J. Roy Rowland, Reflections on Georgia Politics


BOB SHORT: I’m Bob Short and this is Reflections
on Georgia Politics sponsored by the Richard Russell Library at the University of Georgia
and Young Harris College. Our guest is Dr. Roy Rowland, former member
of the Georgia House of Representatives and a member of Congress from Georgia’s 8th district. Welcome, Dr. Rowland. DR. ROY ROWLAND: Bob, it’s a real pleasure to
be here and I appreciate this opportunity. SHORT: Before we talk about you and your medical
and political careers I’d like to ask you this question. What shall I call you Dr. Rowland, Representative
Rowland or Congressman Rowland? ROWLAND: Well I worked real hard for that
M.D. degree so you know it’s nice being called doctor. It was a high honor and a privilege to serve
in the Congress and in the State House and you know I like those, so why don’t you just
call me Roy. SHORT: Roy okay. All right. Uh, Wrightsville, Georgia. ROWLAND: Wrightsville. SHORT: Was it your dream when you were growing
up in Wrightsville to become a doctor and a congressman? ROWLAND: Well it was my dream to become a
doctor and as a matter of fact my grandfather was a pharmacist. He had a brother who was a pharmacist and
a brother that was a doctor and his father was a doctor. So I kind of grew up in my grandfather’s drug
store and he had a lot of influence on me so my earlier ambitions were to become a physician
and I think I probably decided on that when I was probably around 12 years old. Getting involved in politics was a lot later
in my life. SHORT: Well tell us about growing up in Wrightsville. ROWLAND: I think growing up in Wrightsville
was one of the best situations that I could’ve had or anyone could’ve had during that period. It was back in the 1930s. It was during the Great Depression. The times were hard. My father was an attorney. He had a problem making ends meet. Nobody had any money much but we always had
enough to eat and a place to stay and maybe we didn’t know any different but we didn’t
aspire to much more than what we had because we were pretty comfortable. It was really a great situation. Both grandparents on my father and mother’s
sides of the family lived within two blocks of us and I had uncles and aunts, cousins,
that lived all around. It was really a safe place to grow up. SHORT: So you graduated from Wrightsville
High School? ROWLAND: Yes graduated from Wrightsville High
School in 1943. One thing that I was very proud of was being
an Eagle Scout. I obtained that award in 1942. I didn’t get the Eagle Scout badge until 1945
because the war was going on and they didn’t have Courts of Honor back then but after graduating
from high school I went off to school at Emory at Oxford for a couple of quarters and everybody
was going into the Army, this was 1943, or the Navy or the Marines and so I enlisted
in the Army in 1944, and I wound up in the infantry. That was not exactly where I anticipated going
but I’m very proud of my military service. I was in the military a little over two years,
went with the 13th Armored Division to the European theater in January of 1945 and was
involved in two campaigns in the Rhine and the Central Europe and got the Combat Infantryman
Badge and received two Bronze stars one for valor and one for moratorial service and I’m
real proud of my military service and really proud that I got through without getting injured. So anyway after that I came back and went
back to school. Went to South Georgia College for a couple
of quarters and then came here to the University of Georgia for my pre-med. SHORT: Uh-huh. Then you went to the Medical College? ROWLAND: That’s correct. After a couple of years here I was accepted
to the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta in 1948 and graduated there in 1952. SHORT: What happened after you got your medical
degree? ROWLAND: Well I did an internship and a residency
in Macon at the old Macon Hospital which is now gone and spent about six months in Swainsboro
with a friend of mine. Went in partnership there and then came back
to Dublin and that’s where I’ve been since that time. I came back to Dublin in the latter part of
1954 and I practiced medicine in Dublin after that. SHORT: For 24 years before you ran for the
House of Representatives? ROWLAND: Well yeah the State Representative
Wash Larsen who had that office decided to run for Congress and it left an open seat
and so this was in 1976 and so I decided that I was going to run for the State House. In fact, I hadn’t thought a whole lot about
it and then all of a sudden I said “Well you know I think I’ll do this” and I told my wife
I think I’m going to run for State Representative and she said “Well I’m not surprised” because
my father’s side of the family have always been involved in politics. My grandfather was in the State Legislation,
cousin was State Legislator, my father was a District Attorney and a Superior Court Judge,
brother was a Magistrate who was also a lawyer. So it was a lot of politics in my family. SHORT: Was it hard to do that and leave your
at least part of your medical practice? ROWLAND: At that time it wasn’t because I
had pretty well decided that I wanted to. When I ran for the State House that was a
little different because that was just a part-time proposition and I really liked politics. I liked the debate and the adversarial things
that you had to do in politics and so I enjoyed that and I decided after an opportunity came
to run for the U.S. House that I’d like to make it full time. So it really wasn’t hard for me to leave my
medical practice although let me say that that’s wonderful. I could not have wanted my medical practice
to have been any better than it was. SHORT: So you were elected in 1976 over two
opponents in the primary and one in the runoff. Tell us a little bit about that race. ROWLAND: Well that was for the State House. There were two attorneys who were both good
friends. Now that happens a lot in politics. You are good friends running against each
other. One was Leon Green who lives just down the
street from me now, did then and the other one is Ralph Walk whose family I treated. So it was really kind of odd the way that
worked out. But Ralph lost out in the primary and I was
in a runoff with Leon. We called it after it became apparent to him
that I had won. He was very gracious and called me and congratulated
me and we’ve never had any ill feelings at all. You know if you get mad with someone in politics
before long you’ll be mad with everybody. So you don’t get mad with people in politics. SHORT: So you went off to Atlanta. What was your first reaction to being a member
of the House of Representatives? ROWLAND: Well I was kind of awed at being
there to see how the government worked on a state level. I found out there was a lot of great people
there, a lot of people that I made a lot of good friends there. Tom Murphy I particularly grew fond of. Everybody knows Tom was a pretty abrupt fellow
but always I thought very fair. I tell you a little incident I had with Tom
Murphy. Georgia had not passed the Certificate of
Need which they had to pass in 1977 or maybe it was ’78 but anyway Georgia was going to
lose a lot of federal funds if they did not pass the Certificate of Need legislation for
mental health and addictive diseases and a lot of different things and so George Busbee
was the governor at that time and this was on the last day of the session and they thought
this was would be brought up as kind of a perfunctory thing it wouldn’t be any problem
about it but I was very much opposed to the Certificate of Need and made that known. And I had the opportunity to get in the well
it was around 11:30 in the evening before we would adjourn at 12, to speak against the
Certificate of Need and I took the well and I decided that I would just stay in the well
