“I remember going to the [Georgia] Governor’s Mansion [on a school trip in the third grade],” Harris said. “And I remember being on the porch [by the] window looking outside in at the kitchen and thinking, ‘Man, what would it be like to live here?’ Then for it to actually happen and you know that God put you there.
“I think my folks raised me where I kept it in perspective. I knew that it was a special moment. I knew God had blessed us. I knew that we were humbled by the support of everybody and I think it kept it in perspective ... The humility of my parents, I think helped keep me grounded.”
On Wednesday, Harris will share more about this topic at the Bartow History Museum’s Lunch & Learn program. The noon offering also will feature Tom Lewis, the chief of staff for Georgia’s 78th governor, Joe Frank Harris.
“[I will be talking] about growing up in Bartow County as the son of a politician — what’s that like growing up in that role — and then talk a little bit about the role the community played in pulling off the miracle upset of the underdog Bartow County native getting elected governor,” Harris said. “It’s hard to fathom how much of a long shot that was and the instrumental role that the Bartow County community played in that. It’s kind of one of those things you can make a movie out of almost.
“... We didn’t have the money. We didn’t have the things that all of the other candidates had. But what we did have was the good Lord and the people of Bartow County just flat went out there and called their friends all over the state of Georgia and vouched for us.”
The Lunch & Learn program also will kick off the opening of a new permanent exhibit about Harris’ father that will be displayed in the BHM’s Toward New Horizons gallery. Along with his early life, the exhibit will focus on his political career, which included 18 years in the Georgia House of Representatives prior to serving as a Democrat in the Governor’s Office from 1983 to 1991.
“A lot of the materials, artifacts and photographs in the exhibit were donated to us by the family,” BHM Director Trey Gaines said. “Others were given to us by other members of the community that played a part in his campaigns for political office.
“The exhibit includes campaign memorabilia, both from his legislative campaigns as well as his gubernatorial campaigns. It includes some items from his early life, his [Cartersville] High School football letterman sweater, for example. We also have a number of items that he acquired while he was governor, either gifts that were given to him or awards that he received just highlighting some of the events of his two terms in the Governor’s Office.”
Based on the former governor’s achievements and the popularity of the previous temporary exhibit “We Did This Ourselves: The Community’s Effort to Elect a Governor,” Gaines felt led to highlight Joe Frank Harris in the museum’s permanent collection.
“Governor Harris had a large role in [the] political history of the state as well as Bartow County,” Gaines said. “Being the county history museum, we wanted to include that role that he played in our history as far as his political career goes and just to really illustrate how a local person within our community can go on to do big things on a large scale, on a statewide level.
“I think it’s a way to show a piece of our history and how even someone that grew up in your community, in your neighborhood can go on to do great things. It’s an interesting piece of our history that we’re able to talk about and learn from.”
To be held at the BHM, 4 E. Church St. in Cartersville, the Lunch & Learn program will be free to museum members and covered in the price of admission for nonmembers. For more information, call 770-382-3818, ext. 6288, or visit www.bartowhistorymuseum.org.