Georgia 1st District
Georgia’s south Atlantic coast was settled in the 1730s by Englishman James Oglethorpe as a refuge and reformatory for convicts. But before long, the sea islands and lowlands along the wide rivers and inlets were plantation country. It is here that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and his troops famously marched from Atlanta in 1864 and, without supplies or lines of communication, burned plantation houses, destroyed crops, and captured the Confederacy’s leader. When their march was complete, they left behind memories of property destroyed and slaves freed, which have been handed down as family lore through several generations.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 1st Congressional District of Georgia includes much of the southeast and south part of the state. It includes the state’s southern Atlantic coast and runs west approximately to Interstate 75 at Valdosta, the largest city in the district. It heads toward the center of the state just short of Vidalia and runs from the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers in the north to the Florida border. It takes in almost one-third of Chatham County’s population but only a sliver of Savannah, most of which is now in the 12th District. It contains the Sea Islands, with their vibrant resort economy and efforts to preserve the African-American Gullah culture and its eponymous West African-originated Creole language. One of those coastal communities is the historic black settlement of Pin Point, 11 miles southeast of Savannah. Its 300 citizens are mostly descendants of the first slaves in the area. Its most famous son is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
It has a few modest-sized cities, like Brunswick, a World War II shipbuilding center that has been revitalized as the gateway to the Sea Islands, and isolated Waycross, a railroad junction and gateway to the Okefenokee Swamp, the largest swamp in North America. Prior to the abolitionist movement, this swamp-filled area was a site of the Underground Railroad, with trails to north Florida. Much of the district is rural, with cotton and tobacco fields and softwood forests inhabited by wild hogs and bears. Appling County and Berrien County are known for their turpentine and bell peppers. Many popular films have been produced in the region, including Glory and Forrest Gump. Shipping has grown at the Savannah and Brunswick ports, and Savannah is now the country’s fourth-busiest port for container cargo.
This was Democratic country for a century after Sherman’s troops marched through Georgia, but voters here are solidly conservative on most issues. For two decades, this part of south Georgia voted for national Republicans but Georgia Democrats. Since 2000, it has voted solidly Republican for governor and senator as well. Redistricting changes in 2005 increased the black population and reduced President Bush’s vote in 2004 from 68% to 66%. In 2008, Republican John McCain did nearly that well, with 63%.