until the Legislature adjourned and we wouldn’t pass the Certificate of Need. Of course that was not a very smart thing
for me to do because the governor would have to call a special session I suppose to get
it done but Governor Busbee sent his people up to the floor talking to him trying to get
me out of the well and Tom Murphy gave Al Burruss a note to hand to me that said “Get
out of the damn well.” Well you know I had a chance to be a martyr
or get out of the well. You know what I did? I got out of the well. So Certificate of Need passed just before
the session ended that year. SHORT: Well in your opinion after all of these
years has the Certificate of Need been good for Georgia? ROWLAND: I’m not sure. I’m really not sure about that. It was good for those who had it and it wasn’t
good for those who didn’t have it. So I did some research on it back then and
at that time I came to the conclusion the Certificate of Need really did not do what
it was supposed to do, stop the capital expansion of healthcare facilities, capital outlays
for healthcare facilities. I never was sure that it was a good thing
for us to do. SHORT: Incidentally how would you define your
political philosophy? ROWLAND: I’d say I’m moderate. Moderate conservative maybe. SHORT: Good. Well back to your career and the House of
Representatives. You got some pretty good committee assignments. They were assigned to you by the speaker weren’t
they? ROWLAND: They were. You’re talking about the State House now? SHORT: State House. ROWLAND: Yes. Yeah the Speaker made those assignments and
when I came Al Burruss from Marietta was running against Tom Murphy for Speaker at that time
and Tom Murphy asked Ben Jessup from over in Cochran to contact me about voting for
him and I told Ben that Al Burruss had already contacted me on a couple of occasions and
I told Ben that yeah I would like to support Tom but I really did want to get on the health
and ecology committee. The Speaker wasn’t inclined to put doctors
on that committee but anyway he made a commitment to do that if I would vote for him and so
I made that commitment to Tom Murphy in exchange for a seat on the health and ecology committee. SHORT: Do you think that was a good trade? ROWLAND: I think it worked out all right. I admired Tom Murphy as a speaker and he was
kind of an abrupt guy but I thought he was always fair in dealing with members of the
House and fair in his political philosophy too. I liked Tom Murphy. SHORT: You mentioned earlier about political
friends and political enemies. After that race between Murphy and Al Burruss
as heated as it was they became very good friends. ROWLAND: They did. That was amazing. Al worked his way back into a leadership position. He became the Whip after he challenged Tom. So Al and Tom became good friends again. So again you can’t keep a chip on your shoulder
in politics. SHORT: As a member of the health and ecology
committee you helped to address many of the problems involved in the distribution of health
services back then. We often hear the question is healthcare a
privilege or a right. What do you think the answer to that is? ROWLAND: I never thought that healthcare was
a right. I thought it was a responsibility of society
to provide healthcare to those who couldn’t afford it but I wouldn’t say that it was a
right like a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But I think the government has a responsibility
to help those people who are not able to help themselves. SHORT: Well in addition to Health and Ecology
you were a member of the Ways and Means Committee. ROWLAND: I was. SHORT: A very powerful committee. ROWLAND: It was and had a good chairman Marcus
Collins. Marcus always said he didn’t have much education
but Marcus had a lot of common sense, and I thought he made a real good chairman of
the Ways and Means Committee and I enjoyed serving on that committee. SHORT: Was that part of your trade with Murphy? ROWLAND: No it was not. That happened later. SHORT: And then you were on the Rules Committee. The most powerful committee in the House. ROWLAND: No I was on the Judiciary Committee. SHORT: Later weren’t you later on the Rules
Committee? ROWLAND: Bob, I think you probably jogged
my memory. I think yes I was. My last term there I was on the Rules Committee. Yes I had forgotten that. Bill Lee was chairman of that committee. That’s correct. SHORT: Yeah well tell us a little bit about
the Rules Committee and how it works. ROWLAND: Well I’m not sure that I can recall
all of that exactly now but the Rules Committee became all powerful during the last 10 days
of the session because if a piece of legislation had not passed out of the Rules Committee
and made it through the House during that period of time it would not be considered
by the Senate. So it was always a scramble to get the legislation
out of the Rules Committee particularly the last 10 days of the session. SHORT: Yeah Legislators had to come in there
and do some begging. ROWLAND: They did. They really did have to do some begging to
get it through but as I recall it turned out pretty well most of the time. I don’t recall many people going away really
angry about what the outcome. SHORT: Putting the bill on the calendar? ROWLAND: Getting the bill on the calendar. SHORT: You mentioned Bill Lee. If you will, let’s take a minute and talk
about some of the other legislators who were in power during that period of the ’70s and
’80s. ROWLAND: Well one person that I really admired
was chairman of the Health and Ecology Committee was Sidney Marcus from Atlanta who later ran
for mayor for Atlanta. I thought he was a really outstanding person
and we’ve already mentioned Al Burruss and Jack Connell from Augusta who was a speaker
pro tem all the time that I was there. Wayne Snow who was chairman of Judiciary Committee
from Chickamauga, Georgia. SHORT: Chickamauga. ROWLAND: I admired him too. There were a lot of people in the State House
that I really thought were outstanding people and did a good job for the State of Georgia. SHORT: You served with Joe Frank Harris I
believe. ROWLAND: Joe Frank was chairman of the Appropriations
Committee. I did and it was when it was all business
and it seemed like he was always running around doing something but never too busy not to
stop and talk. SHORT: Well you served in the State House
three terms. ROWLAND: Three terms. SHORT: For six years and then in 1982 you
decided to run for Congress. ROWLAND: Yes. SHORT: What prompted that decision? ROWLAND: I had originally thought I wanted
to run for governor and in fact got a campaign underway and raised around $35,000 but Speaker
Tom Murphy told me that Joe Frank Harris was going to be the governor, that’s who he was
promoting and that there was no point really in me running for governor and Bo Ginn was
running at that same time and I think Norman Underwood. There were two or three other people I can’t
recall right now but I wasn’t sure what to do and I had some friends tell me that they
didn’t think the current Congressman from Georgia was doing a very good job and thought
it was a good possibility that I could be elected if I decided to run against him and
so I had a friend who did a little poll out of Dublin. They gave me some information that made me
believe that it was possible to unseat the incumbent. So that’s when I made the decision to run
for the U.S. House. SHORT: In the Bloody 8th.. ROWLAND: I guess that’s right the Bloody 8th. SHORT: Why do they call it the Bloody 8th? ROWLAND: I don’t know. It’s such a big it’s a such a long district,
such a big district geographically. I’m not sure why they call it the Bloody 8th
but I do recall it being called that. SHORT: Well you were elected many more times
to Congress but what do you remember about that first election? ROWLAND: Well I remember that I didn’t have
a campaign organization. I had some friends that were helping and it
