Betty Russell Vandiver, former Georgia first lady, died


Betty Russell Vandiver, a former first lady of Georgia, died Wednesday in Lavonia.

As the wife of Gov. Ernest Vandiver, she championed the founding of Milledgeville’s Central State Hospital, the first state institution for the mentally ill.

She had during recent years helped First Lady Sandra Deal in creating “Memories of the Mansion: the Story of Georgia’s Governor’s Mansion.”

Gov. Nathan Deal said of Vandiver: “Historians and pundits often talk about the sacrifices of a governor, but the truly unsung heroes are the members of the first family, who give of themselves for the betterment of others, often quietly, with dignity, and without the applause they deserve. Betty was a prime example of such a woman of grace and Southern charm. We join her family in honoring her contributions to Georgia and in celebrating the fact that she is finally reunited with her beloved husband.”

Vandiver was born in 1927, grew up in Winder and attended the University of Georgia, graduating in 1947 and marrying Ernest Vandiver.

Ernest Vandiver was a Lavonia attorney who got involved in local politics before rising to lieutenant governor, then serving as governor from 1959 to 1963. The couple had three children, who spent some of their early years growing up in the Georgia Governor’s Mansion.

It was a tumultuous time in the nation, and Vandiver, a Democrat who began his political career as a segregationist, oversaw the integration of the University of Georgia. When hard-line segregationist Lester Maddox ran after his term, Vandiver backed the Republican candidate.

Ernest Vandiver died in 2005.

Betty Russell Vandiver was from an important political family. She was related to powerful politician Richard B. Russell Jr., a former state  legislator, governor and later a powerful U.S. senator. She was active in her husband’s political campaigns, and also helped raise toys yearly for the mentally ill.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lavonia First Baptist Church, with a private burial in Lavonia City – Burgess Cemetery.

Read and sign the online guestbook for Betty Vandiver



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Stockbridge leaders seeking help from higher power in Eagle’s Landing fight
Stockbridge leaders seeking help from higher power in Eagle’s Landing fight

Stockbridge leaders, fearing the effort to carve a city of Eagle’s Landing from parts of Stockbridge is gaining momentum, held a candlelight prayer vigil Monday seeking help from a higher power to nix the move and asked residents to sign a petition against separating the community from the city.   “We continue to need your...
Metro Atlanta artists’ work to be displayed at the American Craft Show
Metro Atlanta artists’ work to be displayed at the American Craft Show

The 29th annual Atlanta American Craft Show — a gathering of more than 230 jewelry, clothing, home decor and furniture artists — is coming up. The Minneapolis-based crafts-promoting organization, celebrating its 76th anniversary, presents four shows nationally each year. Formerly known as the American Craft Council Show, it returns...
Metro Atlanta middle school student made ‘threats of violence’
Metro Atlanta middle school student made ‘threats of violence’

Extra security is in force at a north Fulton County middle school Tuesday after a student made  “threats of violence” to other students over the weekend, a school district spokeswoman said. The student at Northwestern Middle School in Milton faces criminal charges and disciplinary action by Fulton County Schools, spokeswoman Donna...
BREAKING: Sanitation worker finds body wrapped in plastic in DeKalb County
BREAKING: Sanitation worker finds body wrapped in plastic in DeKalb County

A sanitation worker found a man’s body wrapped in plastic in DeKalb County, police said. Officers are investigating the incident as a homicide, DeKalb County police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The body was found about 8 a.m. Tuesday in the area of Flat Shoals Parkway and Warriors...
Police: Ohio 7th-grader suffers self-inflicted wound after bringing gun to school
Police: Ohio 7th-grader suffers self-inflicted wound after bringing gun to school

A seventh-grader was hospitalized after suffering an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at an Ohio middle school, police said Tuesday. Shortly before 8 a.m., the boy shot himself in a restroom at Jackson Memorial Middle School, Jackson Township police Chief Mark Brink said. Superintendent Christopher DiLoreto said middle school officials will decide...
More Stories