Lil Vic’s Back! Criminals, Beware! The Clayco Voters Rose Up and Declared: “Bring Back the Crime Fighter!” Jeff Turner Demolishes Eldrin Bell! Rooks Embarrasses Wole! Davenport is the Only Incumbent to Win!
Latest Update: This is an updated and revised edition. In our haste to get the earlier edition out before 5:00 A. M., we missed a few minor typos. We apologize. We like to inform the readers with both function and style.
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
Victor Hill celebrating with friends, but dog-tired from all day campaigning.
Victor Hill: “I am humbled by God and the voters of Clayton County.”
Victor Hill will certainly go down in the annals of Clayton County political history – no, Georgia political history – as one of the most enigmatic political personalities of all time. His shocking and convincing victory over incumbent sheriff Kem Kimbrough is a race for the ages. He now stations himself in the Georgia political pantheon of charismatic leaders like Gene Talmadge, Hosea Williams, and Zell Miller. These men had their detractors and their crushing defeats during a time or two in their lives, but they bounced back – for good or bad or both – and proved that they had more than one political life.
Victor Hill was born in the quintessential of all Southern cities, Charleston, South Carolina. This most charming of all Southern cities has been voted more than any city in the United States as “the most polite city in America.” While it is a polite city, it was a city that was characterized by controlled and civilized violence. At one time during its history, the city went for decades without a murder because the Charlestonians believed strongly in The Code – The Code Duello, that is. For the uninformed, this code clearly laid out the principles that if you had a difference to settle with a gentleman, you formally invited him to choose the type of gun he wanted to use and bring his second and his surgeon under the oaks and be prepared to settle the difference. Stand back-to-back, take ten paces away from each other, turn around, take aim, and fire. This was civilized and controlled violence. This is how gentleman fought in Charleston. Victor Hill proved himself to be a true Charlestonian Gentleman by lining up in a political duel and aiming his shot directly at Sheriff Kem Kimbrough. Now the difference is settled. Victor Hill scored a 64% to 56% victory over Kimbrough. The people of Clayton County spoke loud and clear, despite the seemingly last minute efforts of The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, and The Clayton News/Daily to sway voters against the Little Giant.
Victor Hill was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina.
“Lil Vic” (as his friends are wont to call him) was born in 1964, the year that the U. S. Congress passed The Civil Rights Bill which was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in a ceremony which included H. Phillip Randolph and Dr. Martin Luther King. This was a year after Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” Speech on the Washington Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day in 1963, the same year that Victor Hill was conceived in Charleston, South Carolina, a city, like other Southern cities, which was still oppressive to African Americans in actions which make us blush today. If Charleston was not a city which engaged in the most graphic displays of racism in the manner of Police Commissioner Bull Connor’s Birmingham or Ross Barnett’s Mississippi, it was a polite and condescending racism which still communicated to the Charleston Blacks that they were not first class citizens in Charleston. Dr. King and Hosea Williams never led a Civil Rights march down Charleston’s King or Meeting Streets, but the understood institutional and societal racism was not questioned…at least by the white citizens.
Here I am on election day with Marshall Newsome, the first African American to win a countywide race in Clayton County in 1996. He predicted all day and all evening that Victor Hill was going to win. Mr. Newsome defeated eight other Democratic Primary opponents in 2000 without a Runoff, despite the fact that he had already been indicted.
But, the South was changing. After The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, Dr. King and other leaders within the Civil Right Movement kept pressing a reluctant President Johnson to take his measures further by urging the U. S. Congress to pass The Voting Rights Act the next year. This year, 1965, was a watershed year. Black people in the South now had the right to vote, without poll taxes, literacy tests, or requirements to answer dubious and esoteric questions posed about the U. S. Constitution before they were allowed to vote. Victor Hill was one year old when this Act was passed, and as he grew in age, Victor Hill’s parents pressed upon the young Vic that he could be whatever he wanted to be when he grew up. He wanted to be a law enforcement officer, and he began to work for the Charleston Police Department as the age of 18. Yes, just 18. At 18 years of age, this young crime fighter was admitted into the fraternity of the police in a city which was the scene of the first shots fired in the American Civil War, the bloodiest and costliest war in American history, a war which cost more American lives than all American wars combined. The Charleston Militia fired cannon shots at the federal garrison at Fort Sumter located in the Charleston Harbor on a crisp spring day in April of 1861. Victor Hill, while growing up, visited this site in the historic Charleston Battery on a number of occasions. Perhaps because he sensed that more opportunities would be available to him if he moved to the Atlanta, Georgia area, he left his Charleston and headed western.