was kind of like our campaign was held together by baling wire I guess you might say and people
vote mostly against something not for something so they were really voting against the incumbent
I think as much as they were voting for me and there was one other person in that race
and so I got into a runoff with the incumbent. When the incumbents are in a runoff they are
in trouble and so later Billy Lee Evans who was the incumbent told me that he should have
stopped before he did because he realized he wasn’t going to be able to win. But what I remember was the night that the
final returns are in and I had been elected and our campaign headquarters, which was in
a shopping mall in a vacated grocery store building. People came from all around and there was
a lot of ladies. It was like a picnic. I mean it was really a great occasion and
my kids came back. I have three children, and they came back
and it was just a great occasion that night and you know got some calls of congratulations. It was all of a sudden kind of a different
world but you know let me tell you something that was really interesting after that. After I was elected, it was kind of like somehow
or another I was different to my friends. I felt kind of like I was alone or something. You know I’d call my friends up and it was
like they didn’t want to talk to me. It was kind of a weird feeling. I remember that very distinctively. Of course that changed later but I recall
it was a it was kind of an uneasy time. SHORT: Well Bloody 8th was certainly a large
district. How were you able to campaign throughout that
whole district? ROWLAND: Just get in the car and ride and
ride and walk and walk and ride and ride and let me say that my wife Luella, I couldn’t
have been elected without her. I mean she was every morning we would part
ways. She would go one direction and I would go
another. Let me tell you a little story about in Waycross,
Lindsay Thomas who was also elected at the same time lived up in South Georgia — SHORT: Screven. ROWLAND: Yeah. That’s right and there was a function for
Lindsay after the election in Waycross at the Waycross Country Club and Lindsay invited
me to come down because Waycross was in my district and so I did. I went down and Luella didn’t go with me but
when I came in the club and Lindsay was standing there talking to one of his friends I walked
up and his friend he introduced me to his friend and said “This is J. Roy Rowland here”
and the friend looked at me and kept talking to Lindsay and Lindsay said “Where’s Luella?”
and his friend stopped me and said “Oh you’re Luella’s husband.” So that told me she was all over. She had a lot to do with me being elected. SHORT: You had no Republican opposition? ROWLAND: No, and I was the only member that
came to the U.S. House that time that did not have a Republican opponent so after the
primary that was my election. That primary was put off because it got involved
in a court case and we finally had the we had the runoff at the time of the general
election at that time in November and so after I was elected in the Primary in the runoff
and no Republican opponent so we were able to go on to Washington and look for a place
to live and I was the only one in that class of about 78 new members that could do that. SHORT: Of course that did not help your seniority? It just helped you get located in Washington? ROWLAND: That’s all. No it didn’t help me in any seniority. No we were all sworn in at the same time. SHORT: Was moving to Washington a culture
shock? ROWLAND: No not really. Culture shock? No. Luella was with me. It may have been more so if she hadn’t have
been. I mean well it was different in the aspect
that we were living in a townhouse as compared to the home that we lived in and meeting different
kind of people but I didn’t detect the cultures being that much different. SHORT: Shortly after you got there there was
an incident that became a controversy involving the Russians shooting down a Korean airline
flight with Georgia Congressman Larry McDonald on board and there was some feeling as I recall
that McDonald might have been the target of that. Do you recall that situation? ROWLAND: I do and I recall it just as you
did that he may have been the target. It was a 007 Korean airliner that he was on
that was shot down by the Russians. Larry was very, very conservative. He was heavily involved in the John Birch
Society. In fact I think Larry did not vote for Speaker
O’Neill for Speaker the only Democrat in the house that didn’t and he lost his seat on
the Armed Services Committee because of that but I talked with Larry on several occasions
and Larry would admonish me for some of the votes I cast by saying they were too liberal. We had some conversations. I never did consider myself to really be a
close friend of Larry’s but knew him pretty good and I do recall that there was a conspiracy
theory about that plane being targeted because he was on it. SHORT: But there’s no definite conclusions? ROWLAND: Not that I recall. SHORT: When you arrived in Washington it was
1983. ROWLAND: Yes. SHORT: Ronald Reagan had defeated Jimmy Carter
for president and the country was in I guess what you could call a mess. What do you remember about those days? ROWLAND: Well it was high inflation rate,
high unemployment rate and the misery index I think it was referred to at that time. I think that President Reagan had the ability
to make people feel differently about what was going on. He made people feel good about the country
and that the problems could be resolved and the country could be turned around and that
was a principle thing that I think he did. He was a very charismatic person and I know
Pat Schroeder was a member from Colorado and coined the phrase for him the “Teflon president”
because if anything that anybody said about him seemed to just bounce off of him and really
didn’t cause a problem but the two times that I had the opportunity to talk with him and
he would call us he’d call members to the White House to talk with them about various
type of legislation but always a very, I thought a very gracious person and very even with
the way he approached things. SHORT: He was supported by a group of Southern
Democrats known as boll weevils. Were you a boll weevil? ROWLAND: Well they changed the name of that. The boll weevil was the name that was given
to a group of conservative Democrats who were mostly from the south but that became the
Conservative Democratic Forum and yes I was a member of the Conservative Democratic Forum. We probably had about 35 or 40 members, Democrats,
and were able to do some negotiating on some legislation. I don’t think we had as much influence as
the Blue Dogs have now and most of those that were Democrats that were in the Conservative
Democratic Forum either left the Congress, became Republican or were defeated. So there was one time that they were probably
not more than about I don’t know 15 to 20 in that group. SHORT: It’s generally known that most of the
work in Congress is done by committees and in those committees you either defeat or pass
out bills to the floor for a vote. Would you be so kind as to explain to us how
those committees are chosen? ROWLAND: I could tell you on the Democratic
side how the members of the committee are chosen. I think the Republicans have a Republican
conference and I’m not sure just how that works but on the Democratic side it was a
Steering and Policy Committee and there were about 30 members of the Steering and Policy
Committee members of the House. Some of them were regional from different
parts of the country and some of them were appointed by their leadership, some by the
Speaker which of course gave the leadership and the Speaker a lot of power. The last term that I was there I ran for and
was elected to the Steering and Policy Committee to represent Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee
