Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gaines Foster


In 1970 four young racially moderate Democrats won the governor's chairs of Arkansas, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia. These southern gubernatorial elections and the subsequent inaugural speeches signaled a transformation of racial politics in the region. As the campaigns began, however, persistent ambivalence concerning the pace of integration and court-ordered busing of school children to achieve racial balances tempted many politicians to exploit these concerns. Their efforts failed; southerners had decided to obey the law. The successful candidates understood that the electorate had come to this decision with varying degrees of enthusiasm and that their campaigns must reflect this ambivalence; they must eschew the rhetoric of resistance without uttering strong words in favor of desegregation and busing. The 1970 gubernatorial campaigns marked the first time in southern politics that those who refused to exploit racial prejudice won office. Elusive evasion of racially charged issues appealed to a moderate electorate that had grown weary of upheaval. The finessing of race by the men who would become the New South governors of 1970, however, set an example that subsequent candidates would follow and missed an opportunity to establish a morally binding biracial coalition that could have strengthened the southern wing of the Democratic party beyond 1970.