Save the Georgia Archives

Democrats rally to save Georgia State Archives from Republican budget cuts – who put compassion and civil rights history on back burner (Morrow, Georgia) – Determined to ensure Georgia’s rich history is readily available, Democrats in the Peach State are rallying to keep the Republican Administration from effectively closing the Georgia State Archives thus becoming the only state in the nation without a state archives that is open to the public. In what Georgia Archives supporters describe as a major step backwards for the state’s civil rights history and citizens, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp recently ordered seven employees laid-off when the facility ceases operations on Nov. 1. Archive supporters described those employees as “talented and skilled.” Former Democratic Georgia State Sen. Gail Buckner is among thousands who are upset that Republicans are trying to dismantle the effectiveness of the Georgia Archives. “Georgia's Secretary of State (SOS) should be defending the State Archives rather than dismantling it,” Buckner said. Archive supporters scheduled a rally for noon this Wed., Oct. 3, 2012 in the rotunda of the Georgia Capitol with many speakers including ex-lawmaker and ex-federal prosecutor Bob Barr, a Republican turned Libertarian who served as U.S. Congressman (1995-2003) and as U.S. Attorney (1986-1990). The rally is sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve the Georgia Archives (Kaye L. Minchew/Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr., co-chairs) and the Society of Georgia Archivists, a non-profit, professional organization. In an effort to save the Georgia Archives, Valdosta resident Elizabeth Dill started a petition drive entitled “Leave our state archives open to the public” that will be delivered to Republican GA Gov. Nathan Deal, GA SOS Brian Kemp and both houses of the GA General Assembly. Over 16,500 people had signed the petition by Oct. 1 and organizers hope to garner at least 20,000 signatures by Oct. 31. A Facebook page entitled Georgians Against Closing State Archives had received over 3,500 “likes” in the first two weeks as the public displays its anger over closing the Archives. In a shocker to many citizens, SOS Kemp said he was slashing the Archives from his budget in a state rich with ties to world famous icons famous for civil rights, sports, writing, acting and more. Instead of costing the state money, Buckner said it’s a valuable part of the state budget. “The Archives is an economic generator because it bring tourism dollars into our economy when people from throughout the nation travel to Georgia to do research,” Buckner said. “With the Southeast Regional National Archives right next door, our State Archives is well-known to those that do serious research.” “Effective November 1, 2012, the Georgia State Archives located in Morrow, GA will be closed to the public,” states a limited posting on the Georgia Archives official website. “After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment … the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees,” the notice states in bold. “Once again Republicans are trying to control Georgia history and limit access to history in the state of Georgia,’ said activist Rev. Terence A. Dicks of Augusta, GA, the PDA Southern Regional Organizer and PDA State of Georgia Coordinator. “Republicans always seem to try to rewrite history and use deception to create false new ‘history’ that eventually exposes their corruption and lack of humanity,” Dicks said. The closure of the Archives “is a slap in the face of Georgians who have shaped our country – and to detriment to our youth curious about the past – plus an insult to Georgians past and present,” said Dicks, who has long respected and promoted Georgia icons. Rev. Dicks is the founder of the Claiming A Street Named King project with the Georgia Clients Council that strives to economically revitalize neighborhoods surrounding boulevards that bear the name of civil rights leader MLK – and was manager of the first-ever concert in Augusta, GA by legendary soul singer Mr. James Brown – about six months after he was co-organizer of the 1986 James Brown Appreciation Day. “The Georgia Archives offer so much history in the form of many important documents, papers and interviews,” Dicks said. “The Georgia Archives provides documented information to a myriad of disciplines, including those that simply want to research their family history, to state agencies and local governments that need access to state documents to verify legal issues” Sen. Buckner, who represents the 44th GA Senate District and whose hometown of Morrow is also the location of the Georgia Archives. Buckner has long fought to keep the state archives open and free. In 2004, Buckner and then Democratic SOS Cathy Cox both fought to “prevent people from selling