Georgia first lady Sandra Deal has spoken statewide about her book on the governor’s mansion, but signing books in her hometown was extra special.
“Of course, people supported Nathan (Deal) and his politics, and if not for him, I wouldn’t be able to have (done) this,” she said. “And if you have the opportunity to learn about things, you need to share them.”
And share she did, along with co-authors Jennifer Dickey and Catherine Lewis of Kennesaw State University, during a 40-minute presentation on the book, “Memories of the Mansion: The Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion,” Monday at the Northeast Georgia History Center.
“We think it’s a treasure and you will love it,” Deal said. “(Dickey and Lewis) were kind enough to include me as an author. They were really the authors — I just graded their papers.”
Deal is a retired sixth-grade middle school teacher in Hall County.
The 226-page book depicts the history of the 30-room, Greek revival-style home built in 1967 as told through stories and experiences of the first families who lived there.
Deal, Dickey and Lewis worked closely with the Maddox, Carter, Busbee, Harris, Miller, Barnes and Perdue families “to include their memories and behind-the-scene photos of life in the mansion,” according to a history center press release.
“My vision was I just wanted a book that was not controversial … I didn’t want political stuff in it,” Deal said. “This was about the families that had lived there, the history of the mansion and pictures of the beautiful things in the house and in the yards.
“There are so many people who will never get to travel there and I wanted them to feel like they had been there.”
The women shared several of those stories with their audience, painting a picture of Georgia’s leaders as ordinary people, not just solemn-faced political movers and shakers.
They talked about how motorists along West Paces Ferry in Buckhead, where the mansion is located, might catch a glimpse of pre-presidential Jimmy Carter in swim trunks with 4-year-old daughter Amy on his shoulders.
Or how Roy Barnes moved in early at the mansion, unannounced to the staff, including the cook, who had left for the evening. No food was in the house, so Barnes ended up calling up his brother and his wife and asking them to bring Kentucky Fried Chicken over for dinner.
The stories got laughs from audience members, many of whom held copies of the women’s book.
One of those was DeDe Forrester of Gainesville, who had brought her 8-year-old daughter, Jaelie.
“I liked the KFC story — that was cute,” DeDe said. “I just think it was neat how they did (write about) the history before it all got lost.”
Deal spoke about the urgency to produce such a book.
“We had already lost the Busbees and the Maddoxes,” she said. “If we didn’t collect this history soon, we were going to lose it all.”
The book, released this fall, is available at the history center at $40 per copy, as well as online.
Dickey, Lewis and the main photographer “got paid a little bit” for their efforts, but otherwise proceeds from books will go to Friends of the Mansion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to maintenance, upkeep and operations of the mansion, Deal said.
“Just know you’re fixing up the mansion, and we thank you,” she told the audience.