Georgia, ca. 1980

In 1980, during the time that Generation X was growing up, Georgia had 5.46 million people living there, just over 1.33 million of them under age 15. This Georgia of Generation X’s youth was generally not-diverse, but relative to other Deep Southern states, the immigrant population was larger. In the state, 3.95 million people (72%) were white, 1.46 million (27%) were black, and 61,000 (1%) were Hispanic. (Asians / Pacific Islanders did not show up as group on this census.) 91,000 people in Georgia were “foreign born,” compared to 33,000 in neighboring Alabama. (Put in context, Georgia’s had 40% more people than Alabama, but its immigrant population was almost triple Alabama’s.) About one-third of Georgia’s immigrants were Europeans, almost a quarter had moved from Asia, more than 18,000 came from Central or South America, and nearly 2,800 from Africa. And a broader array of languages were spoken: about 400,000 people in Georgia spoke a language other than English at home. 

This was a period of heavy in-migration for Georgia. From 1970 to 1980, the overall population grew from 4.59 million to 5.46 million. Table 195 in that 1980 census shows that Georgia averaged 12,000 – 15,000 immigrants every five years from 1950 to 1974, then that rate doubled between 1975 and 1980. Also in 1980, where about half of Georgians (2.65 million) lived in the same house they had in 1975, about ten percent (581,000) had moved to Georgia from another state since 1975. But it’s worth nothing that 339,000 of those 581,000 moved from other parts of the South. (You can read more about Latino immigration specifically on the New Georgia Encyclopedia website.)

And then there’s Atlanta. According to Wikipedia:

Atlanta’s population grew steadily during the first 100 years of the city’s existence, and peaked in 1970 at around 496,000. However, from 1970 to 2000, the city lost over 100,000 residents, a decrease of around 16 percent. During the same time, the metro area gained over three million people, cutting the city’s share of the metro population in half, from over 25 percent in 1970 to around 12 percent in 2000. However, the city’s population bottomed out in 1990 at around 394,000, and it has been increasing every year since then, reaching 420,003 residents in 2010.

In the chart below that passage, which cites the 1990 Census as its source, we see a chart about racial dynamics there. In 1940, Atlanta was two-thirds white and one-third black. By 1970, it was roughly half-and-half. By 1990, the city was two-thirds black and one-third white. So, as Georgia’s Generation X grew up, the city center shrunk but the outer-ring suburbs grew exponentially.  

Of course, lots of things were changing about Georgia, including state leadership. From 1967 until 1971, the axehandle-wielding segregationist Lester Maddox was governor, then he was replaced by moderate Democrat Jimmy Carter, who would then be elected president in 1976. When the ’80s began, the job was held by George Busbee, who the New Georgia Encyclopedia described like this: “He gave the state eight years of effective, low-key leadership and ranks among the most popular and least controversial of modern Georgia governors.” 

However, all controversy was not gone from Georgia. Larry Flynt, the publisher of the porn mag Hustler, was shot in Lawrenceville in 1978 by the same white supremacist who shot Vernon Jordan. There were also continued Civil Rights protests, in the small town of Wrightsville in 1980 and Forsyth County in 1987. 

On the brighter side, a new music scene was developing. Widespread Panic played their first shows in 1982 in Athens. REM, The B-52s, and The Side Effects were all playing early gigs at that time, too. There was also Augusta native Amy Grant, whose first album came out in 1979. Through the ’80s, she became popular among the Christian rock crowd and had some pop hits as well.

In the early 1980s, the state also experienced the great heights in college football. The Bulldogs went undefeated and won a national championship in 1980, with freshman Herschel Walker in the back field. In 1982, Walker would win the Heisman Trophy. This was the era of Vince Dooley, who coached UGA from 1964 until 1988. The Bulldogs were ranked in the top five every year from 1980 through ’83.

In 2020, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered “Flashback photos: 40 years ago, Atlanta and Georgia in 1980.”

You can also read “ca. 1980” posts on Alabama and Mississippi.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 14: the mid-’90s edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

Top-ranked Tennessee Vols lose to Memphis in a shocker, 1996

It was November. Tennessee was ranked in the top ten, had Peyton Manning as their quarterback, and were eyeing a national championship as the season was winding down. Then they lost to cross-state rival Memphis.

Mississippi ratifies the Thirteen Amendment, 1995

It only took Mississippi 130 years to take action on ratifying the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery in the United States. Of course, the amendment had taken effect in the years after the Civil War when a majority of states agreed about the issue at that time, but perhaps bitter about their defeat, the Magnolia State held out. In an additional aspect to the story, though, the legislature didn’t actually complete the paperwork for the ratification in 1995, but that was not discovered until 2012. Mississippi, thus, officially ratified the amendment, by completing the process, in 2013.

Window tinting in Alabama, 1996

Alabama’s statewide law on car window tinting took effect in August 1996. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was at the time. People – among them, many GenX teenagers and twentysomethings –  who had tinting already had to take their cars to have it checked to see whether they would be in violation, and those whose windows were too dark would have to have the tinting removed or redone, which wasn’t cheap. And there were so many people who needed a redo that auto shops had lines and wait lists.

from The Montgomery Advertiser, July 14, 1996

The Telegraph remembers the Flood of 1994

Macon, Georgia’s Telegraph newspaper compiled a video, which is posted online within this story, showing comparative images of flooded areas in 1994 to then-current shots of the same places in 2019, twenty-five years later. At the time, Hurricane Alberto stalled over Georgia and dumped massive amounts of water onto the state.

“Highway One: Lost Louisiana II” from Louisiana Public Broadcasting, 1994

The video below is a nine-minute section of the longer program. Clicking the link the header will take you to the full 42-minute program.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 9

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

Tennessee Waltz (alternate title: Tennessee Nights), 1989

By the 1980s, screen media like television and media had long been in full effect as the main providers of imagery and narratives about the South. Functioning as arbiters of truth, Hollywood offered an array of portrayals of Southern life, especially the small-town and rural South, as a place that continued to be violent, racist, and hostile to outsiders. Employing familiar actors Ned Beatty (of Deliverance fame) and Rod Steiger (from In the Heat of the Night), this film from 1989 has a visiting British attorney crossing racial lines and facing the consequences.

Mike Espy elected to Congress from Mississippi, 1986

In November 1986, near the end of Reagan’s second term, Democrat Mike Espy was elected to the 2nd Congressional District in Mississippi, making him the state’s first black representative to a federal seat since Reconstruction, which ended more than a hundred years earlier. Espy was born in 1953 in Yazoo City, so was in his early 30s when he was first elected. He remained in office until 1997.

HIV and AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s

This CDC report from 2001 shows a quickie glimpse at information related to AIDS from 1981 – 2000. We see that the South had 25.7% of cases nationally and that mainly the oldest GenXers were affected. In 1981, GenXers were between newborn and 16, and in 2000, between 19 and 35 years old. Considering that only one-quarter of cases were occurring in the South, and those mainly in high-risk groups, the average GenXer in the South was highly unlikely to contract the disease.

An Econochrist discography

Though they made their name in the Bay Area around San Francisco and Oakland, this hardcore-punk band was originally from Little Rock, Arkansas. They played together in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The 1992 National Championship (in under 33 minutes)

Led by Bear Bryant alum Gene Stallings and QB Jay Barker, the University of Alabama won a national championship in 1992, beating Miami in the Sugar Bowl 34 – 13. After winning a number of championships in the 1970s and ’80s, the team and its fans may have been hoping that the golden days were back. However, it was a one-off thing, and they would have to wait until 2009 for Nick Saban to have Bear-like success.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.