and South Carolina, and the committee assignments were made in the Steering and Policy Committee
and again the Speaker had a great deal to do with who was elected not always but much
of the time. SHORT: Tell us if you will what committees
do. ROWLAND: Well they’re authorizing committees. Like the Energy and Commerce Committee or
the Public Works and Transportation Committee. They pass legislation to authorize the appropriation
of the money for various projects and of course the Ways and Means Committee has to do with
taxation, determining the taxes that would be put in place and the Appropriation Committee
will place money that has been authorized by the authorizing committee but that has
changed a lot since I was there. We didn’t have what they call earmarks now. The Appropriation Committee now can earmark
stuff and they can get money appropriated for something without it having been authorized
but when I was there it had to be authorized before it could be appropriated. There was some monies that were appropriated
before the authorization was done but the authorization eventually had to be done so
committees authorize is what they do and the Ways and Means Committee and the Appropriation
Committee. SHORT: Do you think earmarking is a good idea? ROWLAND: No I really don’t. I think it’s a bad idea. There’s too many trades that can be made that
can affect adversely our country in general. I think that’s one of the things that has
made the deficits escalate so much is earmarking. Any member of the House is going to get what
they can for their district because that helps them get re-elected and that’s not a good
thing in my opinion. SHORT: Bringing home the bacon. ROWLAND: Bringing home the bacon that’s what
it is. SHORT: Voters understand that? ROWLAND: Yes they understand that. SHORT: Well there are few issues in American
politics in my judgment that are as misunderstand as national deficit, debt and deficit spending
and our deficit spending has increased our national debt many fold since you were in
Congress. Will we ever again have a balanced budget? ROWLAND: Probably not. If you mean that the amount of money that
is spent equals the amount of money that is taken in I doubt that that will ever happen
again. They say that if the deficit goes up as a
certain percent of the gross domestic product and that percentage stays the same all the
time it can go up indefinitely and that’s what we did for a number of years but now
the gross domestic product has fallen and the deficit goes up and the distance between
them is much greater now so that puts us in a precarious position. I don’t think we’ll ever have a balanced budget
not in the foreseeable future. SHORT: There were two incidents during your
term up there — terms, excuse me, that I’d like to talk about. One is the Iran-Contra situation and the other
is what was known as the first Gulf War. Would you talk to us about those? ROWLAND: Yes. The Iran-Contra was during I guess it was
maybe the third time that I was there when some monies were taken through a deal with
Iranians and given to the Contras to support them who we supported in opposition to the
Sandinistas who were the Communist type government in Central America and Nicaragua. Interestingly enough, I got involved in that
to an extent that I got the attention of the leadership on the Democrat side and that helped
me get a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee which I had been denied for three terms before
that but I did have the opportunity to go to Central America to Honduras and visit the
Contra camp there with Sonny Montgomery who was from Mississippi. He was a retired general, and he was the chairman
of the Veterans Affairs Committee, and we went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and we boarded
a, later I learned it was an unmarked CIA helicopter, and flew to Baca Valley to this
Contra camp and I recall the pilot was flying just above the treetops, it was very mountainous
and he was staying just above the treetops and I said “Why are you flying so low?” He said “Well if we get up very high we might
get shot down” and I thought “What am I doing here?” I mean I didn’t understand the danger that
we may have been in at that point but this is the same time that Noriega was being overthrown
in Panama and we stopped in Panama on the way there. And if you recall our Ambassador had been
withdrawn from Panama at that time and we went to the Ambassador’s residence and had
dinner but there was no Ambassador there and there were armed guards everywhere and it
was sort of a different time. SHORT: There was a great Congressional investigation
into that. You remember Oliver North and that situation. Do you think President Reagan knew about the
deal with the Contras? ROWLAND: Yeah I think he knew about it but
I think he let Oliver North manage it. Yeah I think he knew about it. President Reagan, and my observation was,
he didn’t micromanage things. He generally knew what was going on and he
had generally he generally said what he wanted done but he left it to the others to take
care of the details. SHORT: Let’s talk about the Gulf War. There was President Bush. ROWLAND: Right. SHORT: Were you in favor of the Gulf War? ROWLAND: Yes. I was in favor of the Gulf War because I thought
that Saddam Hussein was the same kind of person that Adolf Hitler was. I thought that Saddam Hussein wanted to control
all the oil in the Middle East, control the economy of the world. And I felt that he had to be stopped and that’s
essentially what the Gulf War did for a time and I learned later that the reason that we
stopped and did not depose him at that time was of course Iraq and Iran were bitter enemies
and they had been in a war for several years prior to that and the general feeling was
that if Saddam Hussein was taken out that Iran would become dominant and in fact we
have seen that happen after he was taken out with the war that’s going on over there now. So I was in favor of that and I thought it
was the right thing to do to stop him. SHORT: I remember watching it on television
and marveling at our ability to drop those bombs through a window. ROWLAND: Yeah. SHORT: Wasn’t that awesome? ROWLAND: That was awesome. It really was. I mean those cruise missiles where they could
put it in a bucket somewhere. It was amazing. SHORT: It was amazing. Do you think that we accomplished what we
should have accomplished over there during that first war? Should we have continued until we brought
down Saddam Hussein or did we withdraw at the proper time? ROWLAND: Well in hindsight it probably would
have been better to have gone ahead and done that and had a different proposal to follow
up on the war and I think that’s what happened with this invasion of Iraq and what’s going
on over there now. We didn’t have any follow up. We didn’t have any plan. We didn’t have any way. We had not planned how to deal with it after
he was removed. SHORT: What do you think that these wars have
done to the financial aspects of the American government? ROWLAND: Made a lot of money. People have made a lot of money out of wars. As a matter of fact I think World War II brought
us out of the depression and it made a lot of money for I think it was President Eisenhower
said “Beware the military industrial complex” and yeah I think there’s been a lot of money
made out of it. SHORT: Let’s get back for a minute to President
Reagan. He was accused during his administration of
overspending on defense at the expense of programs, social and domestic programs, that
needed attention. Is that a fair accusation? ROWLAND: I think President Reagan with what
he did in defense spending, we simply out spent the Soviet Union, and I think that’s
what brought them down. So I give him and his philosophy and what
