Important Blitch Family Around Georgia
Iris Faircloth Blitch
Iris F. Blitch Papers 1954-1985 (bulk 1954-1962)
Georgia State Senator, State Representative, Democratic Party Activist
161 boxes, 80.5 linear feet
Biography I Scope and Content I Organization and Arrangement Related Collections in this Repository I Series Description
Iris Faircloth Blitch was born in Normantown, Toombs County, Georgia, on April 25, 1912, to James Louis and Marietta (Ridgdell) Faircloth. The second youngest of eight children, and orphaned at age nine, Blitch was raised by several of her married sisters in Georgia and Maryland. While growing up, her sisters enrolled her in elocution classes which provided Blitch with early training in public speaking. She graduated from high school in Hagerstown, Maryland (1929), where she was living with her sister, Mrs. T.W. Johnson. Upon graduation from high school, Blitch enrolled in summer school at the University of Georgia, but before the term was out, she left to marry Brooks Erwin Blitch in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 1l, 1929. Erwin Blitch, who was a pharmacist, owned ACME Pharmacy in Homerville, Georgia, and also owned several thousand acres of timber and farm land. The couple had two children: Betty Ethelyn, born August 11, 1930 and Brooks Erwin, Jr., born November 14, 1934.
As a young wife and mother with two young children during the Great Depression, Blitch filled her spare hours in the pursuit of self-education, reading, and writing articles for newspapers, including a weekly feature in the local paper. In 1936 Blitch began participating in the Democratic Party. She was the first woman in the history of Georgia to serve four terms in the State Senate. In 1940, she was defeated by 27 votes in a campaign for the Georgia State Legislature, but was elected to the State Senate in 1946 (serving from 1947 to 1948). In 1948, she was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, and served there until 1950 when she was unsuccessful in a re-election bid. In 1952, she returned to the State Senate serving from 1953 to 1954. She was the Democratic National Committeewoman from Georgia from 1948 to 1956 and was also seated on the 11-person Executive Committee of the Democratic National Committee. She served as assistant secretary of the State Democratic Executive Committee from 1946 to 1956, taking the post of acting secretary in the year 1950.
In 1954, after conducting a grass-roots campaign, often accompanied by her son, Brooks, Blitch defeated incumbent Representative William M. Wheeler and became the first woman ever elected from Georgia to serve a full term in the United States Congress. A family friend was quoted as saying, "I told her in the beginning that the only reason she wouldn't win was because God made her a woman. I reckon she just didn't even let that stand in her way." From January 3, 1955 to January 3, 1963, Blitch represented the Eighth Congressional District of Georgia, which at the time, was composed of the following counties: Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Berrien, Brantley, Camden, Charlton, Clinch, Coffee, Cook, Echols, Glynn, Irwin, Jeff Davis, Lanier, Lowndes, Pierce, Telfair, Ware, and Wayne. During her tenure in Congress Blitch served on the Public Works Committee and its subcommittee of Public Roads, Rivers and Harbors, and Watersheds. Her interest in conservation prompted President John F. Kennedy to appoint her to the National Resources Advisory Council.
As a woman participating in politics Blitch garnered much attention. While a member of the Georgia General Assembly she sponsored and fought to pass The Women's Jury Bill, giving women the right to serve on a jury. However, Blitch never regarded herself strictly as a champion of women's rights:
"I've never been just a woman's candidate. I feel proud, of course, that women's organizations have backed my campaigns. I also have been provoked by women who complain about political conditions and then refuse to get out and face the voters and see what a politician goes through to get elected."
Due to poor health, she was not a candidate for re-election in 1962. After retiring from the U.S. Congress, Blitch became a resident of St. Simons Island, Georgia, until she moved to San Diego, California, in 1988 where she died on August 19, 1993. She is buried in Pinelawn Cemetery, Homerville, Georgia.
1957 Woman of the Year by periodical The Progressive Farmer Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from John Marshall University, 1961 American Legion's 1960 Meritorious Service Citation
Governor's Trophy of Georgia for her work in soil conservation, 1961
Georgia 's Outstanding Woman in Politics by the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, 1961
Peg Blitch of Homerville was first elected to the state Senate from south Georgia's 7th District in 1992. Blitch, a Democrat, chairs the Senate Reapportionment Committee and, on her appointment in December, 1992, became the first woman to chair a standing Senate committee in some 40 years. It was also a rare distinction for a freshman Senator to be appointed to lead a committee. Lt Governor Mark Taylor appointed her again in 1999. Senator Blitch also serves as vice chair of the Agriculture committee and as a member of the Rules and Natural Resources committees, as well as the influential Appropriations committee. In addition to her standing committee assignments, Blitch represents Georgia on the Federal Preemption and State-Federal Affairs Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) and on the Reapportionment Task Force of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She is Georgia vice-chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Prior to her election to the Senate, Blitch served one term in the Georgia House of Representatives. She was judge of the Clinch County Probate Court from 1976-80. During the 1996 session, Blitch successfully steered legislation through the Senate which requires prison officials to automatically transfer an inmate who commits an assault on a guard to a prison with a higher level of security. Active in community and political affairs, Senator Blitch was a co-convenor of the Committee for the Georgia Network of Elected Women Officials. She is a long-time board member and former chairperson of the Georgia Student Finance Commission and formerly chaired the Clinch County Library Board.
A successful business executive, Blitch is president of the Clinch County Nursing Home and is the only woman in Georgia to own and operate a Ford dealership.