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Lester Maddox papers

Collection number: ahc.MSS1267

Scope and Contents

The collection contains records generated during Lester Maddox's time in office as governor and lieutenant governor of Georgia and his political campaigns in 1966 and 1974, subject files, booklets, correspondence, scrapbooks, and audio recordings. Campaign papers include letters of support, volunteer lists, agendas, district organization charts, and lists of contributors. Subject files include information on a 1963 grand jury investigation of the Atlanta Police Department in which Atlanta police officers were accused of being involved with an illegal lottery. Handwritten notes and anonymous letters from police officers describing corruption within the force are included. Other files contain information about a racially motivated riot in Augusta, Georgia, in 1970; the Pickrick Restaurant; Georgia Governor Ernest Vandiver (1918-2005); Georgia Senatorial candidate Sam Nunn (1938- ); and a 1964 report from Maddox's FBI file regarding his refusal to comply with the Civil Rights Act. The file contains letters written on his behalf by Newt Gingrich (1943- ), Paul Coverdell (1939-2000), Bob Barr (1948- ), and Max Cleland (1942-2021). Georgia county files include farm statistics, authorized construction lists, economic development profiles, and brochures. "You Ought To Know" was a political advertisement column written by Maddox that was funded by public contributions.

Scrapbooks compiled by Maddox's wife, Virginia, contain newspaper clippings and ephemera such as programs, Christmas cards, and menus. Images depict Maddox's inauguration as Governor of Georgia and the 1968 Democratic National Convention and include images of Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield (1890-1971), Alabama Governor George Wallace (1919-1998), Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge (1913-2002), and entertainers such as Danny Thomas (1912-1991), Johnny Cash (1932-2003), and June Carter Cash (1929-2003). The scrapbooks highlight Virginia Maddox's role as First Lady of Georgia.

Audio recordings include a July 10, 1964 news conference where Maddox explains his resistance to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a series of gospel tunes sung by Maddox.


  • 1915-2003, undated


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. All requests to publish, quote, or reproduce must be submitted through the Kenan Research Center.

Biographical / Historical

Lester Garfield Maddox (1915-2003) was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the second of seven children to Dean Garfield Maddox (1887-1961) and Flonnie Belle Castleberry Maddox (1894-1995). He attended O'Keefe Junior High School, Fulton High School, and Technological High School before dropping out of school in the 11th grade. He continued his education by studying engineering and accounting with the International Correspondence Schools. He worked at the 6th Street Pharmacy and as an apprentice dental technician with the W.D. Chandler Dental Lab before working as a machine operator at the Atlantic Steel Company. Maddox rose to the rank of supervisor and worked at the Atlantic Steel Company for eight years.

Maddox married Virginia Cox (1919-1997) in 1936, and in 1944 they opened a grocery store and restaurant. Building on the success of their first business, they opened the Pickrick Restaurant in 1947. Maddox used his restaurant as a platform for his political and segregationist views. In 1965, Maddox closed the restaurant rather than integrate in compliance with the public accomodations section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Later in 1965, he reopened the restaurant as the Lester Maddox Cafeteria. Maddox ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Atlanta in 1957 and 1961 and for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 1962, but he went on to serve as the 75th Governor of Georgia from 1967 to 1971. Maddox was legally prevented from running for a second consecutive term as governor and instead ran for and won the position of lieutenant governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. He is the only former governor later elected as lieutenant governor. Maddox ran unsuccessfully for the office of governor of Georgia in 1974 and 1990 and for the presidency of the United States of America in 1976. He was member of the North Atlanta Baptist Church on Hemphill Avenue from 1918-1998 and a member of Roswell Street Baptist Church of Marietta at the time of his death in 2003.


17.26 linear ft. (24 document cases, three oversize boxes, three LP vinyl discs, and one digital file)




This collection is arranged alphabetically by titles supplied by staff.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Audio recordings were made on 45 and 78 rpm vinyl discs. "If I Go To Jail" is available as an attached link. All other audio can be made accessible only through conversion to digital audio. Patrons who request access to non-digitized audio content in this collection are responsible for digital conversion costs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift and purchase, 1994, with subsequent additions

Related Materials

Lester Maddox photographs, VIS 105, Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center

Related Materials

Visual materials have been separated from the collection. Please contact an archivist for access to these materials.

Bias in Description

As archivists, we acknowledge our role as stewards of information. We choose how individuals and organizations are represented and described in our archives. We are not neutral, and bias is reflected in our descriptions, which may not accurately convey the racist or offensive aspects of collection materials. Archivists make mistakes and might use poor judgment. In working with this collection, we often re-use language used by the former owners of the material. This language provides context but often includes bias and prejudices reflective of the time in which it was created. The Kenan Research Center’s work is ongoing to implement reparative language where Library of Congress subject terms are inaccurate and obsolete.

Kenan Research Center welcomes feedback and questions regarding our archival descriptions. If you encounter harmful, offensive, or insensitive terminology or descriptions, please let us know by emailing Your comments are essential to our work to create inclusive and thoughtful description.

Content Advisory

This collection contains original unedited versions of all content. Some material may contain depictions of violence, offensive language, or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. There may be instances of racist language and depictions, particularly regarding African Americans. These items are presented as part of the historical record for the purpose of education and research. The viewpoints expressed in this collection do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the Atlanta History Center or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers.

Processing Information

This collection was originally processed as MSS 135 in 2010 and reprocessed with subsequent additions in 2024.

Lester Maddox papers
Ginny Van Winkle
February 2024
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center Repository

130 West Paces Ferry Road
Atlanta GA 30305