Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Carl Kell, Larry Winn, Carley Dodd

Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Because of the increasing importance of local government in America's cities, it is worthwhile to note what factors influence the election of our local leaders. This study sought to isolate the communication factors and rhetorical strategies which influenced the election of Mayor Richard Fulton in Nashville's 1975 Mayoral Race.

Data was gathered from the written and video media, a private interview with the candidate, and campaign materials. Research also provided the candidate's previous political background.

Various factors in Nashville's 1975 Mayoral Race combined to produce an insightful episode in rhetorical and nonrhetorical communication campaign strategies. During the initial stages of the study, emphasis was placed on the rhetorical strategies of candidate Richard Fulton, and to a lesser degree, those of his opponent, Earl Hawkins. As the study progressed, it became increasingly evident that although rhetorical strategies were influential in Fulton's campaign victory, the major reason for his political success could not be totally attributed to his campaign speaking. After acknowledging that fact, a search throughout the available data began to determine what factors were responsible for his ultimate campaign success. It was found that the raising of the candidate's ethos was the most influential campaign factor.

Evidence throughout the available data documented over and over again the conclusion that Richard Fulton built an attractive image appealing to Nashville's voters. Fulton's rhetorical content and past experiences served to connunicate this "winning image." It was revealed that:

  1. The national and local political situation was favorable to the image which Fulton projected,
  2. Fulton's ethos was very high,
  3. Fulton's image was the chief factor in this successful campaign, and
  4. Fulton's rhetorical strategies were in accord with the majority of Nashville's voters' attitudes.

Because specific categories have not been formed by the communication community pertaining to the political candidate's image, this study has been one of discovery and new insight in the area of local politics. A proper rhetorical analysis could not simply proffer an evaluation of traditional aspects of speaking, such as ethos, logos, and pathos. Truly these categories enter the campaign on an important level, but with the increasing role of the media, even in local campaigns, new categories need to be developed and explored.

It is the hope of the writer that this particular study will encourage greater interest and future investigations into the local political workings in our cities, particularly those in the South. Why are the Americans of each city choosing their particular leaders? What role is public rhetoric playing in the local choice? How is the media affecting those choices on the local level? Is the American public being "sold" a false image by local politicians due to local advertising, and if so, how might greater public speaking help to dispell these misleading images? These are just a few questions which may stir future interest in pursuing the rhetorical study of our nation's many, local political campaigns and their place in the future development of the contemporary South.


American Politics | Communication | Mass Communication | Political Science | Public Relations and Advertising | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Influence and Political Communication