Sam Whitehead


Sam Whitehead came to GPB News in 2015. Prior to that, he worked in community radio in Ithaca, New York, where he ran a local nightly news show. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. He hasn’t won any awards yet. In his free time, he tries to become a better storyteller.

Ways to Connect

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Just up the road from Plant Vogtle, about 30 miles south of Augusta, sits Hawkins Rentals.

Rows of RV campers hunch on sandy lots beneath longleaf pines. About a mile away, large cooling towers from the nuclear power facility belch clouds of steam into the air.

Lambda Legal

A federal appeals court ruling this week in Illinois could affect a LGBT-rights case here in Georgia.


The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled for the first time Tuesday that federal civil rights laws protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination.

Georgia Department of Transportation

The collapse last week of a portion of I-85 in Atlanta left the city in a state of gridlock and uncertainty. At a news conference on Monday, Georgia Department of Transportation officials told reporters work to repair the bridge won’t be finished until mid-June. For more on the I-85 disaster, we talked with GPB news reporter Sam Whitehead.  

Scott Ehardt / Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta commuters trying transit for the first time in the wake of the I-85 bridge collapse last week will get some help from a local volunteer group.

Members of the MARTA Army--a grassroots transit advocacy group--will be posted around the metro area to help novice riders.

Georgia DOT

Many commuters in some of Atlanta's densely populated northern suburbs will have to find alternate routes or ride public transit for the foreseeable future after a massive fire caused a bridge on Interstate 85 to collapse, completely shutting down the heavily traveled highway.

Georgia's top transportation official said there's no way to tell when the highway, which carries a quarter-million cars a day, can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction following the collapse, which happened Thursday afternoon during rush hour.

Ezra Morris / GPB

Thanks to Georgia lawmakers, you won’t have to pay sales taxes the next time you hail an Uber, buy something from Amazon, or fix up your yacht. And you’ll still be able to play fantasy sports.

The 2017 legislative session ended with a number of changes to Georgia’s tax laws still on the table and a collection of special tax breaks headed to the desk of Governor Nathan Deal.

Georgia Power

Work at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle will continue for at least the next 30 days.

That’s the word from the utility a day after Westinghouse, the contractor building two new reactors at the nuclear facility, declared bankruptcy.

Matt Barnett / Flickr

Legislation that would allow guns on Georgia’s public college and university campuses is one step closer to passage.

The “campus carry” bill made it through the state Senate Tuesday with a vote of 32-22 after more than an hour of debate.

John Bazemore / AP Photo

Georgia lawmakers have approved a bill banning private colleges and universities from adopting so-called "sanctuary" policies.

The measure would block state scholarship and research funding from institutions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.


You soon might be able to walk into your favorite local brewery and order up a pint or grab a six pack to take home.


State lawmakers have approved a bill to allow craft breweries and distilleries to sell their products directly to consumers. It passed with a vote of 52-1 in the Senate Wednesday.


Sam Whitehead / GPB

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order calling for sheriffs and police departments to take a larger role in immigrations enforcement.

He asked them to join a voluntary Immigrations and Customs Enforcement program called 287(g), which extends the reach of immigration agents into counties across the country.

But the program is nothing new for northwest Georgia’s Whitfield County, where one-third of the population is Hispanic.

After a nearly decade of participation by the county sheriff’s office, 287(g) still divides the community.



Evan Vucci / AP Photo

The Trump administration unveiled its proposed 2018 budget Thursday morning. Unsurprisingly, the budget calls for significant increases in military and border security spending while dramatically reducing the funding for a number of other government agencies.

Several of those cuts, including reductions at the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will affect a variety of Georgia-based programs that receive federal funding.

As lawmakers continue to pour over the Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, members of Georgia’s congressional delegation have started to respond.

Ken Lund / Flickr

Just one legislative day before Crossover Day, a plan to turn around Georgia’s low-performing schools has passed in the Georgia House.


The bill, HB 338, would create a “Chief Turnaround Officer” with the authority to intervene in low-performing schools. 


The turnaround officer would also be required to look at issues outside the classroom.


Georgia Lottery

Legislation that would mandate what percentage of Georgia Lottery revenue goes to education programs has passed the state Senate.


The bill attempts to restore funding levels to those set in 1993 when the Georgia Lottery Corporation was established.


Reno Tahoe / Flick

Legislation that would have allowed casino gambling in Georgia is dead for the year.


Sen. Brandon Beach (R - Alpharetta) said he pulled the measure because he didn’t have enough votes to get the bill out of the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.


“Big issues like this take time. And so, we're just gonna have to come back next year,” Beach told reporters Monday. 