state documents on E-Bay and similar situations,” said Buckner who has a different vision for the office and its services than the state’s Republican Administration and who ran for the SOS position in 2010 but lost in a primary runoff. Dicks said Georgia residents now know “we should have elected a Democrat Gail Buckner as Secretary of State.” Buckner believes all citizens should have unfettered access to the state’s majestic history. “These documents belong to the State of Georgia and our citizens deserve to know that they will have access to this information,” said Buckner, who was presented the Legislator of the Year Award from the Friends of the Archives for passing legislation to help protect state documents, Even the official website boasts the importance of the Archives: “The Georgia Archives identifies and preserves Georgia's most valuable historical documents,” the website proudly states. “Whether you love history, or simply want to know how we serve the citizens of Georgia, we invite you to explore our website or visit us in the City of Morrow, located just south of Atlanta. We look forward to serving you!” The Society of Georgia Archivists created a slide show with information about “why saving the Archives is important and provides background on the Archives budget. The closure of the Archives “cripples an institution that was among the first state archives established (1918), has won many awards for its programs and state-of-the-art archival facility, and has been a respected leader in archives, government records programs, and research use,” states an “action alert” put out by rally organizers. Organizers want the governor to “restore a minimum of $1 million to the Georgia Archives budget to return its operations to 5 days a week of public access hours and eliminate projected staff reductions,” the action alert states. Archives supporters want the governor to “reverse the Secretary of State’s proposed budget cuts to the Archives by Nov. 1 to ensure uninterrupted service to the public.” Among the many legends in Georgia History: The birthplace (Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta) and base of operations of late civil rights icon and legend Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – and now the location of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Self-proclaimed home (Augusta) of Mr. James Brown (May 3, 1933–Dec. 25, 2006), “Godfather of Soul” and the “Hardest Working Man In Show Business – who was honored by Augusta during the1986 James Brown Appreciation Day for his legendary funk career, for helping to quell riots in the town where he shined shoes, eventually owned a radio station, opened offices, continued to give toys to poor children until just days before his 2006 Christmas death and now has an arena that bears his name Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Alice Walker, a sharecropper’s daughter born (1944) in Eatonton, GA who wrote the famous novel “The Color Purple” Former Atlanta Brave and Baseball Hall of Fame legendary home run king "Hammerin’ Hank" Aaron who owns car dealerships throughout Georgia including Hank Aaron BMW in Union City (near Atlanta) where he gives an autographed baseball with every car sold NFL, USFL, and University of Georgia football player Herschel Walker of Wrightsville, GA, who is a three-time All-American, 1999 College football Hall of Fame inductee,1982 Heisman Trophy winner and played ball for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL) and National Football League (NFL) teams Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants Legendary comic actor Oliver Hardy, who was born (1892) in Harlem, GA (near Augusta) and who made 60 short comedies (Laurel and Hardy team) and 16 feature films including “Big Business” one of the finest short comedies of the silent era, and “The Music Box,” which won a 1931 Academy Award as the best short film Other rally speakers include: Dianne Cannestra, Chair of the Friends of Georgia Archives and History; Kaye Lanning Minchew, Co-Chair of the Coalition and Director of the Troup County Archives; Emma Davis-Hamilton, Chair of the African-American Genealogical Society; and Prof. Jim Cobb, University of Georgia/Spalding Distinguished Research Professor. “The Georgia Archives are an invaluable resource to the citizens of Georgia, as well as many government agencies,” states a rally press release. “Although Governor Deal has stated that he will fight to keep the Archives open, there is no plan in place to do so.” “Georgians rely on their Archives to keep our government transparent and accountable for its actions,: the release states “We rely on the expertise of archivists to manage, preserve and provide timely access to government records.” The Georgia Archives Building is located at 5800 Jonesboro Rd. in Morrow, GA 30260, and may be contacted by calling 678-364-3700.