UWG Celebrates Speaker Tom Murphy’s 90th Birthday

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The University of West Georgia celebrated Tom Murphy’s March 10 birthday with 90 cupcakes in the Ingram Library lobby at 12 p.m. The late Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives would have turned 90 years old. Additional activities were held on Sunday, March 9, including the 2 p.m. annual meeting of the Penelope Melson Society in the library nook, “White Gloves” tours of Special Collections and a reception from 3-4 p.m. Special Murphy birthday items from the archives were also exhibited in the Murphy Reading Room cases in the library.

Steve Anthony, UWG 1973 alum and Murphy’s chief of staff, joined others in making remarks at 4 p.m. about Murphy’s birthday, which was celebrated annually in the House Chamber. “One of the traits that Speaker Murphy had was that he created a familial situation that he fostered there. The beauty of that was him putting his family up front, and how that all inter-related. He created an atmosphere down there that told new people when they came in that this was a place where you could feel comfortable and do your job, if you formed your duties in a certain way you would be treated in a certain way. It wasn’t all serious all the time. It was light-hearted sometimes. He had several key members throughout the years that were his chief sidekicks that he would call on to help produce this feeling, and they all fostered this same kind of feeling also.”

“If he saw something that was wrong, he would always correct it,” said Georgia Representative Calvin Smyre, one of Murphy’s former chief lieutenants. “I would always tell people, ‘There’s no bigger champion for economic development in Georgia than Tom Murphy. None! None bigger than Tom Murphy.’ Without him, Atlanta would not be the city that it is today, from an economic development standpoint. My quotation that I live by is one by the late Winston Churchill: ‘You make your living by what you get; you make your life by what you give.’ Tom Murphy made his life by giving.”

“He believed in working hard,” said Murphy’s son, Judge Michael Murphy. “He understood there was no such thing as a mistake. It just is what it is. He didn’t blame the world for anything. He had principle.”

Murphy was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1960, and he served as the Speaker of the House from 1974 until 2002-- the longest term of any House Speaker in a U.S. State Legislature. His roots in Bremen, Ga., give him close ties to UWG and the West Georgia area. Although he passed away in December 2007, many at UWG still honor his memory.

“We want to make this an annual tradition for students,” said Dean of Libraries Lorene Flanders. “Next year, there will be 91 cupcakes, and we will have more formal, program-focused events for the 95th and 100th commemorations.”

Photo: (From Left to Right) Steve Anthony, Judge Michael Murphy and Georgia Representative Calvin Smyre with a portrait of Speaker Tom Murphy