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Senator ran for 2 offices in same year

POSTED: August 15, 2010 1:00 a.m.

"I think Congress has been one of the biggest frauds in all American history."

That quote didn't come from any candidates in this mega election year, but from one 100 years ago.

The speaker was a Hall County candidate for 9th District Congress in 1910, lawyer H.H. Perry of Gainesville.

During the official announcement of his candidacy at the noon recess of the Hall County Superior Court in July of that year, Perry continued, "They (congressmen) frank their mail, and each member is allowed $1,200 per year for clerk hire, yet often they center on one clerk and thus by pooling in on one man save big money. I am talking about Congress generally. And what have our Georgia congressmen in general done? Of course, sometimes they open the pork barrel and place a post office here and there, yet what have they been worth to us on great public questions?"

Perry probably was one of the few politicians to hold a state Senate seat, run for governor and Congress all in the same year. Serving in the Senate, he resigned to announce his candidacy for governor in the 1910 Democratic Primary. In May of that year, a trainload of Hall Countians accompanied him to Atlanta to launch his campaign, theme of which was "The People vs. the Corporations."

During his service in the state legislature he had sponsored a bill requiring lobbyists to register, citing "glaring frauds and corruption of elections by monopolies and special interests."

His campaign was short-lived. A native of Savannah, he drew precious few people for a rally in his former home city, where he spoke for two hours. An eloquent orator, Perry railed against the income tax, saying, "When your wife or daughter is clad in the classics and feasts on the viands of vast wealth and surrounded with the roses of richness and beauty, would you want her to think ‘all this was born from the mouths of the hungry and wrenched from the fingers of the poor?'"

When former Gov. Hoke Smith decided to run again against his nemesis, sitting Gov. Joe M. Brown, Perry dropped out of the governor's race to support Smith, a longtime friend.

Not done yet, though, Perry then entered the race for 9th District Congress against the formidable and legendary Tom Bell, also of Hall County. He lost the race for the Democratic nomination to Bell, who eventually served in Congress for 26 years.

Perry's defeat at the polls didn't discourage him, and he ran for U.S. Senate against incumbent A.O. Bacon in 1912, losing yet again.

In addition to serving in the state Senate, Perry also had been a state representative from Hall County. He sponsored the bill creating the state Court of Appeals and one putting a franchise tax on corporations. One of his bills created agricultural and mechanical schools across the state.

He was a delegate to the national Democratic convention in San Francisco in 1920.

Perry graduated from Emory College at age 17 and before becoming a lawyer began a career in education, teaching in Savannah public schools and what was then North Georgia Agricultural College in Dahlonega.

He chaired the Gainesville Board of Education as well as the board of trustees of Brenau College.

Perry became a popular, though at times controversial, lawyer in Hall County, dabbling in local politics before he rose to prominence on the state level.

He died in 1932 at the age of 81 and is buried in Alta Vista Cemetery.

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Perry's friend, Hoke Smith, did unseat Gov. Brown in that 1910 election. The two were playing musical chairs as Smith had won the governor's office in 1906 before losing to Brown in 1908.

Georgia's three-governor controversy in 1946-47 is well known, but in 1911-12, the state had four governors within seven months. Shortly after Smith succeeded Brown in 1911, the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the serious illness of Sen. Joseph M. Terrell.

The legislature appointed John Slaton as acting governor before Brown again was elected governor to fill out the term of his adversary, Hoke Smith, who had gone to the U.S. Senate.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times and can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle N.E., Gainesville, GA 30501. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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