During a legislative career that lasted forty-two years, Culver Kidd was renowned as one of the shrewdest politicians in the state capitol, first as a member of the House of Representatives and later as a state senator. Kidd was the consummate dealmaker who wore colorful costumes (he once came to the senate floor dressed in a toga), introduced more bills than anyone else, and acquired the nickname “the Silver Fox” as a tribute both to his silver hair and his political cunning. He also survived several legal problems in the course of his long tenure in elective office.
Edwards Culver Kidd Jr. was born on July 17, 1914, in Milledgeville to Tillie Freeman and Edwards Culver Kidd Sr. He graduated from Georgia Military College in 1932 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1936 from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he played on the basketball team.
In 1941 Kidd married Oma Katherine Rogers, and they had four children, Tillie, Katherine, Edwards Culver III, and Margaret. His daughter Tillie served four terms in the 1990s as a U.S. congresswoman from Florida.
During World War II (1941-45) Kidd rose to the rank of U.S. Army major. He was wounded in Okinawa, Japan, and awarded a Purple Heart. After the war he returned to Milledgeville, where he operated a drugstore and was president of a chain of small loan companies.
Kidd represented Baldwin County in the state house from 1947 to 1953 and again from 1957 to 1963. He also served on the Baldwin County Commission from 1955 to 1964. He ran for lieutenant governor in 1962 but finished third in the Democratic primary. After a federal court decision struck down Georgia’s county unit system of electing state officials, Kidd was able to come back later in 1962 and run for a newly drawn district in the state senate. He won that race and represented the twenty-fifth senate district for the next thirty years.
As a legislator, Kidd worked energetically to protect the interests of the largest employer in his district, Central State Hospital in Milledgeville. He held sway over state government agencies through his chairmanship of the senate’s Governmental Operations Committee and also served on the Corrections, Health and Human Resources, and Rules committees. He typically sponsored a larger number of bills each session than most of his colleagues and was constantly wheeling and dealing to gain votes for the ones most important to him.
“He was a master of the legislative process, able to smooth the path of a bill or bottle it up through his use of amendments and parliamentary maneuvers. As an orator he could be passionate and witty when boosting a cause, or acidly scathing when attacking an adversary,” as a capitol reporter once described him.
Kidd faced some serious legal problems during his political career, one of them becoming a part of presidential history. He was tried and acquitted in federal court on conspiracy charges in 1978 after prosecutors called U.S. president Jimmy Carter to testify against Kidd. Kidd was represented at trial by fellow lawmaker Denmark Groover.
Kidd was criticized by the media after it was reported that one year he had contacted the state Board of Pardons and Paroles ninety times on behalf of fifty-seven inmates in the state prison system, and he was also the center of controversy in 1991 because of financial ties between himself and a Baldwin County magistrate.
While Kidd survived attempts by federal prosecutors to send him to prison, he eventually fell victim to redistricting. In 1992, after redistricting added thousands of new voters to his senate district, Kidd was defeated in the Democratic primary by Wilbur Baugh, a radiologist and former house member. When Lieutenant Governor Pierre Howard called Kidd on election night to check on the results, Kidd told him, “You got yourself a new senator. I’m sorry I ain’t gonna be back there any more to irritate you.”
Kidd died on December 4, 1995, at the age of eighty-one, a little more than three years after that final loss. His former colleagues in the state senate adopted a resolution in 1996 authorizing the placement of Kidd’s portrait outside the senate chambers on the third floor of the capitol.