he did a lot of credit for ending the Cold War although it created tremendous deficits. SHORT: Let’s talk for a minute now about healthcare. You’re a doctor, a very successful doctor,
a very popular doctor. You were in the Georgia Legislature and in
the U.S. Congress at a time when healthcare happened to be a big issue. Have we made any progress over the years in
solving some of our healthcare delivery issues? ROWLAND: Well I don’t think we’ve made many
significant progress in the delivery of healthcare in making it available to people who can’t
afford it. That’s a really difficult very difficult proposition
to have to deal with. It gets caught up in the politics of the time
because there’s a lot of divisiveness. There’s so many different entities out there
that are concerned with money that they might not make or money they’ll lose and that’s
what it evolves around largely the reason I think that we’re not able to get some healthcare
legislation passed that will make healthcare available to everyone. SHORT: Let’s talk about our federal programs,
our Medicare and Medicaid some of the other children’s programs. Are they effective? ROWLAND: They’re effective I think the Medicare
is very effective for the elderly and of course Medicaid for people who are poor. As a matter of fact, they do a lot more than
they probably need to do. There’s probably more money spent than needs
to be spent. We’ve got you know we’ve got PeachCare in
Georgia now for children which is certainly a good thing but the delivery of healthcare
still is a conundrum that is very difficult to deal with. How do you pay for it? How do you determine who is going to get what
kind of care? You know there’s a lot of different reasons
why healthcare cost so much. I mean look at the wonderful technology that
we have now in diagnostic and treatment. That’s expensive and of course there’s always
a thing the trial lawyers will disagree but that’s certainly defensive medicine the liability
problem certainly adds to the cost of it. We’ve moved so far in technology and healthcare
now I think we’ve gotten to the place where we really can’t pay for it for everyone. SHORT: Well is there a solution to that? ROWLAND: Well yes but then you get into a
biomedical ethical area. I mean how are you going to decide who is
going to get what? For example, in United Kingdom people after
they’ve passed a certain age can’t get renal dialysis. You have to they make a decision about that. Well if you’re in this country anybody can
get dialysis who has end-stage renal disease under the Medicare program. So there’s some biomedical ethical issues
that you get into that you have to deal with and it’s hard. SHORT: What do you think of means testing? ROWLAND: I think that’s a good idea. In fact we had some legislation that I was
involved with while I was there. We wanted to create some community health
centers around the country. I wanted to create a network of community
health centers that would be financed by the federal, the state and the local government. Everyone would invest in them and the people
that went to those centers would be provided care on a means tested basis. So you know if you were able to pay you paid. You paid whatever you were able to pay and
if you’re not able to pay anything then you didn’t pay anything and I thought this was
a way that we could provide outpatient care to many, many people in our country. SHORT: Would means testing be a good idea
for Social Security? ROWLAND: I think you have to consider that
as a possibility. I think for Medicare as well to means test
it. People who are very wealthy get the same kind
of Medicare as people who are not. So I think the people who are very wealthy
should pay a little more. SHORT: Let’s talk for a minute if you will
about Georgia’s delegation in Congress when you were a member. Georgia has always been in a very powerful
position in the Congress. We’ve had Carl Vinson and Phil Landrum and
others but as they left they were replaced by a group of what I considered to be very
bright and efficient members like yourself for example and Ed Jenkins. You served with Ed. Tell us about Ed. ROWLAND: Ed is a great guy, very bright. Ed was on the Ways and Means. We were good friends. Ed got along with almost everybody. There’s one time that Ed was being pushed
to run for majority letter in the House but he did not. I think he would have had a real good chance
of being elected to that position had he chose to run but yeah Ed was very good. Doug Barnard. SHORT: Doug, banking. ROWLAND: Yeah Doug had a lot of background
as you know in politics in Georgia and he was into the banking area and had a lot of
information about that. SHORT: Elliott Levitas. ROWLAND: Yeah Elliott was there when I came. He was a really super guy. I was kind of stunned when Elliott was not
re-elected one time. I think Georgia and the country lost a great
leader when Elliott was not re-elected. Lindsay Thomas who went when I at the same
time that I did. Richard Ray. Richard really outstanding and a very patriotic
guy and you know he was Sam Nunn’s Chief of Staff for a number of years. So he really knew what was going on in Washington. He knew the process. SHORT: You also served with Wyche Fowler who
was elected to the Senate. ROWLAND: Yes. Wyche was. I never did get to know Wyche really well. He ran for the Senate not long after that. Wyche was a great storyteller. SHORT: And Buddy Darden. ROWLAND: Buddy is a very dear friend. I’ve known Buddy for a long time. We were in the Georgia House together, and
Buddy’s wife, Lillian, her father was a Methodist minister and I knew of her family and Buddy
came from down in Hancock County. Buddy is a real good friend. I think he was an excellent legislator. I’m sorry when he was not re-elected. SHORT: How deeply are you involved in politics
today? ROWLAND: Well some. Not really deeply. I mean there are people that I support because
I think they are good people or because I think they’ll make good leaders. I’m still involved to some extent. I don’t think I have as much influence as
some people say I might have. Folks come to me and say “Well I’d like for
you to so and so and help me.” I say, you know, “I don’t have that much influence
anymore. I don’t have any leverage anymore you know
so.” SHORT: Well I would like to now move ahead
to the present day. We’re at the University of Georgia. It’s 2009. We’re involved in wars and deficits and a
very deep economic depression. I say depression. That might not be the word but where are we
headed? ROWLAND: Well that’s hard to say where we’re
headed but where I think we are right now we are in a sort of an unstable economic situation
because of the tremendous deficits that we have seen built up over the last several years. I think the last time we didn’t have a deficit
— well President Clinton did not have much of a deficit but these deficits have really
built up. There’s been an awful lot of spending by the
government on security, on the military, a lot that has been spent socially, social welfare
as well. You know we’re approaching an area of deflation
in my opinion as compared to inflation. Deflation can be just as bad. I’m not an economist but we’ve got more goods
and services out there than we have money and credit and so we see the price of things
have come down a lot and that can be just as devastating to the economy as inflation
which is just the opposite of that. I was for putting the money out as a stimulus
but I think the secretary of the treasury and the Federal Reserve they did not look
after the money. I think Secretary Paulson he just they put
the money out there and the financial community took it and there’s no accounting for it and
it didn’t do what it was intended to do. I really kind of subscribe to the Keynesian
theory of economics and that really at bad times that the government can step in and
help but when times are good then that money needs to be repaid. So I think we’re in a period right now where
