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Georgia on My Mind

In 1962, one year before I started my masters program in Georgia Institute of Technology

(Georgia Tech.), the Institution admitted 3 black students for the first time.

Almost sixty years later on January 4, 2021, Georgia Tech announced, Raheem Beyah as the first African American Dean of its College of Engineering.

Meanwhile, the unprecedented two U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia have flipped the Senate control from the Republican Party to the Democrat Party.

Raphael Warnock becomes the first African American Senator from the State of Georgia, since the Reconstruction.

The Institution, the State of Georgia and the Nation have come a long way.

My memory goes back to 1966 Gubernatorial election in Georgia.

Those days, in the South, the Democrat Party was carrying the banner for segregation.

In the election, Democrat candidate and racist Lester Maddox won the Democrat Primary on a segregationist platform. (Image of Lester Maddox with gun drawn to prevent African Americans from entering his restaurant, located next to the Tech Campus, is still vivid in my memory).

In the General elections, Republican Howard H. (Bo) Callaway actually beat Maddox but failed to get a majority of popular vote, as required by Georgia State Law. The election was then decided by the predominantly Democrat Georgia General Assembly in favor of Maddox. The only bright spot in that election was the introduction of a young peanut farmer called Jimmy Carter who lost to Maddox in the Primary but gained national attention.

Party politics changed considerably since that time. Now, the Democrats are championing the causes of diversification and equality. Party of Lester Maddox transformed itself to the party of Jimmy Carter, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Stacey Abrams and now Raphael Warnock.

I have always found Georgia an interesting state in a bubble. As an urban planner, I worked with several citizens, politicians and power brokers in predominantly small urban areas of Northwest Georgia.

I found the people of Georgia always warm, courteous, well mannered and generally conservative.

Except for the City of Atlanta, Georgians were living a life of "Apartheid", without admitting it.

Atlanta was an exception. The city prided itself as "too busy to hate". It was an oasis.

The Ebenezer Baptist Church, the epicenter of civil rights movement in the 1960's with Martin Luther King Jr. as a Pastor, is located in Atlanta.

For long, Georgia was a tale of two populations- Racially liberal Atlanta and conservatively segregationist small towns and rural areas.

In the 1960's, the state of Georgia resisted the "Civil Rights" movement.

The State, which used to be an almost one party Democrat State, gradually turned to Republicans.

The 1964 Presidential election between Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater was the landmark.

Five states in the deep south, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, voted for Republicans for the first time along with Arizona. This was the beginning of the realignment of the Republican Party in the South.

The term Red States vs. Blue States was added to the American political lexicon.

It has taken nearly sixty years for the tide to turn.

The democrat party played smart in 2020. They concentrated on high voter registration in urban areas and central cities. Thanks to Covid-19, the "Mail-in" ballots were born. These efforts and the gradually changing population swung the State to the Democrats. Republicans, caught off guard, screamed fowl and threw legal challenges without avail.

The final nail in the coffin for the Republicans was when suburban Georgian women turned against the ungentlemanly and rude conduct of the President and his party.

As they are fond of saying in Georgia,

"If you love Southern Women raise your glasses,

If not, raise your standards".

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