Sonny Perdue

Sonny Perdue
81st Governor of Georgia
In office
January 13, 2003  January 10, 2011
Lieutenant Mark Taylor
Casey Cagle
Preceded by Roy Barnes
Succeeded by Nathan Deal
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district
In office
Preceded by Ed Barker
Succeeded by Ross Tolleson
Personal details
Born George Ervin Perdue III
(1946-12-20) December 20, 1946
Perry, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 1998)
Republican (1998–present)
Spouse(s) Mary Ruff
Alma mater University of Georgia (BS, DVM)
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force
Years of service 1971–1974
Rank Captain

George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III[1] (born December 20, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 81st Governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011. Upon his inauguration in January 2003, he became the first Republican Governor of Georgia since Reconstruction.

Perdue currently serves on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC.

Early life and education

Perdue was born in Perry, Georgia, the son of Ophie Viola (Holt), a teacher, and George Ervin Perdue, Jr., a farmer.[2][3] He lives in Bonaire, an unincorporated area between Perry and Warner Robins. Perdue has been known as Sonny since childhood and prefers to be called by that name (he was sworn in and signs official documents as "Sonny Perdue"). Perdue is the first cousin of U.S. Senator David Perdue.[4]

Perdue played quarterback at Warner Robins High School and was a walk-on at the University of Georgia, where he was also a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity (Beta-Lambda chapter). In 1971, Perdue earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and worked as a veterinarian before becoming a small business owner, eventually starting three small businesses.


Perdue and other U.S. state governors with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Perdue at a political rally in December 2008.
Perdue with U.S. Navy sailors in October 2010.

Perdue served in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of captain before being discharged.

State senator

After serving as a member of the Houston County Planning & Zoning Commission in the 1980s, Perdue ran for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly. He defeated Republican candidate Ned Sanders in 1990 and succeeded Democratic incumbent Ed Barker as the Senator representing the 18th district.

Perdue was elected in 1991, 1994.and 1996, serving as his party's leader in the Senate, from 1994 to 1997, and as president pro tempore.[5]

His committee assignments included Ethics, Finance & Public Utilities, Health & Human Services, Reapportionment and Economic Development, Tourism & Cultural Affairs.

He switched party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 1998 and was re-elected to the Senate as a Republican. He also won re-election in 2000.

Governor of Georgia

Perdue resigned in December 2001 and devoted himself entirely to running for the office of Governor. He was elected Governor of Georgia in November 2002, defeating Democratic incumbent Roy Barnes, 51% to 46% (a Libertarian candidate took 2% of the vote[6]). He became the first Republican governor of Georgia in over 130 years.

Perdue was re-elected to a second term in the 2006 general election. His Democratic opponent was Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes was also on the ballot. Perdue won handily, with nearly 58% of the vote.[7] Perdue was constitutionally ineligible to seek a third consecutive term as Governor in 2010.

Two primary objectives in Perdue's administration was on reforming state government and on improving education. Perdue advocated reforms designed to cut waste in government, most notably the sale of surplus vehicles and real estate. Prior to Perdue's becoming governor, no state agency had even compiled an inventory of what assets the state owned, much less managed them.

In education, Perdue promoted the return of most decision-making to the local level. After Perdue took office, Georgia moved out of last place in SAT scores in 2003 and 2004. Although it returned to last place in 2005, Georgia rose to 49th place in 2006 in the combined math and reading mean score, including the writing portion (new that year).[8] The high school class of 2006 recorded the sharpest drop in SAT scores in 31 years.[9]

Having campaigned for governor, promising to let the citizens of Georgia vote to determine their flag, Perdue signed legislation for a flag referendum in 2004. The choices given to Georgian voters were a modified version of the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America with the Georgia State Seal prominently displayed inside a circle of 13 stars, or the version of the flag created in 2001 by the Roy Barnes administration. The 2001 Georgian flag's design was widely unpopular, being derisively named the "Barnes flag" or "Barnes rag", with the North American Vexillological Association deeming it as the worst U.S. state flag at the time in terms of aesthetics. Perdue disappointed some Georgians, when the 1956 flag was not added as a choice on the ballot after promising throughout his campaign that the 1956 flag design would appear in any referendum. However, Perdue was faced with a Democratic House that would not consider having the 1956 flag on the referendum, and he needed support for the new tobacco tax he wanted to pass.

As of September 2007, Perdue remained relatively popular. Perdue had a 56% approval rating, while 35% disapproved, according to Strategic Vision.[10]

According to a March 5, 2008, proclamation by Perdue, "Among those who served the Confederacy were many African-Americans, both free and slave, who saw action in the Confederate armed forces in many combat roles. According to the Georgia government's website on Confederate History Month, they also participated in the manufacture of products for the war effort, built naval ships, and provided military assistance and relief efforts..."[11] The proclamation was criticized by historians for its historical inaccuracies.[12]

Perdue's tenure included the most severe floods in Georgia's recorded history,[13] which resulted in Perdue declaring a state of emergency in 17 counties.[14] Disaster preparedness has been a focus of the administration, with Governor Purdue having worked with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to implement Ready Georgia, a campaign launched in 2008 to increase disaster preparedness throughout the state.[15]


