George Busbee established a law practice in Albany, served nine terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and was floor leader for Governor Carl Sanders. In 1967, Busbee was one of thirty Democrats in the legislature who voted for the Republican Howard Callaway in the disputed 1966 gubernatorial race, rather than the Democratic nominee Lester Maddox, a segregationist from Atlanta. The legislature, acting under the 1824 Georgia Constitution, upheld by the United States Supreme Court, chose Maddox 182 to 66.
In 1974, Busbee won the Democratic nomination for governor in Jimmy Carter’s final year in that office. In the party runoff, he defeated, 551,106 (59.9 percent) to 369,608 (40.1 percent), former governor and sitting Lieutenant Governor Lester Maddox, the man whom Busbee had voted against in the legislative election for governor some seven years earlier. In the fall of 1974, Busbee handily defeated Ronnie Thompson, the first Republican to have served as mayor of Macon. In 1976, voters approved a wholesale revision of the Georgia Constitution, which included a provision that allowed Busbee to become the state’s first governor to serve two consecutive four-year terms. He won election to his second term in 1978 with an easy victory over moderate Republican Rodney Cook of Atlanta.