the government needs to help some but that money needs to be repaid when times get better. SHORT: Uh-huh. How much are we in danger of China? ROWLAND: You mean financially? Economically? SHORT: Financially. ROWLAND: Well I think that’s a real danger
because they can manufacture goods so much cheaper than we can and people want to buy
things as cheap as they can. So I think that that is a real problem but
it’s not just China. It’s all of the countries in the Pacific rim
and the Far East that are doing this and Central America, South America. I mean they produce stuff so much cheaper
than we do in this country and that puts us in a pretty unstable situation. SHORT: Well while we’re on that subject let
me ask you this question. What would you say our role should be in world
affairs? Should we be as aggressive as we have been
in recent times? ROWLAND: I don’t think we can be the world
policeman. I really don’t. I think that we’ve been sort of forced into
that role because we are the pre-eminent military power in the world so almost every other country
looks to us when there’s a problem to intervene. Then when we intervene it’s not appreciated
as much as it’s just really not appreciated. So while I’m not an isolationist at all I
think we are stretched too thin now our commitments militarily. SHORT: There are those in the country who
think that we spend too much money with our allies. What do you think of that? ROWLAND: Well we do spend a lot of money with
Israel. I always thought about Israel as being almost
an extension of our country and I feel like they looked after our interest in the Middle
East to a large extent. You know then there’s an humanitarian thing
what goes on in Africa all of the ravages of disease and hunger and all that is almost
as though you can’t stand to the side and not do something, not be involved in some
of that. It’s just I think we’re caught in a position
we’re in because we have been the pre-eminent military power. We have been the pre-eminent economic power
in the world. So I mean it seems that that mantle sort of
falls to us. SHORT: I heard an economist say the other
day that we have reset our economy and it will be a long time before we get back to
where we were. Do you think that’s a possibility? ROWLAND: I’m not sure what they mean by where
we were. Get back to where we were? SHORT: Before all of our national debt and
all of the deficit spending we’ve been doing and the effect it has had on the national
economy, the stock market, Wall Street. ROWLAND: Yeah I think we’ll get back some
time. I really do. But it’s going to be a while and I’m not enough
of an economist to put all this together in my head but I have enough faith in this country
and the people in this country that I feel that we’ll get back. SHORT: What do you think about all these bailouts? ROWLAND: Well the bailouts of the financial
institutions was necessary I believe but the money was not tracked as it should’ve been. It was not accounted for as it should’ve been. I don’t think that we could’ve let our financial
institutions follow through. I mean then we would’ve certainly been like
we were back in after 1929. We would’ve been right back where we were
in the 1930s, and I think that’s probably one of the reasons we had the Great Depression
is because President Hoover at that time did not intervene. He just let he said it’ll take care of itself. The business community and Wall Street it’ll
take care of itself and we don’t need to do anything. Well it didn’t happen that way. SHORT: Let’s talk for a minute about the war
on terror. Are we going about it in the right way? ROWLAND: Well we must be doing something right. We haven’t had an attack in this country now
since 9/11 so I’m not into that enough to make any comment about it other than to say
that I feel pretty safe. SHORT: Let’s get back for a minute Dr. Rowland
to your role in the National Healthcare System as a member of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. There’s been a lingering fear that the Medicare
and Medicaid programs might run out of money. Is that a possibility? ROWLAND: Well, that’s what the actuaries say. That Medicare is in jeopardy. I don’t know what the latest figures are 10
or 12 years down the road it may get to the point where it’s not able to finance itself
and the same for Social Security some time further down the road. That’s certainly a danger. I mean there’s many more people retired now
for those who are working as there were for example when it first started. SHORT: What if that happens? What if we run out of money? ROWLAND: I don’t think we’ll run out of money. I think the full faith and credit of the United
States government will see that that does not happen. I mean I think the people will the value of
the money may not be as much as it is, worth as much as it is now, but I just don’t have
that fear. SHORT: Well you know much more about this
than I but as I recall the last effort to develop a national health policy was a Clinton
proposal in 1993. You were in Congress at that time. Do you think that it was a workable plan? ROWLAND: I don’t think his was what the country
needed. I was very much involved in that as you recall
putting Mrs. Clinton in charge of that and had a health policy person come from New England
Hour magazine and they met for many months in the old executive office building and they
put this plan together and excluded everyone that would be a stakeholder, the providers
I mean. The medical community was excluded, the health
insurance centers, the pharmaceutical industry. They wrote what they wanted and if it had
some commercials called “Harry and Louise” who really took after this but I think that
they went about it in the wrong way. They didn’t include the people that should
have been included and something may have come out of that, not what they presented,
may have come out of that but it was my feeling at the time that there were some things that
we could do and there was a couple of pieces of legislation that I worked with with a member
from Florida, Mike Bilirakis. We had a bipartisan piece of legislation that
would address such things as administrative simplification, insurance reform, critical
community health centers around the country, a network of them where people could go to
get their care and they would get it on a means tested basis as well but we were never
able to get it out of committee in 1993 or 1994. In 1994 there was several other pieces of
healthcare legislation. Bob Michaels, the minority leader, had one,
Jim McDermott, who was a psychiatrist from Washington State he had one, the President
had one, we had one bipartisan. There was a couple of others. Dick Gephardt told me in the summer of 1994
that after the August recess that he was going to take up all of these pieces of legislation
but after the August recess I heard that it wasn’t going to happen and I went to see him
and he said “Well people are not interested in that now.” So we never did get anything out of the Congress. John Dingle who was chairman of the Energy
and Commerce Committee told me he said “Roy your legislation will never see the light
of day out of my committee.” I mean John Dingle was from Michigan, and
his father had introduced a socialistic piece of health legislation when he was in the Congress
back in the 30’s and Chairman Dingle had re-introduced that legislation every Congress since then
and he didn’t want to see anything happen that was any variation much from what his
father had originally introduced but I think we had an excellent opportunity to get something
done then but it got caught up in the politics of the time and (indiscernible-audio gap). SHORT: We were talking about the Clinton healthcare
program in 1993. ROWLAND: Right. Well the Clintons didn’t include all the stake
holders in their proposal. Consequently there were a lot of people that