Victor Hill did not immediately find a job as a police officer when arriving in Atlanta, but kept looking, again demonstrating this never-give-up attitude. He finally landed a job with the Clayton County Police Department and moved up fairly quickly within the ranks. His immaculate manners and command for the King’s English no doubt helped his advancement up the ranks. He became a detective and a hostage negotiator. By 2002, he decided to run for State Representative which he won. In 2004, he defeated the incumbent sheriff, Stanley Tuggle, quite easily and became the first African American sheriff in Clayton County’s history. You know the rest of the story.
There have been quite a number of political comebacks in American history. In 1962 after Richard Nixon was defeated by Pat Brown for the governorship of California, he told the media that he was through with politics and quipped, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” Six years later, Nixon was elected President of the United States. In 1948, President Harry Truman was barely scratching the surface in the national polls, and the consensus opinion among political pundits was that Thomas Dewey of New York would defeat Truman handedly. Truman set off on a nationwide whistle-stop tour, riding trains into small towns all over America. He kept hammering away at “the Do Nothing Congress,” and the people would yell up to the train platform where Truman was speaking, “Give’em hell, Harry!” Truman’s retort was: “I’m just telling’em the truth, and they think it’s hell!”
Both Nixon and Hill staged improbable political comebacks.
In the 1930s, Winston Churchill spent his time painting and writing in his home named Chartwell near the city of Kent, far from the hustle and bustle of the politics of London. He was a controversial political figure and by the 1930s, he was on the outs even within his own party. He had suffered an earlier political setback when as the First Lord of the Admiralty in 1915, he was demoted because of the Allies’ costly defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire at the Strait of the Dardanelles. In the 1930s, he felt abandoned by his friends, and the British press scoffed and ridiculed him, trying to do what it could to marginalize Churchill. But, he kept on warning the English leaders of the ominous threat of Adolph Hitler and his nascent Nazism which was spreading incrementally throughout Europe. But, the English leaders, most notably Chamberlain, wanted to accommodate Hitler and to appease him. It wasn’t until England was on the cusp of collapse that the people demanded the return of Winnie. When the cigar-chomping Winston Churchill, the English Bulldog himself, returned to the powerful halls of Parliament as the new Prime Minister, the Brits gleefully whispered, “Winnie’s back!” In Clayton County, we hear the same excitable chatter, “Lil Vic’s back! Criminals, beware!”
Sir Winston Churhill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Century.
For the record, Winston Churchill, whose gallant leadership against all odds during World War II, especially during The Battle of Britain in 1940 before the United States had entered the war, saved the British Commonwealth from defeat at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He was later knighted by the Queen of England and was forever known as Sir Winston Churchill until he died at the ripe age of 91. He was named by Time Magazine as The Man of the Century. He was the first person ever to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States. His time in the political wilderness wizened Churchill, and we believe that Victor Hill’s four years in the political desert has made him a wiser, more mature, and a more circumspective leader. Victor wrote to the voters of Clayton County: “I am a man who has made mistakes, owned up to them, learned from them, and I am vowing to you never to repeat them again.” He further wrote: “I have listened, I have learned, and I am ready to serve you….Give me a second chance, and I will make you proud by making Clayton County clean and safe again!” The voters of Clayton County, on August 21, 2012, rose up and gave Victor Hill this second chance.
Jeff Turner Stuns Eldrin Bell and Garners the Most Votes in Clayton County! Rooks Destroys Wole! Davenport is Only Incumbent to Ride to Victory!
Jeff Turner was totally vindicated in Clayton County, winning the most votes for the night.
Jeff Turner, who grew up in Clayton County and starred in basketball at Jonesboro High School, demonstrated that being home-grown instead of being an interloper from Atlanta and being a hands-on administrator instead of a be-gone Chairman who is constantly trotting up to Atlanta is the formula for success — and success is an understatement. Jeff Turner presented to the voters a fresh, young, and handsome face and someone ready to jump into action head-first to get Clayton County back on track. Bell, a politician who has had two terms to get things done but has accomplished little more than kibitzing in school board matters, caretaking, and in-fighting with Victor Hill, the Wade Starr forces, and Jeff Turner himself when Bell evidentally teamed up with the Wade Starr-coalition on the Commission to fire Turner as Police Chief, was turned out to pasture with less than 33% of the vote. This was a demolition. Bell, the ever facile and 77 year old former Atlanta Police Chief turned politician, apparently lost a huge voting bloc that he had among the white voters to Jeff Turner. Over all, it appears that the Clayton County voters — black and white — were just tired of Eldrin Bell.
