"The Unfinished Task": Charles Weltner and the Hope of a New South Open Access

Meyersohn, Nathaniel Hart (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/2j62s5444?locale=en


"I would urge that we at home now move on to the unfinished task of building a New South. We must not remain forever bound to another lost cause," Charles Longstreet Weltner, the representative of Georgia's Fifth District from 1963 to 1967, said on the House floor before becoming the sole congressman from the Deep South to vote in favor of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet just two years later, he abruptly dropped out of his reelection campaign rather than adhere to a Democratic Party loyalty oath that required him to support arch-segregationist Lester G. Maddox. This work seeks to reexamine Weltner's career in Congress, including his fateful decision in 1966 that cost him a promising political future, against the backdrop of civil rights tension and sweeping changes to southern politics. By positioning Weltner, a largely ignored figure in the history of the era, as the hope of a new breed of southern Democrats, we can contribute to our understanding of why his moderate appeal failed to seize control of the region during the latter part of the twentieth-century.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: The Chancellor's Son 7

Chapter 2: "You Don't Pay a Note Before it's Due" 18

Chapter 3: "Wave of the Future" 34

Chapter 4: "Welcome to the Club" 50

Chapter 5: Weltner's Ace 69

Chapter 6: "Devil of a Mistake" 91

Conclusion: A Dying Breed 107

Bibliography 113

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