New exhibit on Joe Frank Harris, GA’s 78th governor

Posted by | April 15, 2014

Georgia’s Bartow History Museum opens a new exhibition in the permanent gallery tomorrow on the life and legacy of Honorable Joe Frank Harris, Georgia’s 78th governor.

Gubernatorial candidate Joe Frank Harris, pictured at a campaign in Gilmer County in 1982, was viewed by pundits as a dark-horse candidate at best. Harris won the Democratic nomination and subsequently the governorship itself. Photo courtesy The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Gubernatorial candidate Joe Frank Harris, pictured at a campaign in Gilmer County in 1982, was viewed by pundits as a dark-horse candidate at best. Harris won the Democratic nomination and subsequently the governorship itself. Photo courtesy The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Born and raised in Bartow County, Harris worked in his family’s business after college and then began a distinguished political career, serving for 18 years in the Georgia House of Representatives and 8 years as governor. Harris’s most visible achievement as governor was a sweeping reform of public education. The program, known as Quality Basic Education, sought to improve funding for Georgia public schools by expanding student testing, introducing new programs for students with disabilities, and increasing teacher salaries.

Although the legislature never fully funded the program, state expenditures for public education increased dramatically, and teacher salaries began to rise from dismally low levels.

After his two terms as Governor, he was appointed to the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia, serving as chairman of the Board of Regents for two years and a member for seven years. Joe Frank Harris served as a distinguished executive fellow at Georgia State University and a lecturer in its School of Policy Studies from 1995 until 2009 and currently serves as chairman of the board of Harris Georgia Corporation, an industrial development firm that was established in 1980 in Cartersville.

New Joe Harris Display in "Towards New Horizons" exhibit at the Bartow History Museum

New Joe Harris Display in “Towards New Horizons” exhibit at the Bartow History Museum

The Bartow History Museums wants future generations to know and understand the impact someone from their own community has had, and therefore will highlight Harris and his family’s contribution to our history by incorporating the exhibit into the Museum’s “Toward New Horizons” gallery. This gallery looks back at some of the area’s key events and people over the past several decades.

The exhibit will feature objects, documents, and photographs covering Harris’ early life through his two terms as governor. The exhibit will also feature an interactive kiosk allowing visitors to access additional information and photographs covering a wide range of topics related to Harris’ life and career.

This new exhibit was made possible by a generous gift from AFLAC Foundation, Inc. The opening will take place on April 16, 2014, at noon, during our monthly Lunch & Learn program. Tom Lewis, who served as Harris’ Chief of Staff, and Joe Harris, Governor and Mrs. Harris’ son, will talk about their roles during the Harris administration before the exhibit opening. The Bartow History Museum is located at 4 E. Church Street in downtown Cartersville. Parking is available next to the building. The lecture is free to members and included with the price of admission for not-yet members. For more information on this and other BHM programs, call 770-382-3818, ext. 6288 or visit our website.

Bartow History Museum Director Trey Gaines places a bowling shirt worn by Gov. Joe Frank Harris that has the family business, Harris Cement Products, inscribed on it, into a permanent exhibit at the venue. Photo by Skip Butler/The Daily Tribune News

Bartow History Museum Director Trey Gaines places a bowling shirt worn by Gov. Joe Frank Harris that has the family business, Harris Cement Products, inscribed on it, into a permanent exhibit at the venue. Photo by Skip Butler/The Daily Tribune News

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