were very much opposed to it. President Clinton would call small groups
of members of the House to come down and he would make a pitch to them and I had an opportunity
to go one time and I told him at that time that I thought it was very important for him
to include the medical community and the pharmaceutical community, the different groups that were
going to be providers, in the discussions about doing the reform. He kind of shook his head. I wasn’t sure whether he shook his head yes
or no. I mean he was a hard fellow to pin down and
so I asked him. I said “Mr. President if you were going to
do some reform in the judicial system would you exclude lawyers?’ And he didn’t answer the question. Obviously he wouldn’t exclude lawyers but
as that moved along I had some communication with Mrs. Clinton who of course was in charge
of it and she wrote me some letters saying that she would look forward to working with
me on healthcare reform but I could never get a seat with the group that was working
on it in the old executive office building. So in 1994 I had become chairman of the Hospital
and Healthcare Subcommittee of the Veterans Affairs Committee and they had designated
one person from that committee that subcommittee to come and the designee gave me his slot. I took his slot to go to those meetings and
it ended before I ever attended any of those meetings but I felt that the President was
very devious and somewhat deceitful in dealing with members of the House, and I think he
thought that he could do everything without having to consult anyone else and in the Democrat
Caucus I recall the leadership Dick Gephardt particularly who was the majority leader at
that time saying “We can get healthcare reform passed and we don’t need the Republicans. We can do it without them.” and of course that was the downfall of the
whole effort to reform healthcare is because it became so partisan. And the piece of legislation that I had worked
on there were five Democrats, five Republicans that worked on this legislation. We produced two different bills. The last one we produced the Congressional
budget office scored us real well on it and they said we could insure 94% of the people
in the country in five years and reduce the deficit by $90 million over that period of
time. At that time full employment was considered
if you had 6% unemployment. So if we were able to cover 94% of the people
and 6% not being covered we figured we’d pretty well been able to cover most of the people
in the country but we were never able to get it out of the committee, never able to get
a good hearing on it and in fact 10 people worked on it, five Democrats and five Republicans. It was a good experience. I guess that that healthcare reform legislation
was my best and worst moments in the Congress. I think it was the best thing that I did but
it was the worst thing that happened to me not getting it out. SHORT: As you look back over your career is
there anything you would’ve done differently? ROWLAND: Not that I can think of right now. I worked really hard to try to get that legislation
I think I served my constituents well. I had over 300 town meetings in the 12 years
I was there, and I came home every weekend. My wife and I spent 11 weekends in Washington
in the 12 years that I was there. Sometimes we went somewhere else but most
every weekend we was at home. SHORT: So you could probably say that your
proudest moment as a Congressman was your work in healthcare and your biggest disappointment
— ROWLAND: That’s correct. SHORT: — In Congress was your work in healthcare. ROWLAND: That’s right. That’s correct. SHORT: Do you think there’s a way to unite
healthcare providers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists and nurses and…? ROWLAND: You know money is the root of all
evil and that’s where the problem lies. I think the various providers, the various
stakeholders, are concerns about the money that they might lose or the money that they
won’t make. I think if you could get the leadership and
the various providers to come together and talk about some kind of reform that would
provide care on a cost efficient basis, quality care, yeah I think it can be done. I really do. SHORT: What role should the government play
in that? ROWLAND: The government has got to play a
significant role in it because there’s got to be some regulation about it, so the government
has got to play some regulatory function in it. I think that not only the federal government
but state and local governments ought to be involved in investing in it too. If you invest in something, you’re going to
look after it better and see that it works better and so I think that it ought to be
a combination of financing, not just at the federal level. SHORT: Some people say we’re headed toward
socialized medicine. ROWLAND: You already got some socialized medicine. We’ve got Medicare and Medicaid, PeachCare. We’ve got several programs that are socialized
medicine already. SHORT: There’s nothing wrong with it? ROWLAND: Well, financing it is a problem. That and then the greed. I mean there are providers who take advantage
of it. Money again is quite a big problem is. SHORT: Older people that I get from AARP,
which I’m a member seem to feel that that Obama plan might affect them more drastically
than it would others because of their age and they question whether or not you want
to give a 90-year-old person a new knee or a new hip, should we worry about that or should
we do it? ROWLAND: Well that you get into a medical
ethical — SHORT: Yeah. ROWLAND: — kind of situation there when you
decide whether or not somebody is going to get something that the doctor says that they
may need and the government will make the decision about that. We really need to have a biomedical ethical
board and by the way we did when I was in the Congress we
did in 1984, Bill Gradison who was from Ohio and Henry Waxman from California got some
legislation passed creating a biomedical ethical board to try to look at those biomedical ethical
issues and we had two meetings. The first time we met the subject of abortion
came up, and the second time we met the subject of abortion came up again and the debates
became so heated about it that the committee never met anymore. There should be some kind of public policy
and we would have talk to the medical ethicist people who are involved in that area to get
some guidance about what needs to be done in that area. So that gets back to what would you do for
somebody if it’s somebody that needs renal dialysis. If they are past a certain age or they have
certain diseases or whatever should they get it. A lot of decisions like that would have to
be made so it becomes very complex. SHORT: How can the majority of Americans afford
private health insurance these days? ROWLAND: I don’t think they can. I think that the private health insurance
is far more expensive than individuals who don’t have some kind of group insurance can
afford. Individuals have no leverage in purchasing
health insurance. The leverage is by companies or employers
that buy large groups and I think the health insurance industry takes advantage of these
people who try to buy insurance individually. I think there needs to be more insight into
what health insurance companies do. I think there needs to be more information
about their reserves, how much money do they have in reserves, how much are they making. I don’t know that this information is available. It wasn’t available at one time and I don’t
know whether it is now or not but I think health insurance companies really take advantage
in many instances. SHORT: Would more government regulations correct
that? ROWLAND: Well yeah the insurance industry
is largely regulated on a state basis now but I don’t know how effective that is. The federal government may have to be involved
