George Busbee

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George Dekle Busbee, Sr.

In office
January 14, 1975 – January 11, 1983
Preceded by Jimmy Carter
Succeeded by Joe Frank Harris

Born August 7, 1927
Vienna, Dooly County, Georgia
Died July 16, 2004
(aged 76)
Savannah (Georgia) International Airport
Resting place Peachtree Memorial Park in Norcross in Gwinnett County, Georgia
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Mary Elizabeth Talbot Busbee (married 1949-2004, his death)
Children Beth B. Kindt

Jan B. Curtis
George D. Busbee, Jr.
Jeff Busbee

Alma mater Georgia Military College
Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College
University of Georgia (Bachelor's and law degrees)
Occupation Attorney
Religion Southern Baptist

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy

George Dekle Busbee, Sr. (August 7, 1927 – July 16, 2004), was the 77th Governor of his native Georgia, the first governor to serve two consecutive terms from 1975-1983. He succeeded fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter the year before Carter was elected as U.S. President and defeated Lester Maddox to win the 1974 gubernatorial nomination. He then swamped the flamboyant Republican Ronnie Thompson in the general election.


Busbee was born in Vienna in Dooly County in south central Georgia and attended Georgia Military College and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Milledgeville before joining the United States Navy. After his discharge, he completed his education at the University of Georgia in Athens, from which he received both bachelor's and law degrees. He was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and the Phi Kappa Literary Society, having procured a bachelor's degree in 1949 and a law degree in 1952.


Establishing a law practice in Albany in southeastern Georgia, Busbee served nine two-year terms as a state representative and served as the Majority Leader for Governor Carl Edward Sanders, Sr. (1925-2014). In 1967, Busbee was one of thirty in the legislature who voted for the Republican U.S. Representative Howard Hollis "Bo: Callaway, Sr. (1927-2014) in the disputed 1966 gubernatorial race, rather than the Democratic nominee Lester Maddox of Atlanta, then a segregationist. Acting under the 1824 Georgia Constitution, the legislators chose Maddox, 182 to 66, a choice affirmed in 1927 by the United States Supreme Court.[1]

In 1974, Busbee won the Democratic nomination in Carter's final year in that office. In the party runoff, he defeated, 551,106 votes (59.9 percent) to 369,608 (40.1 percent), former governor and sitting Lieutenant Governor Lester Maddox, the man whom Busbee had voted against in the legislative election for governor some seven years earlier. In the fall of 1974, Busbee handily defeated Ronnie Thompson, the first Republican to have served as mayor of Macon. In 1976, voters approved a wholesale revision of the Georgia Constitution, which included a provision that allowed Busbee to become the state's first governor to serve two consecutive four-year terms. He won election to his second term in 1978 with an easy victory over Moderate Republican Rodney Mims Cook, Sr. (1924-2013) of Atlanta.[2]

In his 1975 inaugural address, Busbee called for cooperation among the state's elected officials: "The people are tired of personal bickering, petty infighting, and political clatter," in an obvious reference to the stormy Maddox and Carter administrations. Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller echoed the call for harmony. Busbee made education the hallmark of his administration and achieved in his first year in office the establishment of statewide kindergarten, a proposal opposed by House Speaker Tom Murphy (1924-2007). Busbee also pushed for economic development, prison reform, constitutional revision, and restructuring the Department of Human Resources. Working cooperatively with Miller and the General Assembly, Busbee made noteworthy progress in each of these areas during his eight years. The governor's victory was short-lived in light of the recession that plunged the state into what Busbee characterized as the state's worst financial crisis in forty years.[2]

After his service as Governor, Busbee joined the Atlanta law firm of King & Spalding and moved to the Atlanta suburb of Duluth.[2]

Personal life

Busbee was married to the former Mary Elizabeth "Mary Beth" Talbot (1927-2012), originally from Ruston in north Louisiana. The sixth child of a country physician, Dr. and Mrs. B. H. Talbot, she graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences and also did graduate work in pathology at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. She moved to Georgia to work as a medical technician at Athens General Hospital in Athens, where she met George Busbee, then a law student. In 1952, the Busbees relocated to Albany, where they remained until his inauguration as governor in January 1975. As First Lady of Georgia, Mrs. Busbee was known for her emphasis on volunteerism. In 1985, she co-authored a cookbook, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, about favorite recipes and guests served at the governor's mansion during her eight years there. Mrs. Busbee was a 40-year cancer survivor.[3]

The Busbees had four children, Beth Kindt and husband John, Jan Curtis and husband Carlton, George D. Busbee, Jr., and wife Tammy, and Jeff Busbee and wife Kelly. After the governorship, the Busbees started a church in their home while they resided in Duluth. That congregation is now the Parkway Baptist Church, a moderate congregation with a woman pastor allied with the Southern Baptist Convention.[3]

Death and legacy

Busbee died at the age of seventy-six of a heart attack at the Savannah (Georgia) International Airport. George Busbee Parkway and Busbee Drive in the Town Center Mall in Cobb County are named in his honor. The Busbees are interred at Peachtree Memorial Park in Norcross in suburban Gwinnett County.[4]


  1. Billy Hathorn, "The Frustration of Opportunity: Georgia Republicans and the Election of 1966", Atlanta History: A Journal of Georgia and the South,, XXX (Winter 1987-1988), p. 47; publication defunct.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 James F. Cook. George Busbee. New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved on September 11, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mary Beth Busbee. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 5, 2012. Retrieved on September 11, 2021.
  4. George Dekle Busbee. Retrieved on September 11, 2021.