddened to learn today of the passing of George T. Smith, accurately described by Jim Galloway as "the most versatile man in all of Georgia politics."

George Thornewell Smith was born in Camilla, Mitchell County, Georgia on October 15, 1916. He attended Middle Georgia College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. In 1940, he joined the U.S. Navy, and after two years was placed on the Naval Land Force Equipment Depot. He left the military in 1945, and returned home. In 1948, he graduated from the University of Georgia Law School and went into private practice in Cairo, Georgia. He served as city attorney, county attorney, solicitor of the State Court, and attorney for the Grady County Board of Education.

In 1958, he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. In 1963, he was appointed speaker of the house. He successfully campaigned for lieutenant governor in 1966, but was defeated for reelection by Lester Maddox in 1970. Smith went into private practice in Marietta, Georgia, and made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1974. In 1976, he was elected to the Georgia Court of Appeals, and in 1980, he was elected Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Smith was the only man to serve in all three branches of the government – legislative, executive, and judicial. Until the time of his death, he served on the Executive Committee of the Appellate Judges Conference.

In 2009 the Russell Library and Bob Short interviewed Smith on his career in politics. In the interview Smith also talks at length about his service in World War II. The interview may be viewed here:

or via iTunesU at UGA (Reflections on Georgia Politics, program 89) here:

Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History, Russell Library

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Informal Forum Friday (8/27/10):Creating Communities, Fighting Sprawl

Just a reminder! August's informal forum event will take place this Friday, August 27th from 3-5PM at the Russell Library. This month’s discussion takes up the challenging issue of sprawl in American communities. (Sprawl is the term used to describe dispersed development outside of compact urban and village centers along highways and in rural countryside.) Across the country, American communities are under enormous stress. Cities are struggling to survive with fewer middle-class residents, older suburbs suffer from traffic congestion and creeping blight, and rural communities are often overwhelmed with explosive growth of new homes and malls. How can we strengthen our local communities facing such severe problems?

About the Issue Guide…
This forum will use the deliberative issue guide developed by Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation. If you are interested in reading more about the issue, you can download the moderator’s guide fro free at

How to Find the Russell Library (parking, bus access, walking)
The Russell Library is located in the University of Georgia Main Library Building just off South Jackson Street in Athens, GA. Parking is available in the North Campus Parking Deck also on South Jackson St. Athens Transit and UGA Bus Service both serve the main library via the bus boarding zone on South Jackson Street.

The Russell Library maintains its own entrance on the West side of the Main Library building. Follow the path/steps down the right side of the main library building (the west facing side) and down the stairs to access our door. If you need handicapped access, please go to the main entrance of the Library and check in at the security desk.

More information:
For more information about this forum, please contact Jill Severn at 706-542-5766 or For more information about Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia, visit

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why So Tense: A Dialogue About Race and Ethnicity

How easy is it to have a conversation about race and ethnicity on a college campus? Do people always hold themselves back from expressing real opinions on this difficult topic for fear of insulting others? Or can they express themselves fully, even at the risk of a heated discussion over core values? On Thursday, August 5th moderators Jill Severn and Jan Levinson from the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia challenged a group of 28 of UGA’s residential advisors-in-training to tackle the topic of racial and ethnic tensions using the National Issues Forums issue guide “Racial and Ethnic Tensions: What Should We Do.” An hour and a half of dialogue left everyone in the room thinking more about these issues and how to cultivate more conversations on difficult topics with students on the UGA campus.

Establishing personal stake in the issue, participants moved quickly into talking about their own experiences on campus as well as in their hometowns. One student said he had often heard people say that UGA was desegregated in 1961, but that the school is still not integrated. Another student described his upbringing in racially divided cities like Savannah and Memphis and how those experiences helped him to appreciate the respectful atmosphere at UGA. Others expressed that while institutionally the University is adamant about equality for all students, socially the campus is still divided – creating tensions. Using this early conversation as a springboard, moderators moved into a discussion of the three approaches from the issue guide:

Approach 1: Look Beyond Race and Ethnicity
In this view, we must focus on what unites us, not what divides us and provide equal opportunities for everyone. There has been much progress in bridging racial and ethnic divides, proponents of this approach say, and there will be even more if we eliminate racial preferences, which are unfair to everyone. We must also insist that recent immigrants assimilate rapidly.

Approach 2: Build Self-Identity First
In this view we should acknowledge and accept differences, not blur them. The way to reduce ethnic and racial tensions is to first build racial and cultural identity. We will never learn to get along well with others until we first know who we are -- as individuals from different cultural backgrounds. We must allow minority communities and schools to set their own course, even if it means accepting some self-segregation.

Approach 3: Open All Doors to Everyone
This approach calls for all of us to take an active part in finishing the job of integration. It is a job that we will have to work at by making continuous efforts to meet, talk with, and understand each other better. Proponents of this view oppose policies that encourage or accept racial or ethnic separation. Only through living, working and going to school together – and setting common goals through community dialogue – will prejudice subside.

To read the full report on this forum, CLICK HERE or visit the Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia website. Thanks to our forum team - including volunteers Monica Pereira (recorder) and Nadine Cohen (observer) -- as well as our forum participants! And most of all to Kenya McKinley for inviting us to work with her staff during RA training. The discussion was great and we hope we'll have more chances to work with the folks in student housing again soon.

Post by Jan Levinson, Coordinator, Russell Forum for Civic Life in Georgia

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Outside the Box - August

After a lengthy summer hiatus, we're back! Our feature this month centers on a relatively new addition to our collections, and item from the newly opened Zell Miller Papers.

Object: Lantern used to transport the 1996 Olympic Flame

Collection: Zell Miller Papers

The 1996 Olympic Games
In 1987 Billy Payne, a successful Atlanta attorney, first conceived of bringing the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to Georgia. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Payne hoped that this opportunity would give the city a positive new image. He recruited mayor Andrew Young and together the men developed a proposal to sell local business leaders on the idea. In September of 1990 they pitched an extensive bid document to the International Olympic Committee. Nine years and several billion dollars of infrastructure later, the Olympics landed in Georgia.

Fire from the gods...
The Olympic Flame, which commemorates the theft of fire from the Greek gods by Prometheus, has been a symbol of the Olympic Games since their beginning in ancient Greece. The modern torch relay used to deliver the flame from Greece to the host city, however, only began at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. That first relay lasted twelve days and included 3,000 torch bearers.

By the 21st century, the relay had become an economic opportunity, a series of media events sure to drum up interest for the Games in the host country and around the world. In 1996, the torch relay from Los Angeles to Atlanta lasted 84 days and included 10,000 torchbearers. The torch traveled by foot as well as by bike, seaplane, train, and steamboat – more than 15,000 miles through 42 states to its final destination. Research projected that the relay event would reach more than 180 million citizens and 34 of the top media markets in the country. On July 19, 1996 83,000 attendees watched as famed boxer Muhammad Ali served as the final torch bearer, delivering the flame to Olympic Stadium in Atlanta.

This lantern, used to transport the flame from Greece to the United States, was given to Governor Zell Miller. The matching lantern was given to Billy Payne.

This “Outside the Box” object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, until September 30th. For further information on this feature, or the Zell Miller Papers, please contact or visit