Lester Maddox was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He dropped out of school and took a correspondence course, ultimately opening the segregated "Pickrick" restaurant. He armed his white customers with pick handles to use as weapons against any blacks that might seek service, and in later years sold pick handles as souvenirs.
When the Civil Rights Act, which required integration of public facilities, passed, he sold the restaurant rather than integrate it.
He entered politics, running twice for Mayor of Atlanta and once for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, losing each time.
He ran as Democratic party nominee for Governor of Georgia in 1966, and had fewer votes than Republican nominee Howard Calloway, but the large number of write-in votes prevented Calloway from attaining a majority. The election was decided by the state legislature, which was under Democratic party control, and so Maddox became Governor, serving from 1967-1971.
After his term as Governor, he became Lieutenant Governor while Jimmy Carter was Governor. Maddox ran again for governor in 1974 and lost: when Carter ran for President in 1976, Maddox ran against him as the nominee of the American Independent Party, but got few votes.
His political career over, he had a short-lived nightclub comedy career with a black man he had pardoned from jail while he was governor. They called themselves "The Governor and the Dishwasher."