Albert B. Saye, professor of political science at the University of Georgia (UGA), was one of the most well-known scholars of Georgia history and politics. He was the author of twelve books, six of which focused on Georgia history. Among his top-selling books were his Handbook on the Constitutions of the United States and Georgia (1946), which was revised eleven times, and Principles of American Government, which sold more than 200,000 copies.
Early Life and Career
Albert Berry Saye was born on November 29, 1912, in Rutledge, in Morgan County, to Sue and William Saye. He attended Emory University from 1930 to 1932 and transferred in 1933 to UGA, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in history in 1934 and his master’s degree in 1935. During this period, he developed a close friendship with UGA professor E. Merton Coulter and with Kenneth Coleman, who would later become a colleague and a prominent historian of Georgia. He married Ruth Kendrick in 1939.
After graduating, Saye spent a year studying at the University of Dijon in France. While there, he began work on a doctorate that he would complete at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1941. His dissertation was based on the original charter of Georgia, which he discovered while doing research in London, England.
Saye taught at UGA as an instructor from 1934 to 1936 and as a professor from 1939 until his death in 1989. Although he began as an assistant professor of history, most of his career was spent in political science. In 1957 he was named a professor of law and distinguished professor of political science, and from 1975 until his retirement in 1979 he held a Richard B. Russell Professorship. He was also a Fulbright scholar in India in 1982.
Georgia History Publications
Saye’s New Viewpoints in Georgia History (1943), arguably his most famous book, was one of the first scholarly works to refute the assumption that the colony of Georgia was established by debtors. He followed this publication with a comprehensive study of the colony and state’s governmental origins, A Constitutional History of Georgia (1948), covering the Charter of 1732 to the adoption of a new state constitution in 1945.
Saye also wrote four Georgia history textbooks that were intended for students from the sixth through eighth grades. (Since 1985, every eighth-grade student in the state has been required by law to take the subject known as Georgia Studies, which highlights the history, geography, economics, and politics of the state.) His first textbook about Georgia was History of Georgia (1954), which he coauthored with Coulter and Mercer University professor Spencer B. King. He was the sole author of two other textbooks, Georgia Government and History (1957) and Georgia History and Government (1973). A revision of the latter was released in 1982. These books were the most widely used Georgia history textbooks of the time.
During his long tenure at UGA, Saye contributed greatly to the fields of both history and government with his many books and articles. More important, he influenced the historical understanding of countless numbers of middle school students who used his textbooks in Georgia’s public schools for almost thirty years. From advocating segregationist arguments in his early textbooks to praising the progress of African Americans in his last ones, Saye’s own changing ideas about racial issues were clearly demonstrated in his four textbooks.
After his death in March 1989, UGA established the Albert Berry Saye Professorship in political science, which is funded by contributions made by his family and estate. In 2003 the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia established the Albert Berry Saye Professorship in history at UGA.