By the turn of the century, the diversification of crops and the development of industry had rebuilt Georgia's economy. Atlanta had become a leading Southern metropolis, and the Bourbons had been displaced by populist Democrats.
During the first two decades of the 20th century, government enacted some progressive reforms. Railroads were regulated, and better schools and improved highways were constructed. For the most part, however, Georgia politicians adhered to traditional beliefs in low taxes, a minimum of government services, and white supremacy.
The prosperity fueled by World War I was quickly followed by depression in the 1920's and 1930's. Governor Eugene Talmadge (1933–37) opposed any federal aid or economic regulation, and economic relief was slow to come to the state. Recovery began under Governor Eurith D. Rivers (1937–41). Notable economic, social, and political reforms, including modernizing state government, were made under Governor Ellis G. Arnall (1943–47).
With its large black population, Georgia was deeply involved in the racial problems of the 20th century. In the 1920's, it had been a center of Ku Klux Klan activity. In the 1950's and 1960's, there was much racial strife as blacks struggled to gain civil rights. Martin Luther King, Jr., a native of Atlanta, led civil rights demonstrations in Georgia during the 1960's and became the leader of the modern civil rights movement.
With significant industrial growth, agricultural expansion, and tourism development after World War II, Georgia had become the economic and cultural leader of the South by the 1960's. Racial strife decreased, and in 1970, Jimmy Carter, a political moderate, was elected governor. After leaving office, Carter became the first Georgian to be elected President of the United States; he served 1977–81. During the 1980's, the state's economy grew at a rapid pace, with Atlanta heading the expansion. The city was the site of the Democratic Presidential Convention in 1988 and of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.