A privately negotiated property settlement between Sen. Herman Talmadge and his former wife Betty was announced today, averting at the last minute an open court struggle that could have further damaged the Georgia Democrat's political career.
After announcing the settlement, which will provide Mrs. Talmadge with a lump sum payment of $150,000 and the deed to the Talmadge home in Lovejoy, Superior Court Judge Sam Whitmire in McDonough dismissed more than 60 Henry County residents who had been summoned to start jury duty today in the property dispute.
It was the public record developed in te 1977 divorce and subsequent legal battles that triggered current investigations into Talmadge's financial affairs by the Senate Ethics Committee, Federal Election. Commission, a federal grand jury in Washington and the Internal Revenue Service.
"At least I get to keep my home." Mrs. Talmadge said after the property case ended. "He's a very politically powerful man, and I'm glad I got what I did. I wanted more than I got, but being a realist, I couldn't afford to gamble" with further court proceedings.
A Talmadge aide said the senator had no comment on the settlement, reached by lawyers in negotiations over the weekend.
Among the specific pieces of personal property the agreement awards to Mrs. Talmadge is a metal bust of former president Lyndon B. Johnson which Mrs. Talmadge said was a gift from her friend Lady Bird Johnson.
The court-approved settlement also specifies that Talmadge will keep his hunting guns and gun cases from the antebellum home, within 30 miles of downtown Atlanta, and awards him their Washington acondominium.
The agreement mandates that Talmadge deed to Mrs. Talmadge the home and 100 of the estate's 1,300 acres. He is to continue paying property taxes on her portion. Upon her death, the home and 100 acres will revert to Talmadge or his heirs.
From the home, Talmadge may recover his personal memorabilia and personal effects, including portraits of his parents, former governor and Mrs. Eugene Talmadge.
From the Washington condominium, Mrs. Talmadge may keep personal items, including needlepoint work and lamps.
Within 10 days, Talmadge is to pay his former wife $150,000 in cash or municipal bonds.
The agreement also calls for him "to assist" Mrs. Talmadge's meat brokerage business by helping her to keep existing customers and cultivate new clients. No details were given, and Mrs. Talmadge said she was uncertain what this provision would mean.
Talmadge walked around shaking hands with people waiting in the Henry County courtroom, but no proceeding occurred except the judge's announcing the settlement and dismissing the potential jurors.
The senator sued for the divorce in 1976. Mrs. Talmadge first learned of it from a television newscast. The 1977 award was followed by a prolonged and bitter struggle over dividing their multimillion-dollar assets. CAPTION: Picture, SEN. HERMAN Talmadge... ex-wife gets homes and $150,000