Bill McChesny / Flickr/CC

There are just four legislative days left until Crossover Day 2017. Any bill that hasn’t made it through at least one chamber of the Georgia General Assembly by Friday will be dead for the year.

But, with the clock ticking, there are still a number of major education issues that haven’t crossed over.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

This year could be a big one for school choice. State lawmakers are considering expanding a program that gives tax credits to Georgians who help bankroll private school scholarships. 


Supporters say the program gives students in public schools better access to other education options. But for many Georgians, especially those living in rural communities, those options are hard to find.


Kiezers / Wikimedia Commons

A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with Georgia in the state’s long-running dispute with Florida over water rights in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River basin.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

This week, one of the largest pieces of Georgia’s Civil War history heads to its new home.

The panoramic painting Battle of Atlanta, also known as the Atlanta Cyclorama, arrives at the Atlanta History Center to undergo an extensive restoration.

But moving the massive painting, which is longer than a football field, hasn’t been easy.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

Tens of thousands of Georgia children never get their teeth cleaned.

It’s partly a problem of geography: kids have to travel too far to get to a dentist. Then there’s state law, which says a dentist must be present when a dental hygienist is working.

But that could change this year because of a set of bills in the General Assembly that would make it easier for hygienists to offer services on their own.

Sean Powers / GPB

Update 1/30/17 9:30 p.m.

As of this evening, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had the following comment on the immigration and refugee order:

"We are constantly reminded of the challenges and dangers we face as a free nation. I do not envy the decisions that must be made by our President, but I support him as our leader and trust that the decisions made are in the best interest of Americans.”

Sam Whitehead / GPB

A Georgia police department is looking at its past to strengthen its relationship with the African-American community. 


Last week in LaGrange, something rare happened: the police chief made a public apology for his agency's role in a lynching that happened more than 75 years ago.


Governor Nathan Deal has expanded his state of emergency declaration to nine additional counties in south Georgia in the wake of the strong thunderstorms and tornadoes that ripped across the area this weekend.

The declaration now includes the following 16 counties: Atkinson, Baker, Berrien, Brooks, Calhoun, Clay, Colquitt, Cook, Crisp, Dougherty, Lowndes, Mitchell, Thomas, Turner, Wilcox and Worth.

In a press conference Monday afternoon, Deal stressed the state was making all its emergency management resources available to communities affected by the storms.

Sam Whitehead / GPB

All over Georgia, property is passed down from generation to generation without proper legal paperwork. 


It’s known as heirs property, and it creates a host of problems: from the inability to access home equity to the risk of losing your house.


And in the small city of Porterdale, about 40 miles east of Atlanta, it’s put one community on the verge of disappearing completely.

David Goldman / AP

Gov. Nathan Deal wants Georgia lawmakers to spend this year’s legislative session focused on underperforming schools, healthcare, and investing in the state’s workers.


Those were just a few of the highlights of his annual State of the State address delivered Wednesday to a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly.


Josh Hallett / Flickr

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast gives legislative leaders the chance to lay out their priorities for the upcoming session.

This year, transportation took the spotlight. House Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge) announced plans for House leaders to back the creation of a commission to study how the state can better support its mass transit systems.

Steven Martin / Flickr

Georgia lawmakers find themselves in a kind of limbo these days. They’re back at work this week for the start of the 2017 legislative session, but there’s still more than a week before Inauguration Day.


The incoming Trump administration has promised a flurry of changes to everything from healthcare to immigration, but it’s still not clear whether those changes will happen or what they might look like.


How, as a state lawmaker, do you roll with the change and uncertainty that comes with such a transition?


Georgia Department of Corrections

Update 12/07/2016:


 The Supreme Court of Georgia and U.S. Supreme Court denied Sallie’s attorney’s requests for a stay of execution Tuesday. Sallie was executed at 10:05 p.m. Tuesday evening. 

Original Story:

On Tuesday night, Georgia plans to carry out its ninth execution of the year, the most since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia in 1976.


At the same time, new death sentences are getting rarer and rarer. It’s been more than two years since a Georgia jury handed one down.


Getting inside the state’s capital punishment contradiction, means getting inside the cases of the condemned. 


Grant Blankenship / GPB

Wildfires continue to burn all across the hills of north Georgia. 


The U.S. Forest Service is fighting the state’s largest fires: they’re burning tens of thousands of acres in the Chattahoochee National Forest.


Georgia has to fight the fires on state and private land, and hundreds of personnel from multiple agencies are working around-the-clock to contain them.


Some of the larger fires have burned for weeks, but smaller fires pop up every day, seemingly out of nowhere. That’s what happened recently on Ryo Mountain just outside of Fairmount in Gordon County.