After serving more than three decades in state and local government including two terms as Georgia’s governor, Sonny Perdue has committed his political papers and memorabilia to the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia. By a special arrangement with the Georgia Archives, the Russell Library will house both the former governor’s personal and official state papers. This collection joins the papers of thirteen other Georgia governors.
“The addition of Sonny Perdue’s papers means that Russell Library now holds more than half the personal papers of modern Georgia’s governors,” said Sheryl Vogt, Director of the Russell Library. “We are happy that the legal agreement with the state archives allows us to house these records.”
“Governor Perdue’s papers continue the cornerstone documentation provided by the state’s past leaders, which reveal the rich and complex history of Georgia’s modern history,” Vogt said. “Researchers will have great interest in Governor Perdue’s collection not only because he was the first Republican governor since 1871 but also he served during a period challenged by significant population growth, environmental challenges, and economic decline.”
George Ervin “Sonny” Perdue was born in 1946 in Perry, Georgia, to Ervin and Ophie Perdue, a farmer and teacher, respectively. After graduating from Warner Robins High School, Perdue attended the University of Georgia where he played football and was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree. He remained in Athens to attend the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine and earned a doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1971. Perdue entered the Air Force following graduation and left in 1974 holding the rank of captain. In 1972, he married Mary Ruff, whom he met while they were both students at UGA.
After settling back in Georgia in 1974, Perdue became a small business owner in Houston County concentrating in agribusiness and transportation. He became active in public service, including sitting on the Houston County Planning and Zoning Board, during the 1980s. Perdue was elected to the Georgia State Senate in 1990 representing his Middle Georgia district in the General Assembly for the next 11 years. While in office, he chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee and also served as President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader. His other committee assignments during his tenure included Ethics, Finance and Public Utilities, Health and Human Services, Reapportionment, and Economic Development, Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
In 2002, Perdue launched a gubernatorial campaign against incumbent Roy Barnes. He campaigned for governor on a platform of restoring public trust in state government and defeated Barnes with 52% of the vote thus becoming the first Republican governor in the state since 1871. From 2003 through 2010, Perdue concentrated his efforts on improving transportation, safety, education and ethics in government. He established the Commission for a New Georgia, which studied management issues within state government and focused on improving customer service in state agencies. His work on conservation culminated in the introduction and subsequent passing of the Georgia Land Conversation Act, which was signed into law in 2005. Together as Governor and First Lady, the Perdues pursued initiatives involving the needs of children in the state, particularly those in foster care. Gov. Perdue won re-election in November 2006 against former Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Following his departure from office, the former governor resides with his wife in Bonaire, Georgia.
Governor Perdue’s official papers include executive files, which consist of subject files generated by his administration including those of his assistants and others pertaining to legislators, agencies and organizations, and counties. These records also contain proclamations, scheduling files, Legal Division records, Public Officials Commission records, and External Affairs files. Perdue’s personal political files include those pertaining to his campaigns, his work in the State Senate, clippings, the Commission for a New Georgia, and those of the First Lady. Photographs, artifacts, and audio-visual material are a part of both the official and personal papers.
For more information on the Sonny Perdue Papers, please contact the Russell Library staff at (706) 542-5788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Richard B. Russell Library is open for research Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm, with the exception of University of Georgia holidays.