Interview with Joe Wilkinson, November 12, 2019

Collection: Two-Party Georgia Oral History Project

Dublin Core


Joseph B. (Joe) Wilkinson was born September 3, 1946 in Atlanta. Wilkinson is a graduate of North Fulton County High School and the University of Georgia. Wilkinson has held various roles with the Coca-Cola Company. He also worked as a White House staffer during the Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan administrations. Wilkinson, a Republican, won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 2000 where he eventually chaired the House Ethics Committee. Wilkinson retired in 2017. He is currently President of Fun Academy Studios and Chair of the Jekyll Island Authority. Wilkinson is also a retired U.S. Naval Reserves captain and veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He resides in St. Simons Island and Sandy Springs.

Wilkinson talks about his family history and growing up in Atlanta. He discusses his early interest in politics and recalls volunteering for Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign and working on U.S. Representative Bo Callaway’s 1966 gubernatorial campaign. Wilkinson talks about his time at the University of Georgia. He describes his work as an intern with Georgia House and Senate Minority Leader’s offices and later as Bo Callaway’s political assistant. Wilkinson reflects on his time working in the White House Press Office during President Gerald Ford’s administration, the Environment Protection Agency, and the Ronald Reagan administration. He talks about his work at the Coca-Cola Company, including the launches of Diet Coke and New Coke. Wilkinson reflects on his time in the Georgia House of Representatives. He describes memorable legislation enacted during his tenure, including the new state flag, mandatory seatbelt laws, protections for the sea turtle, and the incorporation of Sandy Springs. The interview turns to Wilkinson’s analysis of Georgia political history and the evolution of the two major parties. He assesses the two parties’ strengths and weaknesses, the impact of Donald Trump’s 2016 victory, and the closely contested 2018 midterm elections in Georgia. He closes with thoughts on the 2020 election and his work on the Jekyll Island Foundation.






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Joe Wilkinson and Ashton Ellett, “Interview with Joe Wilkinson, November 12, 2019,” UGA Special Collections Libraries Oral Histories, accessed July 14, 2024,