Perdue becomes new governor of Georgia:

A “Sonny” day for Georgia’s Republican Party

By Tomi Morris Johnson

Digital images by Tomi Johnson and Daniel Johnson  ©2003 WingcomLtd. All Rights Reserved.



January 12-13, 2003, Atlanta, GA…You can tell a politician has slipped past the bounds of being a mere candidate into the realm of incumbent celebrity when handshakes and back pats are replaced with polite waves from spiral staircases behind the protection of velvet ropes and security guards.  That was the reality confronting thousands of citizens visiting the Open House at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion where Sonny and Mary Perdue now reside.  Security was also tight at the inaugural gala, where the new governor and first lady were untouchable to a mass of constituents. 


Governor-elect Perdue and wife Mary welcomed Georgians to the mansion on Sunday.

Perdue waved from mansion staircase.

Visitors toured the Mansion’s first floor and passed by the Perdues who greeted them from the steps.


Throngs of supporters and curiosity seekers waited for hours to catch a bus ride from the Church of the Apostles to the Mansion to see the new governor.  Some even brought their dogs to see Dr. Perdue who is a veterinarian. After the tour, each citizen was given a Live Oak sapling, the official state tree since 1937.


Waiting for a bus ride to the mansion, another “Sonny” brought his dog to see the new governor. Dr. Perdue has a degree in veterinary medicine.

WingcomLtd’s Tomi Johnson posed with Jack Logan from Eatonton, GA and Howard Eckerd from Monroe, GA, members of Centerstage, a bluegrass band, who played in front of the Mansion.

It was a long, cold wait to see the new governor. A warm tent set up on the Mansion lawn held guests who were warmed with free coffee.

Republicans are in the house (Georgia Governor’s Mansion) again after over 130 years, and boy are they glad about it! Many of the people I interviewed appeared elated that an underdog had won and that the Republicans finally had a victory to boast.


Not since Conley spent a short stint as governor has Georgia Republicans had the power reins in state government. Republican Benjamin Conley became a provisional governor in Oct. 30, 1871 and served less than three months until he resigned because of term disputes with the Democratically controlled legislature.  ( Talking about role models looking like those following in their footsteps, the resemblance between Perdue and Conley is eerie, for they look very similar, except for the beard. One wonders how this new Republican governor will fare in what was once known as a Democratic state.  Perdue’s transition team’s motto is “The New Georgia.”


Benjamin Conley (R). Portrait by George Mandus.

Sonny Perdue (R), 2003

(From Perdue campaign website)

A souvenir Georgia Oak sapling was given to guests at the mansion.





Ayron Johnson (l), a computer-engineering student at Southern Polytechnic University in Marietta, enjoyed meeting new people who espoused new ideas while he waited for the Mansion tour bus.

Elaine Adler Pollack (c) from Midtown, Atlanta said she became disillusioned with the Democrats and vowed to work with the Republican Party. Formerly from Philadelphia, PA, Ms. Pollack says she’s going to wait and see how Perdue handles issues important to women. “Sonny was a big surprise to all of us,” Pollack said.


Dr. Art Holbrook (r), Chairman of West Point Lake Advisory Council in LaGrange, GA, met the governor-elect because of his interest in solving some of the state’s water problems. Holbrook, who is a retired pediatric dentist and architectural engineer, says Perdue will make a good governor who will listen and not be a “dictator” like the previous governor.




Georgia Chamber of Commerce Meeting - Before the inaugural ball, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce held its annual meeting reception in the Thomas B. Murphy Ballroom of the Georgia World Congress Center.  The speaker was the incoming 2003 Georgia Chamber of Commerce Chair Robert L. Brown, Jr., president and CEO of R L Brown & Associates, Inc., an architectural firm. Mr. Brown is a graduate of Tuskegee University and introduced his table of friend and family to the meeting’s participants, saying “We can’t go anywhere without them.”  During Brown’s speech he said, “At the bottom of education, politics, religion, and health care, there must be for all people an economic foundation…I’m proud to be an Georgian and an American,” Brown said.


