Campus News

Departing politicians enrich Russell Library

Athens, Ga. – Five collections from veteran policy makers-congressional and state office holders and the previous mayor of Athens-have been given to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia.
Tommy Irvin and Michael Thurmond, former Georgia commissioners of agriculture and labor, respectively; former congressmen John Linder and Jim Marshall; and Heidi Davison, the former mayor of Athens, have donated documents and memorabilia to the Russell Library, which houses materials from more than 300 politicians, political parties, public policy organizations, federal and state appointees, and political observers and activists from modern Georgia (1900-present).
“These acquisitions are a boon to students and scholars, and mark a milestone in meeting the library’s commitment to collect materials that comprehensively document the full spectrum of political life and public policy in Georgia,” said Sheryl Vogt, director of the Russell Library.

“While the library’s holdings provide information about the history of the U. S. Congress, legislative leadership, national and state politics, and political campaigns, what is generally lesser known about these kinds of materials is their rich historical context. They provide exceptional documentation for study of public policy affecting agriculture, minority and gender issues, energy, health, transportation, foreign affairs, the environment, and the economy, among others. Topics of note may include soil and water conservation, flood control, urban planning, industry and trade, immigration, national defense, and state and U. S. history,” Vogt added.

Irvin’s tenure as the longest serving commissioner of agriculture in the United States spans more than 41 years of a 54-year-plus career in public service. He also is the longest serving statewide official in Georgia. Irvin’s efforts to improve Georgia agriculture led to changes on the regional and national levels and impacted world opinion of U.S. Agriculture. He also is recognized internationally for his efforts on food safety. A Georgia native, Irvin was elected to his first public office as a member of the Habersham County Board of Education in 1956.Irvin served four terms in the Georgia General Assembly as a representative from Habersham County; he served on the House Agriculture, Education, and Appropriations Committees and chaired the House Industrial Relations Committee and the Governor’s Conference on Education. He was the governor’s floor leader and later served as executive secretary to the governor.Thurmond has distinguished himself as an attorney, author, lecturer and public servant. In 1986, he was elected to the Georgia General Assembly from Clarke County. During his legislative tenure, he was the only African-American legislator elected from a majority white district. After serving three terms in the legislature, Gov. Zell Miller selected Thurmond to direct Georgia’s historic transition from welfare to work. In 1998, he was elected Georgia labor commissioner,the first African-American to be elected Georgia labor commissioner and the first to be elected to a statewide office in Georgia without having first been appointed to the position. Thurmond’s became the first African-American collection housed at the Russell Library when he deposited materials from his early career in 1999.

A former dentist and businessman, Linder joined the U.S. House of Representatives in 1992, as a republican representing the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia. He served in a number of leadership roles, including the Ways and Means Committee and the House Rules Committee, which is a part of the House leadership and reviews every major piece of legislation coming to the House floor for consideration. Linder managed more bills than any other Rules Committee member and served as chairman of the Subcommittee on Technology and the House and the vice-chairman of the Full Committee.He also has taken a lead role in fundamental tax reform. Prior to serving in the U.S. Congress, Linder served seven terms in Georgia’s General Assembly.

Marshall served four terms in Congress, as a democrat representing Georgia’s Eighth Congressional District. Marshall left Princeton in 1968 to enlist in the Army and volunteer for infantry combat in Vietnam. He received numerous military awards, including two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. Marshall also is a member of the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. After graduating from Princeton, he earned a law degree from Boston University and served on the faculty of Mercer University Law School.As mayor of Macon from 1995 to 1999, Marshall received high marks for fiscal management, addressing substandard housing and improving race relations. Marshall is a frequent writer, lecturer and national television commentator on military matters. He has been active in protecting and enlarging the missions of Georgia’s military bases, particularly Warner Robins Air Logistics Center. He also is one of the founders of the Balanced Budget Caucus and a member of the steering committee of the Rural Health Care Coalition.

Davison won two terms as Athens mayor by promising to protect the environment, provide more transportation options, guard neighborhoods from unwanted development, fight poverty and foster a high quality of life so small business can thrive. She helped lay the groundwork to replace the dilapidated and overcrowded Clarke County Jail and ramp up recycling, create a downtown historic district, pass water conservation rules to survive a historic drought, usher through a $195 million package of sales-tax projects and commit the government to spending money on public art. Davison and the county commission added bus service on nights and Saturdays, put more money into sidewalks, striped bike lanes, expanded stream buffers and continued work on a network of trails along rivers and abandoned rail lines.

For more information on the Russell library, see