Eunice L. Mixon, one of the most colorful characters in Georgia political history, passed away on November 22. She was laid to rest yesterday after a funeral service at the First Baptist Church of Tifton. “Miss Eunice,” a mainstay of civic life and Georgia politics for more than four decades, was 87 years old.
Although Mixon neither ran for nor held elective office herself, she backed and boosted the campaigns of many who did—usually while attired in pink and sporting a matching parasol. A ubiquitous presence in Georgia Democratic circles since the 1970s, she began working locally on behalf of Democratic candidates before becoming more involved at the statewide level. In that role, Mixon epitomized the sort of grassroots, retail politics familiar at the time.
Mixon participated in Bob Short’s Reflections on Georgia Politics series back in 2008. Her full interview is available online. Her papers, which document her involvement in state government and politics, are open and available for research at the Russell Library. Containing numerous candid snapshots of Mixon with a veritable "who’s who" of Georgia and national politics, the photographs series is particularly rich. The finding aid for the Eunice L. Mixon Papers is also available online.
Eunice Mixon’s unlikely road to political celebrity began in rural South Georgia. Born on November 1, 1931, to parents Robert and Carrie Lastinger, she spent her formative years on her parents’ Tift County farm. She recalled years later that local candidates would often “sit on the front porch and talk with Daddy” during the campaign season, but she took no active part herself.
She married Albert Mixon in 1948 and helped manage the family’s peanut and tobacco farm. A lifelong learner, Mixon earned a bachelor’s degree in 1956 from Valdosta State University after also attending classes at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the now-defunct Norman Park Junior College. She would go on to earn her master’s and education specialist degrees from the University of Georgia. For over three decades, Mixon devoted her professional life to teaching science and history classes in Tift County.
Mixon’s star turn in Georgia politics came in 1974 when state Representative George Busbee telephoned during the run up to that year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary asking her to chair his Tift County campaign. Mixon, astonished by the request, replied bluntly, “Are we that bad off?” She promised Busbee that she would find a suitable candidate for the position, but she wound up helming his county operation in the end.
Over the ensuing years, Eunice Mixon proved a valuable asset in the politically important South Georgia region. She would go on to campaign for congressmen Charles Hatcher and J. Roy Rowland; governors George Busbee, Joe Frank Harris, Zell Miller, and Roy Barnes; senators Sam Nunn and Max Cleland; presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; and countless others up and down the ticket. A tireless champion for her preferred candidates, Mixon’s campaign house parties in Tifton are the stuff of legend.
In addition to her campaign work, Mixon also participated in Democratic politics at the highest levels. She served as a delegate to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and again at the 1992 convention in New York City. Mixon also sat on the Democratic Party of Georgia’s executive committee for a number of years. In the twilight of her career, Miss Eunice, like many South Georgia residents, crossed to the aisle to support Republicans like Senator Johnny Isakson.
Her close personal and political relationships with Georgia governors led her to serve on several appointed boards and commissions. Various governors of both parties appointed Mixon to the Georgia Civil War Commission, Georgia State Bar Disciplinary Board, State Heritage Trust Commission, and the Vocational Education Task Force. As chairperson of the Georgia Student Finance Commission in the early 1990s, she helped implement and oversee the first HOPE Scholarships.
She also received a number of awards and accolades over the course of her public life including the Democratic National Committee’s Lawrence O’Brien Award, the Georgia Council on Aging’s Distinguished Older Georgian Award, the State Bar of Georgia’s inaugural Eunice L. Mixon Award, and many, many others.
Beginning in January 1999, Mixon began a twelve-year stint under the Gold Dome as Georgia Senate Doorkeeper. Writing at the close of the 2007 legislative session, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle thanked Mixon for her hard work and dedication. “Please know that your valuable contributions toward keeping the whole legislative process running smoothly have not gone unnoticed.” Going unnoticed, after all, wasn’t really Miss Eunice’s style!
Her death is yet another reminder that a bygone era in Georgia politics is slowly, but surely, passing away. She will be missed.