Robert Brown, Jr. family and friends.                                George M. Israel, III, GA Chamber of Commerce Pres./CEO


Brown’s recommendations to better economic development in the state included reinforcing the economic foundation of regional councils and making sure there are strong franchises of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce; increase the membership by 700; and involve more small businesses so as to make a blend of small, medium, and large businesses, thereby making a more balance Chamber; create initiatives to help children succeed before they enter kindergarten so the educational base is aided.


On the buffet table was cocktail quiche, crab cakes, meatballs in mushroom sauce, chicken Dijon in pastry crust, cashew chicken, spring rolls, firecracker plum sauce, stuffed new potatoes, and an assortment cheeses and fruits. Drinks at the bar were free.



A local country music DJ recorded Well Nelly and Cedar Grove as they played, “Happy Days are Here Again.”

Ray Charles performed on stage.

The bands Well Nelly and Cedar Hill combined forces at the inaugural gala outside the main hall and played “Happy Days are Here Again.” A New Georgia 2003 was the theme. Attendance estimates ranged from 8,000 before the event to 15,000 during the Atlanta Symphony’s concert.  From my vantage point on the press platform, the crowd was a sea of white Republicans from all over the state, perhaps the most recognizable white majority I have seen in my eight years of being in Atlanta which is 67.1% black. I estimate that there were no more than 50-100 African Americans at the event, including singer Ray Charles!  Mayor Shirley Franklin was noticeably absent from the festivities held in her hometown as were other key Democrats in state government. US Congressman David Scott (D – 13th District)) and his wife, however, were spotted in the crowd.


The Atlanta Symphony played patriotic songs following Ray Charles’ performance.


The mood was festive; the crowd seemed like typical underdogs who had sacked the biggest political victory in Georgia’s history.


WingcomLtd’s Tomi Johnson asked GOP guests the following:

Question:  What does the election of Sonny Perdue mean to you?         



Terry Jagars, Atlanta, GA: “Perdue’s election means nothing to me. I’m just here enjoying the event.”

Linda Parker, inaugural volunteer coordinator, Woodstock, GA:  “It’s a ‘Sonny Day’ in Georgia.”





Miguel Candelaria, Atlanta, GA: “I was breast feed a Democrat and when I was weaned off I became a Republican, and ever since my ideology as a company owner has really made me a stronger Republican. We look forward to the new history in the state of Georgia by having the Republicans here. It’s been 130 years that we’ve been waiting on this.”









Laurette Need (in wheelchair) from Green County, GA:  “I think the election of Sonny Perdue means that teachers will have more input into how the schools are governed, and I think the people are going to have more say so.  It’s some fresh air in government.”





Winston Strickland, Marietta, GA: “It’s a new, historical day for Georgia. We need to look at our basics. We’ve come a long way with people in power, and it’s a new day for power. We are ready to go, and we’re putting on our running shoes.”







Councilman Anthony Coleman, Marietta, GA: “We look forward to working with the new governor. I know he has a lot of ideas on his agenda, and certainly we’re looking forward to seeing how he will address issues.”



Steve Nelson, Columbus, GA: “This means the change of something that’s been in place for a very long time. There were a lot of people strongly aligned with the Democratic Party that will now have to rethink their priorities. From a business standpoint, this being a Chamber meeting, it concerns how we will conduct business in this state. It’s going to be an interesting time, and we all need to be prepared to change from the way things have been.”





Tracey Johnson, Byron, GA: “Being from Central Georgia, it was good to see a hometown guy win.  More than that, it’s good to know that even though the media said that it would be a win for the Democrats, the Republicans actually won it.


Rhonda Johnson, Byron, GA: Not only do we consider it a victory to have a Republican in office, but also he’s a Christian Republican. That’s very important to our family.”






“A New Georgia – 2003”


The Young Republicans were prominent volunteer/helpers who gave directions, checked coats, and presented every guest with a souvenir bag that included an inaugural drink and a form to buy extra inaugural memorabilia.








Dr. Mason and son Gary “We certainly needed a little change here.  We all have to love and work together. That’s what God intended us to do.”









The information in this article is the opinion of the author and, therefore, should not be construed as libelous.

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