Land ownership

In mid-2003, Perdue purchased 101 acres (0.41 km2) of land next to his Houston County home, for $303,000, after negotiating directly with the owner. The purchase was done using a limited liability company named Maryson LLC, a corporation formed on July 23, 2003.[16] Maryson's registered agent was Stephan Holcomb, a Houston County dentist. Perdue appointed Holcomb, a neighbor of the governor's sister in Houston County, to the state Board of Dentistry in 2003. The lawyer who organized Maryson LLC was state representative Larry O'Neal (R-Warner Robins), the chairman of the Ways & Means committee of the House.[17] Perdue paid the 2003 tax bill on the property after it was acquired by Maryson, Houston County tax records show. In May 2004, the land was transferred from Maryson to Perdue's own name.[16] The transfer price was recorded at $305,000. Maryson was dissolved on July 9, 2005, a year after the sale.[17] Perdue did not disclose the property or any interest on his financial disclosure forms for calendar years 2003 and 2004, as required by Georgia law.[16] Five days after Maryson was incorporated in 2003, O'Neal also incorporated a partnership for Perdue and his wife, Mary, called Perdue Plantation LLC, according to the Secretary of State's Office. This partnership also was not listed on Perdue's 2004 financial disclosure report. The Secretary of State's Office said an official is required to report ownership or a fiduciary position in a company.[17]

Praying for rain

In November 2007, while Georgia suffered from one of the worst droughts in several decades, Perdue, along with lawmakers and local ministers, prayed for rain on the steps of the state Capitol. This came shortly after Alabama Governor Bob Riley issued a proclamation declaring a week in July as "Days of Prayer for Rain" to "humbly ask for His blessings and to hold us steady in times of difficulty." The Atlanta Freethought Society opposed the rain prayer saying in a statement, "The governor can pray when he wants to. What he can't do is lead prayers in the name of the people of Georgia."[18]

Electoral history

As State Senator

Senator 18th district, 1990
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Sonny Perdue 17,932 70.5
Republican Ned Sanders 7,451 29.5
Turnout 25,383
Democratic hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 1996
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Democratic Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 28,920 100
Turnout 28,920
Democratic hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 24,543 100
Turnout 24,543
Republican hold Swing
Senator 18th district, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (Incumbent) 30,681 69.2
Democratic Miller Heath 13,647 30.8
Turnout 44,328
Republican hold Swing

As Governor of Georgia

Georgia gubernatorial election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue 1,041,677 51.4
Democratic Roy Barnes (Incumbent) 937,062 46.3
Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes 47,122 2.3
Turnout 2,025,861
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
Georgia gubernatorial election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Republican Sonny Perdue (incumbent) 1,229,724 57.9 +6.5
Democratic Mark Taylor 811,049 38.2 -8.0
Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes 81,412 3.8 +1.5
Turnout 2,102,185
Republican hold Swing

Personal life

Perdue and his wife, Mary, were married in 1972. They have four children (two boys and two girls) and fourteen grandchildren (six boys and eight girls) and have also been foster parents for eight children. In addition to flying, Perdue is also an avid sportsman. Perdue made a cameo appearance as an East Carolina football coach in the movie We Are Marshall, large portions of which were filmed in Georgia.[19]


  1. Inscoe, John C., New Georgia Encyclopedia entry on Sonny Perdue, University of Georgia, 2/6/2004
  5. Charles S. Bullock, III, The Georgia Political Almanac, The General Assembly 1993–94
  6. "Official Results of the November 5, 2002 General Election". Georgia Election Results. Georgia Secretary of State. 2002-12-24. Retrieved June 10, 2011.
  7. "Georgia Election Results, Georgia Secretary of State". Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  8. Georgia climbs in SAT rankings despite drop in score,, September 21, 2009
  9. Jeffery Whitfield, Clayton News Daily, "School system suffers drop in SAT scores", August 29, 2006 (AP sources used in report)
  10. "Poll Results – GA". Retrieved February 14, 2008.
  12. Loewen, James W.; Sebesta, Edward H. (2010). The Confederate and the Neo-Confederate Reader. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 382–383. ISBN 978-1-60473-218-4. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  13. Edward Martin (September 24, 2009). "USGS Release: Atlanta Flooding Sets New Records". USGS. Retrieved September 27, 2009.
  14. Gov. Sonny Perdue issues state of emergency for 17 Georgia counties, Savannah Now, September 21, 2009
  15. "About Us". Ready Georgia. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
  16. 1 2 3 Ken Foskett, "Perdue failed to disclose land buy near prized tract: Acreage next to the governor's Houston County home abuts a pristine forest that's slated for major development", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 28, 2006
  17. 1 2 3 James Salzer, "Perdue invests close to home: Governor appears to ignore his rationale in Florida deal, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 2, 2006
  18. Updated 93 minutes ago 12/2/2010 2:09:41 pm +00:00 (November 13, 2007). "Dry Georgia rallies, and prays, for rain - Weather". MSNBC. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
  19. Archived September 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.

See also

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia Senate
Preceded by
Ed Barker
Member of the Georgia Senate
from the 18th district

Succeeded by
Ross Tolleson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Guy Millner
Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Nathan Deal
Preceded by
Mitt Romney
Chair of the Republican Governors Association
Succeeded by
Rick Perry
Political offices
Preceded by
Roy Barnes
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Nathan Deal
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