Interview with Kil Townsend, November 17, 2006

Collection: Richard B. Russell Library Oral History Documentary Collection

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Description

Richard B. Russell Library Director Sheryl Vogt interviews Kil Townsend about his life as a lawyer, businessman, author, and maverick Republican legislator in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1965 to 1992. Townsend discusses his early work developing the Republican Party in Georgia and supporting Repblican candidates such as Eisenhower and Bo Callaway. Townsend also discusses the careers of Dick Freeman and Rodney Cook and his initial run for the newly created Buckhead seat in the State House. He explains how his support of seating Julian Bond invited racially-focused criticism from early Georgia Republicans. Townsend reflects on his legislative fights regarding pensions, abortion, infrastructure, and teachers. He discusses the large number of counties in Georgia, how the county unit system influenced that number, and efforts to consolidate counties in Georgia. Townsend comments on being reelected, campaign contributions, and mobile home manufacturing. Townsend reflects on current affairs issues such as the wars in the Middle East, party politics in America, and international trade.

Kiliaen Van Rensselaer Townsend was born in Garden City, Long Island, New York, in 1918. A graduate of Williams College and the University of Virginia Law School, he served in the Counter Intelligence Corps, and after World War II settled in Atlanta. He became a member of the Georgia Bar and was an associate at Dorsey and Dorsey. In the early 1950s his Dixie Radiant Glass Heat corporation introduced electric heat in homes and hotels in the Atlanta area, and his Atlanta Motor Lodges corporation was, in the early 1960s, Atlanta’s biggest hotel motel chain. Townsend had been active in Republican party politics in Georgia since the party reactivated in the state in 1947, and organized the first Eisenhower for President Committee in the country, with the help of Bobby Jones. He continued to be active in the campaigns of outsider Republican/conservative presidential candidates for the rest of his life, including Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, Ross Perot, Steve Forbes, and John McCain. In 1965 he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, becoming one of the first Republicans in the House since Reconstruction. Often seen as a maverick, he advocated for the reform of Pardons and Paroles, the homeless, and the consolidation of Georgia’s 159 counties. In 1992 Townsend retired as the longest-serving Republican in the legislature. He became an educational consultant, authoring two books, The Boarding School Guide and The College Comparison Guide. Kil Townsend died in 2008 at the age of 89.

Date

2006-11-17

Identifier

RBRL175OHD-010

Coverage

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Citation

Kil Townsend and Sheryl Vogt, “Interview with Kil Townsend, November 17, 2006,” UGA Special Collections Libraries Oral Histories, accessed July 3, 2020, http://russelllibraryoralhistory.org/RBRL175OHD/RBRL175OHD-010.