Library Renovation to Recreate Murphy Office

Friday, May 16, 2008

During the 2008 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly chose to honor the memory of the late Speaker of the House Thomas B. Murphy by appropriating $8 million in the 2009 state budget to fund a library renovation at the University of West Georgia that will feature the reconstructed office of Speaker Murphy. Governor Sonny Perdue supported the tribute by signing the 2009 budget with this project intact.

Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, UWG president, said that this tribute to Speaker Murphy is thanks to the support of many individuals especially Gov. Perdue, Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson, Senator Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton) and Representative Mark Butler (R-Carrollton).

Butler said that he is proud that the Governor supported the General Assembly's desire to honor Murphy in this manner.

“Any library is the heart of a campus and for years and years, Tom Murphy was at the heart of Georgia's political culture,” Butler said. “It is very fitting that the permanent display of his office be the focal point of the library renovation at the University of West Georgia.”

Mike Murphy, son of the late Speaker, spoke on behalf of the family.

“The Tom Murphy family is deeply honored that Governor Perdue has approved funding of the library renovation at the University of West Georgia. Without the Governor’s approval it was unlikely that there could be the complete restoration of the Speaker’s office to its appearance as it functioned during our late father’s many years of service to West Georgia and this State.

“Our father was a modest man who was committed to using his life to helping others.  We are very proud that the final location of his restored office will be on this campus of higher learning.  We pray that the history of the amazing public servant it represents will, in a positive way, impact all who have the opportunity to come and view it.  We sincerely thank President Sethna for his leadership and Andy Leavitt and Erin Henderson at the University of West Georgia for their hard work with Speaker Richardson, Representative Butler and many others who have helped to make this project happen.”

The funding was added to the budget in the Higher Education sub committee and Rep. Bob Smith (R-Watkinsville) said, “It was the right thing to do. Speaker Murphy was a giant in Georgia politics and I enjoyed serving with him, even with the partisan political climate.  I am saddened there are current members of the House who did not get an opportunity to serve under his leadership.”

Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson (R-Dallas) fully supported the addition to the Higher Education budget and Hamrick and Butler worked closely with UWG representatives to maintain inclusion of the library renovation/office project throughout the appropriations process.  Both houses passed the project without objection. Rep. Ben Harbin (R-Evans), chairman of House Appropriations, said, “The
Senate supported the addition, knowing we needed to honor Speaker Murphy for his service to the State of Georgia.  He was great man and deserves to have his legacy preserved for generations to come.”

According to the University System of Georgia 2009-2014 Capital Model Recommendation, the library renovation was planned for 2014 at a cost of $11.1 M but due to the death of Murphy on Dec. 17, 2007, the House and Senate moved the project forward.

Sethna noted that the funding for the UWG library renovation to include this replica is a tribute to the high esteem in which the late Speaker was held.

“The Governor and the General Assembly came together to honor this great man, and my colleagues and I at the University of West Georgia were well pleased to play a supportive role,” Sethna said.  “We are very grateful to all of them, and to the Murphy family for their support.”

In 2003, prior to his retirement after spending 27 years as Speaker of the House, Murphy donated the political papers and memorabilia housed in his office to UWG with the stipulation that the university replicate his State Capitol office on campus.

The Ingram Library Special Collections, which archives the political papers of a number of Georgia political figures, received the collection to make the actual contents, including papers, furnishings, photographs, plaques, etc., accessible to the citizens of Georgia.

According to Lorene Flanders, director of university libraries at UWG, the Speaker’s office and Special Collections will have prominence on the main floor of the renovated library, providing high visibility to students and faculty, and making the area very accessible to the general public.

Administrative space will be provided for Georgia’s Political Heritage Program, which is currently located within the library, as well as the Murphy Center for Public Service and the Center for Public History.

Students enrolled in courses in archives administration and museum studies who work in the Center for Public History will have opportunities to participate in archival processing projects, to assist scholars working in the collections, and to develop exhibits and programs related to Murphy’s life and political career.

“Drawing together a number of university initiatives will strengthen their collaboration in developing programs to emphasize to Georgians of all ages the importance of leadership, public service and personal political involvement,” Flanders said.

Sethna summed up the collaborative nature of the library expansion and the Murphy office project.

“This project enhances UWG’s ability to serve its growing student body by updating its library through creating a learning center to meet their 21st century needs, while honoring Speaker Murphy in a space that will be the academic heart of the campus.

“In this respect, students who might not have otherwise sought out the Murphy office installation will encounter it as they go about their routine library business,” Sethna said.