The Late Speaker Murphy’s Knickknack Museum At UWG

Jim Galloway has an article about a museum at the University of West Georgia that recreates the late Speaker Tom Murphy’s office in the state capitol.  Here are a few of the items that will be of note:

– The eight-track tapes of Hank Williams, who perhaps inspired Murphy’s perpetual Stetson hat. (Mourners sang “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at Murphy’s funeral .)

– The electric shoe-shine bush that lawmakers used while waiting to squeeze an opinion out of a man who was famous for saying as little as possible.

– The four over-sized gavels – the symbol of a speaker’s power over his chamber.

– The ever-present Irish flag, and another with the words “Erin go Bragh.”

– “My favorite piece is that picture of [the late] George Busbee with his feet up on Murphy’s desk,” said Catherine Hendricks, in charge of the library’s exhibits. The black-and-white photo is a candid moment in which a Georgia governor admits it might have been more fun to have been Tom Murphy.

– And a collection of canes, with one stray buggy whip, that will remind discerning eyes that the state Capitol was once – and in many ways, remains — a repository of male sweat and rude humor. Many of the cane heads are fine wood carvings. One is made from a bull’s nether regions.

A great deal of shellac was required.

Speaker Murphy must have been an interesting character.  The man held the speaker’s gavel in Georgia for 28 years which makes him the longest serving Speaker of the House in a state legislature in the United States.  Despite the former Speaker being a Democrat, I am intrigued by him and the power he held over Georgia during his tenure as speaker.  I may have to pay a visit to the museum at UWG on the way down to Columbus for the Georgia Republican Party state convention.

5 comments

  1. Mid Georgia Retiree says:

    Speaker Murphy’s Democratic party in no way resembles the Democratic party of today.

  2. SallyForth says:

    Sad but true, Mid GA. He was the traditional Southern Democrat, strict fiscal conservative and social moderate, who worked hard at knowing what was going on at all times – the key to his uncanny wielding power with benevolence and an even hand. He was always for the underdog, which didn’t sit well with the big money, big bidness people, and gained their criticism, yet he was strong, always held firm – and the people loved him. He was Georgia as red clay, had a loyal constituency in his district for many decades, yet also understood the interface of metro Atlanta and the rest of the state. He forged a coalition of conservative-to-moderate rural whites and urban whites & blacks that no one else could have done. But then the transplant Republican sprawl of Cobb spread to Paulding and there were more of them than there were of native Georgians. How sad that a few hundred people who did not understand how important he was to the state replaced the Speaker with a one-termer. Then they gave us Glenn Richardson! Ugh.

    Now the Democratic Party is also controlled by people who’ve moved here from other states in the last 20 years or so, with ultra-liberal political philosophies that Speaker Murphy would never buy. As you say, it no way resembles his Democratic Party. But the current Republican Party’s radical right wing politics would also not be recognized by Paul Coverdell and his peers either. So now we have the two political extremes running both Parties, and moderate voters in the middle have no Party.

    So, honoring Speaker Murphy’s memory and his contributions to our state is the only political thing that feels genuinely good now. Instead of voting this year, how about we all just go get drunk?

    • Mid Georgia Retiree says:

      You are so right. The people in control of both parties ignore those of us in the middle. Drinking certainly appeals more this year than voting.

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