in it because you have so many different states that may have different requirements that
it may need to look at it on a federal standpoint just like you’ve got the Drug Enforcement
Administration that regulates drugs, pharmaceuticals and you know habit forming, and so you know
we may have to look at something like that for the health insurance industry which I
know they would oppose. SHORT: Yeah. Well let’s get back to a little politics. How has politics changed since you got involved? ROWLAND: How has it changed since I got in? SHORT: Except for the cost of seeking public
office. ROWLAND: Yeah well it’s changed that way. I don’t know that politics has really changed. It seems to me it’s pretty much the way it
always has been. You’ve just got the, if you want to get involved
in politics you’ve got to get out and convince as many people as you can that you’re the
right person for whatever office you’re running for but yes it does take a lot more money
now. I believe that my first campaign was around
$350,000. SHORT: That’s for Congress? ROWLAND: For Congress and that included runoff. I mean that was about what I spent and now
what is it now $3 million or $4 million? I don’t know. SHORT: I would say at least. ROWLAND: It’s out of sight. SHORT: Yeah. Well has politics changed you? ROWLAND: I think it’s made me a better person
and more appreciative of the country that we live in. I have a better understanding about it. I find myself not being as critical as I could’ve
been had I not been involved and learned something about it and the process and what all goes
on. I think that gives me an understanding. I hope it makes me a better person. SHORT: Well your old district as we said the
Bloody Eight has remained in Democratic hands since you left Congress. ROWLAND: Well let’s see. Charlie Norwood had part of it and — SHORT: Well that’s after reapportionment though. ROWLAND: Yes. SHORT: We haven’t talked about reapportionment. That affected you when you were in Congress. ROWLAND: It did. It did. SHORT: They reapportioned your district. ROWLAND: Yeah the last term I was there I
got I had 32 counties or portions of counties. I got a lot of area I didn’t have, Valdosta,
Albany, part of Warner Robins that I didn’t have before. So yeah it changed it a lot. Yeah reapportionment makes a lot of changes
and it put some people out. SHORT: Yes it did. But still that 8th has been Democratic and
the reason I mentioned that is that the Republicans in Georgia have made a great effort to capture
the 8th district and despite the fact that they have won other districts handedly they
have yet to have a Republican from the current 8th. ROWLAND: Right. Well you know I don’t think I think probably
Jim Marshall he may not even have an opponent this next time a, Republican opponent because
they’ve thrown everything they could at him three times and he got by all three times. SHORT: Well let’s talk a little bit about
party politics in Georgia. What do you think is the reason for the Republican
party to take over after so many years of Democratic rule? ROWLAND: Well I think the Democrats “messed
up”. I think again I think people vote against
something more than they vote for something and I think the reason we lost the governorship
is because the people were voting against the incumbent and I’m not sure about why the
legislature changed as dramatically as it did unless it followed that Republican sweep. SHORT: Well the Republican party has been
very active in the state. They have as I see it you know just outmaneuvered
the Democrats with local grass roots effort. ROWLAND: Yeah. SHORT: And they have recruited good candidates
and they worked hard for those candidates and those candidates have won but what do
you think it would take if it’s possible for the Democrats to regain the governorship and
the Legislature? ROWLAND: Well I think it will happen. It always does. It swings back and forth and who knows when
it’ll happen. I think there’s a reasonable chance that the
Democrats could get the governorship in this upcoming election. I don’t believe the Legislature will change
that much. Maybe there will be some better Democratic
candidates. You know after you’ve been in office for a
while though so many people become complacent with what they’ve got and they don’t work
as hard. SHORT: Yeah. Many disenchanted I guess is the word Democrats
feel that the state party is too urban and too dependent on minorities and labor unions. Do you think that’s true? ROWLAND: I think that has a significant effect
on it. I do. The make up of it is largely a minority. The Republican party doesn’t have that many
minority and they do lean toward more labor unions and we a right-to-work state here. So the general population I think doesn’t
go along with that and maybe that’s again because they are voting against something
rather than for something. SHORT: Did you ever consider switching parties? ROWLAND: No. SHORT: Would you switch parties? ROWLAND: No. SHORT: Why wouldn’t you switch parties? ROWLAND: Well Democratic tradition. I mean it’s just a tradition. I could be a well I have supported Republican
candidates. I was still a Democrat. I can call myself a Democrat but when I thought
the Republican candidate might be the best person for the job again I’m kind of a moderate
conservative partisan. I’m not fiercely partisan but I do consider
myself to be a Democrat. SHORT: Well that brings up the question of
cross voting and party registration. Now do you support registration by party in
Georgia? ROWLAND: Not necessarily no. No not really. I think you ought to be able to cross vote
if you want to. SHORT: Do you favor term limits? ROWLAND: No. The people can limit terms. SHORT: That’s right. A lot of people don’t understand that. ROWLAND: Yeah. SHORT: When I hear complaints about something
I say well look you already got term limits. If you don’t like ’em kick ’em out. ROWLAND: You take ’em out and that happens. You know I look at the U.S. House now and
the membership of the U.S. House now and I bet they are not. There’s 450 members in the House. I bet there’s not 75 members there that was
there when I left. SHORT: Really? ROWLAND: Yeah. I think it’s I haven’t counted that but I’m
just looking at it generally. SHORT: The cost of campaigning as we talked
about has really increased with television and computer ads and that sort of thing. Do you favor public financing of federal elections? ROWLAND: I think that’s all right. I think it’s okay to have public financing. I think it’s okay like we have now. I’m not opposed to that. SHORT: Well it’s been a pleasure talking with
you but I’d like to ask you a final question. If you were a candidate today, for the Congress,
what would be your platform? ROWLAND: My preference? SHORT: Your platform. ROWLAND: Oh my platform? To get healthcare legislation to get some
kind of healthcare legislation passed because that’s a thing that I’m most familiar with
and I would again support a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget. I think that is really important. Those would be the two things that I would
be most interested in and then of course I come from a rural area. So you know the farmers are difficult. That’s a hard avocation. The farmers need some help and so you know
I would look at that as part of a platform too. SHORT: Well you certainly had a very exciting
and successful career in both medicine and politics, and we appreciate what you’ve done
for Georgia and I want to thank you on behalf of Young Harris College and the Richard B.
Russell Library at the University of Georgia for being our guest. ROWLAND: Thank you very much. It’s been an honor and a privilege to be in
public office in the State House and the U.S. House and I really do appreciate the opportunity
to come here and talk about this. Thank you very much. SHORT: Thank you. [END OF RECORDING]

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