In 2008, Bell was running against Lee Scott in the runoff election, and the white voters appeared to universally despise Lee Scott. So, Bell reaped the benefit of this voting bloc. But, as the Police Chief of Clayton County, Turner had done many favors for homeowner associations which were concerned with safety in their neighborhoods. Turner is a very personable man, and, quite frankly, many voters felt sorry for him. They did not like the way he was brusquesly pushed aside by both Eldrin Bell as well as the three commissioners who have been seen by political observers as lined up in the Wade Starr orbit. These same commissioners, Gail Hambrick, Sonna Singleton, and Wole Ralph, voted to create a County Manager’s job and gave the job to Wade Starr. Now Wade Starr, who makes more money than the elected Chairman, will be pitted next to the new Chairman, Jeff Turner. Most observers seem to think that Starr engineered the movement for the ultimate ouster of Jeff Turner as Police Chief.
Wade Starr ran against Eldrin Bell in 2004. Terry Bizzell was also in this race. Bell won without a runoff with 56% of the vote, Starr followed with 33%, and Bizzell got the rest. During this election, Bell had the strong backing of former Commission Chairman Charley Griswell, former Commissioner Robbie Moore, former State Representative Frank Bailey, and yours truly. This time, apparently Bell’s significant support was from Republican-oriented Mark Rountree’s Landmark Communications. The slick negative flyers against Jeff Turner just didn’t work. The Clayco political minefield is a little different from the rather tame and well-drawn lines among the GOP battlefields.
It appears that this same Landmark Communications was with Kem Kimbrough (we will check disclosures and see who was using this Republican-leaning firm’s services). Kimbrough sent out some large, slick mailings against Victor Hill too. The voters apparently just saw through this stuff. The voters knew what they wanted. They seemed determined to throw out the incumbents. Shana Rooks put a complete whipping on incumbent Wole Ralph, beating him 65% to 35%. This Spelman and Tulane Law School graduate also had a few former commissioners behind her as well as had a heap of disgusted voters in the lower part of the County with her. I presume that ole Joe Murphy, the former Mayor of Lovejoy, may have rounded up a few votes for Attorney Rooks. And doesn’t former Commission Chairman, J. Charley Griswell, still own a huge mobile home park in Lovejoy? Griz may have retired from active politics (having gone 6 and 0 in his undefeated career in three Commission races and three Commission Chairman races dating back to 1972), but he still keeps his pulse on what is going on in his county. He was seen at Victor Hill’s celebration Tuesday night.
Murphy Talmadge (L) and Norreese Haynes (R) at the Hill celebration.
State Senator Gail Davenport was also in attendance last night at Victor’s celebration as well as State Representative Sandra G. Scott and her husband Eddie Scott. State Representative-elect Demetrius Douglass showed up. Heck, Douglass’s opponent, former State Representative Glenn Baker, showed up in a pontoon boat with County Commissioner Michael Edmondson and others on board. They pulled up to the dock at Mitzi Bicker’s pier. Former Commissioner Robbie Moore showed up with Clayton County’s political legend, J. Charley Griswell. Perhaps Moore more than anyone else helped spearhead support for Victor Hill. I even talked with young Murphy Talmadge at Victor’s party. Who’s he? Well, he is a descendent of the Talmadges who ruled Georgia for 50 years, the great grandson of ole Gene Talmadge who was elected more times for governor in Georgia than anyone in the history of Georgia. Heck, I even saw media and marketing consultant Josh Stanley of Haralson County at Victor’s party. Why was this bi-racial crowd celebrating Victor’s victory? Because they see Victor Hill as someone who will scare the hell out the thugs who are running the streets in Clayton County. If they were running the streets of Habersham or Tuxedo in Buckhead, the high and mighty up there might be calling for Lil Vic to help them out too!
Apparently, Kimbrough’s poor judgment didn’t set well with the voters.
State Senator Gail Davenport finally defeated her political nemesis, Gail Buckner. She beat back Buckner’s strong showing in Clayton County with huge support from South DeKalb voters. This race was a very interesting race since Buckner once held this post, gave it up to run for higher office, came back and defeated Davenport, and came back this year to try to take this Senate seat away from Davenport again. Davenport hung on for a convincing 54% to 46% victory. The Davenport Family is one of Clayton County’s oldest and finest families. Gail’s sweet sister, Carolyn Davenport, a retired Clayton County educator, was with Gail last night, and I am sure that their ancestors who started Dixon Grove Baptist Church off Fielder Road about a century ago are smiling with favor upon their daughter, Gail Davenport, for getting re-elected again. In the last two elections, Gail has beaten back two strong challenges from Mike Glanton and Gail Buckner.