His son, Herman Eugene Talmadge, 1913-2002, b. McRae, Ga., practiced law for a time with his father. He won a special election for governor in 1948 and was reelected in 1950. After the 1954 Supreme Court decision on school desegration, he was a staunch opponent of integration. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1956 and was reelected three times. He was one of the members of the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, which investigated (1973-74) the Watergate affair. In 1979 he was censured for mishandling both his office and campaign finances. Although the Justice Department (1980) chose not to prosecute him, he lost his 1980 bid for a fifth term.
See W. Anderson, The Wild Man from Sugar Creek (1975).
Talmadge was born in McRae, Georgia, the only son of Eugene Talmadge, who served as Governor of Georgia during much of the 1930s and '40s. He earned a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1936, where he had been a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and Sigma Nu fraternity.
The younger Talmadge saw combat in the United States Navy during World War II. On his return from the South Pacific as a lieutenant commander, Herman ran his father's successful campaign for governor in 1946. Supporters of Eugene Talmadge were unsure of Eugene's chances of surviving until he was sworn in, so they did some research into the state constitution and found that if Eugene died, the Georgia state legislature would choose between the second and third place finishers. The elder Talmadge ran unopposed, so they arranged for write-in votes for Herman as insurance. In December 1946, the elder Talmadge died.
Supporters of the deceased governor stopped a challenge from the new Lieutenant Governor, Melvin E. Thompson. Thompson claimed that he should succeed Eugene Talmadge. The Georgia legislature elected Herman Talmadge to become Governor. Thompson appealed to the State supreme court. Meanwhile, Governor Ellis Arnall refused to turn over power due to the uncertainty of whom the next Governor would be, so on January 15, 1947, both men sat in the state Capitol claiming to be the Governor. The next day, Talmadge took control of the Governor's office and arranged to have the locks changed. Arnall soon relinquished his claim and supported Thompson's claim.
Soon afterwards, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the legislature had violated the State Constitution by electing Talmadge governor and that Thompson was the legitimate Governor of Georgia. Talmadge soon gave in to the court decision and prepared for the special election in 1948, in which Talmadge defeated Governor Thompson. Talmadge was then elected to a full term in 1950. During his terms, Talmadge encouraged industry to move into Georgia while he was also a staunch supporter of segregation.
Talmadge was barred by law from seeking another full term as Governor in 1954. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1956. That same year, a "faithless elector" from Alabama cast a single Electoral College vote for Talmadge as Vice-President of the United States. During his time as U.S. Senator, Talmadge remained a foe of civil rights legislation as a Senator, sponsored bills to help farmers, an important constituency, and served on the Senate Watergate Committee.
On October 11, 1979, Talmadge was denounced by an 81-15 vote of the Senate for "improper financial conduct" between 1973 and 1978 after accepting reimbursements of $43,435.83 for official expenses not incurred, and for improper reporting of such as campaign expenditures.
Talmadge also went through a divorce and a tough primary challenge from Zell Miller in 1980. Talmadge defeated Miller but lost to Mack Mattingly in the general election, making Mattingly the first Republican to represent Georgia in the Senate since Reconstruction.
After his defeat, Talmadge retired to his home where he died at the age of 88. Talmadge fathered two sons, Herman E. Talmadge Jr. and Robert Shingler Talmadge.