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Governor Maddox vs. The Mini Skirt

by Prentice Mills

Lester Maddox, Governor of Georgia

Lester Maddox, Governor of Georgia (1967-1971)

Lester Garfield Maddox. Feisty, hardshell Baptist. Governor of Georgia from 1967 to 1971. Some saw Lester as a bigot and racist who rose to political prominence through violent confrontations with those who sought to forcibly integrate his Pickrick restaurant in Atlanta. Others revered him as a good-natured lover of all humanity who stood and fought for principles—fundamental principles of liberty that protected the legitimate rights of all citizens, both white and black, to use their property as they saw fit. Whatever else can be said about Lester, it was acknowledged by all that he was a man of action.

Whenever Governor Maddox spotted a threat to the peace and dignity of Georgia, he was quick to act. And, act he did in the matter of the mini skirt and the threat it posed to the good morals of the Peach State's young men and women.

No sooner had Lester taken the oath of office as Georgia's governor than he fulfilled a solemn campaign promise—the issuance of an order prohibiting female employees of the governor's office from wearing mini skirts. Presumably, he would have objected just a strongly to male employees wearing mini skirts had such an issue arisen in 1967.

Like all efforts to impose a bit of decency upon society, Lester's order drew immediate fire from his political opponents, and some of his friends as well. George Smith, Georgia's Lieutenant Governor, countered Maddox's orders with a statement that he would fire any female employee of his office whose skirt extended below the knees.

Battle lines were quickly drawn, and the war spread far beyond Atlanta. Within only a few months, legislators all across America were dealing with the growing menace of youthful, feminine legs on public display.

In California state assemblyman John Burton, quoted in the Oakland Tribune, warned that “We are dangerously close to imposing on people's constitutional rights when we tell them how to dress. More importantly, we're imposing on the constitutional rights of those of us who like to look.”

In arguing for a ban on mini skirts in the California statehouse, rules committee chairman Eugene Chappie said, “I was getting sick and tired of turning my head when one of them went to the water fountain.”

Texas state senator, Ralph Hall, led a national group who tried to keep the problem in proper perspective. Addressing the Texas legislature he observed, “I think the end is in sight.”

Photo Credit: "falda" flickr photo by ·júbilo·haku· shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license.

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