Carl E. Sanders, former Governor of Georgia and Chairman Emeritus of Troutman Sanders LLP, died November 16, 2014.
He served from 1963 until 1967 as Georgia’s 74th Governor.
Born in Augusta on May 15, 1925, Sanders excelled in athletics at the Academy of Richmond County, where he later was named to the school’s Hall of Fame. After graduation, he attended the University of Georgia on a football scholarship. World War II interrupted his studies, and he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943. At age nineteen he was commissioned to pilot B-17 heavy bombers. After the war he completed his degree and entered the University of Georgia Law School. In 1947, he received his LL.B. degree, was admitted to the bar, and married Betty Bird Foy, a campus beauty, and a talented art student from Statesboro. They settled in Augusta, where their two children, Betty Foy and Carl Edward, Jr., were born.
While practicing law in Augusta, Sanders was active in civic and community affairs and served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Hill Baptist Church. In 1955, the Augusta Chamber of Commerce elected him Young Man of the Year, and in 1959 the Georgia Jaycees named him one of the five Outstanding Young Georgians.
Sanders' political career began in 1954 when he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, and two years later he advanced to the State Senate, where he was elected President Pro Tempore. In 1962, Sanders ran for Governor, and in a hard-fought campaign, defeated Marvin Griffin, a former governor. Sanders’ victory over Griffin marked a turning point in Georgia's political history. Following the demise of the county unit system, Sanders was the first Georgia governor chosen by popular vote, the first from an urban area to be elected since 1916, and, at age 37, the youngest governor in the country.
In his biography of Sanders, James F. Cook characterized him as the Spokesman of the New South, based upon Governor Sanders’ image as a progressive governor during the turbulent period of the 1960’s, and his strong political advocacy for keeping Georgia’s public schools open when many southern leaders favored closing schools to avoid implementing court orders to desegregate. Although he lived and came of age in a rigidly segregated society, Sanders developed a moderate position on race issues in contrast to a number of other Southern Governors of that period. He befriended and worked with Leroy Johnson, the first African-American to serve in the Georgia Senate, and worked quietly to remove vestiges of the Jim Crow system from the State Capitol and other state facilities. He appointed the first African Americans to serve in the Georgia State Patrol, to the Governor's Commission to Improve Education and to the Georgia delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
Sanders made education the first priority of his administration and directed nearly sixty cents of every tax dollar into education. His administration added 10,000 new teachers, established a Master Plan for Education, and set minimum standards for public schools. In addition, he began the Governor's Honors program for exceptional students, developed an extensive educational television network, encouraged school consolidation, and greatly expanded vocational training.
Within the University System, enrollments doubled during Sanders’ administration. The state’s modest system of community colleges, then known as Junior Colleges, was expanded with the addition of colleges in Brunswick, Albany, Kennesaw, Dalton and Gainesville, Georgia and in Clayton, Bibb and Floyd Counties. Several of these community colleges established under Sanders’ leadership have grown into major colleges within the University System. Specifically, the Georgia Medical College was expanded with the addition of a dental school. Additionally, during his tenure, University System salaries increased by 32 per cent, moving Georgia from tenth to fourth among Southern states. With the support and inspiration of his wife, Betty, who is an accomplished artist, Sanders established the first Georgia Council of the Arts and Humanities, and was responsible for the addition of 4 new fine arts buildings on Georgia college campuses. Governor Sanders later served as President of the University of Georgia Alumni Society and received the Bill Hartman award, which honors former student athletes at the University.
Sanders was instrumental in funding the construction of new and enlarged facilities for the University of Georgia School of Law. Today the Law School offers students a popular leadership program known as the Sanders Leadership Forum, which brings state and national political leaders to the campus.
The Sanders administration also reorganized the State Highway Department, the Welfare Department, and the Health Department; it also built the current Governor’s mansion and established the State Water Quality Control Board as the state’s first environmental regulatory agency and created a police academy. Under Sanders’ leadership, his administration also had the top-ranked airport development program in the nation, with 42 airports being built during Sanders’ term. At the end of his term, Sanders left $140 million in the State treasury--the largest amount ever left to a succeeding governor up to that time.
Governor Sanders served as Chairman of the Southern Governors Conference and, after leaving office, continued as the Conference’s legal counsel and argued a landmark case in the United States Supreme Court that struck down the last vestiges of freight rate discrimination that had hampered industrial growth in the South.
As Governor, he also worked with Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen to bring professional baseball and football to Atlanta (the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons). And, after leaving the Governor’s office, Sanders assisted Atlanta developer Tom Cousins in bringing professional basketball to Atlanta (the Atlanta Hawks).
Shortly after his election as governor, Sanders made a successful personal appeal to President John Kennedy to reject a Pentagon recommendation that would have drastically reduced the mission of Augusta’s Fort Gordon. During his tenure as Governor, Sanders also developed a close political and personal friendship with President Lyndon Johnson and chaired the Rules Committee of the 1964 Democratic National Convention. In 1970, having been out of state government and elective office for four years, he ran for Governor again, but he was defeated by State Senator Jimmy Carter in a contentious and hard-fought campaign.
After leaving the Governor’s office in 1967, Sanders founded the law firm now known as Troutman Sanders LLP, which has grown into an international firm with more than 600 attorneys. Sanders managed the firm for 25 years and continued to serve the firm as Chairman Emeritus and as a partner – who continued to come to the office most days until his death.
His career in business included service as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the First Georgia Bank, and service on the boards of directors of First Railroad and Banking Corporation, Fuqua Industries Inc., Cousins Mortgage & Equity Investors, Healthdyne Technologies and Matria Health Care, Inc.
Sanders was a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, Peachtree Golf Club and Piedmont Driving Club. He also served on the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, and in 1997, he was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame. For much of his life he was active in the YMCA and was a long time member of the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta. He also was a long time member of the Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church.
Governor Sanders is survived by his wife of 67 years, Betty; his daughter, Betty Foy Botts, and son-in-law, R. David Botts of Atlanta; his son, Carl Sanders, Jr., and daughter-in-law Christy Sanders. He also is survived by five grandchildren: Michael David Botts, Alyssa Betty Foy Botts, Caroline Sanders Hamburg (together with her husband Billy Hamburg and children William Adam Hamburg and Montgomery Cate Hamburg), Keaton Marie Sanders, and Carl Sanders, III. He was preceded in death by grandson Austin Sanders Botts. The family is deeply grateful to all of those who have provided invaluable personal assistance to Governor Sanders, especially Willie Derrico, Margie Sims, Joanne Duffy, Jasmine Hammond, Janet Persaud, Craig Phillips, and his long-time assistant at Troutman Sanders, Doris Barnes.
Following a private burial in Augusta Georgia earlier in the week, a memorial service honoring Governor Sanders is scheduled for Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. at Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church. The family has designated the YMCA of Metro Atlanta or the University of Georgia School of Law for those wishing to make memorial donations in memory of Governor Sanders.