Back to former Georgia governors
Samuel Ernest Vandiver

Gov. Samuel Ernest Vandiver

  • January 13, 1959 - January 15, 1963
  • Democratic
  • July 31, 1918
  • February 21, 2005
  • Georgia
  • University of Georgia
  • Married Sybil Elizabeth Russell; three children
  • Air Force


SAMUEL ERNEST VANDIVER JR., Georgia’s 63rd Governor, was born in Franklin County, Georgia on July 31, 1918. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1940, earning a LL.B. degree in 1942, and then establishing a legal career in Winder, Georgia. During World War II, he served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Vandiver entered politics in 1946 as mayor of Lavonia. He served as Governor Eugene Talmadge’s aide, was Governor Herman Talmadge’s campaign manager in 1948, and served as Georgia’s adjutant general from 1948 to 1954. He also served as state director of selective service from 1948 to 1954, and was Georgia’s lieutenant governor from 1955 to 1959. Vandiver won the 1958 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor. During his tenure, he mandated state agencies to cut expenditures, initiated rigorous procurement regulations, and replaced directors in the most embroiled departments, all to alleviate the budget crisis he had inherited. The county unit system was eliminated, mental health programs were advanced, educational funding was sanctioned, the Georgia State Archives Building was constructed, and foreign trade expanded. The federal courts ordered the end of school segregation and, in 1961, the University of Georgia was integrated after 175 years of segregation. After finishing his term on January 15, 1963, Vandiver returned to his law career. In 1966, he declared his bid for reelection, but withdrew due to a heart attack. Vandiver retired from public service, after serving as adjutant general in 1971 and running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate.



Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

University of Georgia Libraries

Goverrnors’ Portraits

The Political Graveyard

Recent Georgia Governors