James V. Carmichael (1910-1972)
In the second wave of southern industrialization, from the 1940s to the 1970s, James V. Carmichael was one of Georgia's
James Vinson Carmichael was born in rural Cobb County on October 2, 1910. His parents, Emma Mae Nolan and John Vinson Carmichael, owned a country store south of Smyrna. Just before his sixteenth birthday, the young Carmichael was hit by a car. His spinal cord was almost completely severed, and he needed a year to recover before returning to Marietta High School in a wheelchair. Eventually he learned to walk short distances with a cane, but he endured intense pain for the rest of his life. Refusing to give in to his disability, Carmichael graduated in 1933 from Emory University Law School and established a successful practice in Marietta with Mayor Leon M. "Rip" Blair. In 1938 he married Frances Elizabeth McDonald. Their children included: Mary Emma, James Jr., and Frances Elizabeth.
As county attorney Carmichael teamed with Mayor Blair and Commissioner George McMillan in 1941 to build a Cobb County airport called Rickenbacker Field (later part of Dobbins Air Reserve Base). Shortly after the attack
After the war the U.S. government cancelled the B-29 contract, and Bell was forced to shut down the Marietta plant. Carmichael became a partner in several local industrial ventures and in 1947 assumed the presidency of Monie Ferst's Scripto pen company, located in downtown Atlanta. Under Carmichael's leadership the company expanded overseas and became the largest manufacturer of writing instruments in the world.
In the early 1950s Robert Woodruff, planning to retire from the day-to-day operation of Coca-Cola, courted Carmichael to take his place. Although Carmichael was still in his mid-forties, complications from his severe back injury kept him from accepting the position. By 1964 health problems forced him to step down from the Scripto presidency, although he continued several more years as chair of the board.
Twice in the late 1930s Carmichael was elected to the Georgia General Assembly without opposition. After his law firm took on a major client that did business with the state, the Marietta attorney chose to avoid potential conflicts of interest by not running for a third term. Nonetheless, Governor Ellis Arnall appointed him in 1943 as executive director of the Georgia Department of Revenue and later placed him on the committee that wrote the 1945 Georgia Constitution. Prohibited by the constitution from offering for reelection, Arnall encouraged Carmichael in 1946 to run in his place against two former governors, Eugene Talmadge and E. D. Rivers. A skeptic about New Deal labor and welfare programs, Carmichael was less liberal than Arnall but far more progressive than Talmadge or Rivers. The Cobb County executive represented a business progressive philosophy that championed moderation in race relations, improved public schools, better roads, and whatever it took to attract major companies to Georgia. Running well in urban areas, Carmichael outpolled his rivals, receiving more primary votes than anyone before. Nonetheless, he lost the countryside, especially in south Georgia, where Talmadge managed to gain enough county unit votes to capture the election.
Viewing the county unit system and one-party politics as a deterrent to social and economic progress,
Carmichael's notable record of public service included membership on the governing boards of Emory University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, the Atlanta School of Art, and the University System of Georgia. He was the first head of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and a Georgia governor of Kiwanis International. The distinguished public servant died in Marietta at age sixty-two, on November 28, 1972.
Dictionary of Georgia Biography, ed. Kenneth Coleman and Charles Stephen Gurr (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1983), s.v. "Carmichael, James Vinson."
Hartwell Hooper and Susan Hooper, "The Scripto Strike: Martin Luther King's 'Valley of Problems' in Atlanta, 1964-1965," Atlanta History 43 (fall 1999): 5-34.
Calvin Kytle and James A. Mackay, Who Runs Georgia? (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998), 256-57.
Philip Scranton, ed., The Second Wave: Southern Industrialization from the 1940s to the 1970s (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2001).
Thomas A. Scott, Kennesaw State University
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