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Thomas Bertram (Bert) Lance (born June 3, 1931, in Gainesville, Georgiamarker) is an Americanmarker businessman, known mainly for his resignation from President Jimmy Carter's administration amid scandal in 1977.

Lance has lived in Gordon County (Calhoun), Georgia. His father, Thomas Jackson Lance, had served as the president of Young Harris College. In 1941 the family moved to Calhoun in Gordon County when Lance's father became superintendent of the Calhoun schools. Lance graduated from the University of Georgia in 1951 where he is a member of the Delta Chapter of Sigma Chi and later undertook graduate studies at LSU in Baton Rouge, and at Rutgers.

Carter administration

Lance was a close adviser to Jimmy Carter during Carter's successful 1976 campaign. He had developed ties with Carter during the former's time as Governor of Georgia. Lance was an unsuccessful candidate to succeed Carter in 1974, losing a bid for the Democratic nomination. Lance finished third in the first primary, behind Lester Maddox and the eventual winner, George Busbee. After Carter's victory over President Gerald Ford, Lance was named director of the Office of Management and the Budget . According to former OMB officials, it was well-known in the department that Bert Lance and President Carter prayed together every morning.

Within six months, questions were raised by the press and Congress about mismanagement and corruption when Lance was Chairman of the Board of Calhoun National Bank of Calhoun, Georgiamarker. William Safire's article written during this time, Carter's Broken Lance, later earned a Pulitzer Prize.

This embarrassment to Carter's administration, particularly as it came in the wake of the Watergate scandal and an election victory over Richard Nixon's pardoner, led to Lance resigning as OMB director on September 21, 1977.

In the highly publicized trial that followed, Lance was acquitted of all charges. In 1981, Lance returned to the Calhoun National Bank, again as Chairman. He left in 1986. He made something of a political comeback in 1982 when he was elected Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party. In 1984 Walter Mondale sought to name Lance chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and was Mondale's first choice for Vice President during his 1984 campaign; however, Mondale dropped the idea after it provoked criticism and chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate. In 1988 Lance was a close advisor to Jesse Jackson during Jackson's presidential campaign.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

This expression has been popularized from the idea that any attempt to improve on a system that already works well is pointless, and may even be detrimental. Reportedly it originated in the United States in the 20th century from Bert Lance who, as a government official, was quoted in May 1977 issue of Nation's Business as saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Lance's advice, according to William Safire, "has become a source of inspiration to anti-activists."

BCCI scandal

Lance was implicated in the BCCI scandal of the 1980s and early 1990s. He was involved in deals with notable BCCI luminaries Agha Hasan Abedi, Mochtar Riady and Ghaith Pharaon and with BCCI's largest borrower, P. S. Prasad, and joined with Arkansas-based power investor Jackson Stephens in facilitating BCCI's takeover of Financial General Bankshares. Lance and Stephens made millions in the wake of BCCI's collapse.

Popular references

On Saturday Night Live, soon after Lance's resignation from the Carter administration, John Belushi (playing Lance) and Dan Aykroyd (playing Jimmy Carter) appeared in an advertising parody of an American Express credit card commercial.

On an episode of Good Times, JJ referred to himself as Bert Lance, offering to make out a check for the family budget knowing they have no money.


  2. Nation's Business is the house magazine for the United States Chamber of Commerce.
  3. From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" (1996) by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).
  4. Bert Lance
  5. 246 N
  6. New York Post, February 7, 1992, Bill Clinton Banker’s BCCI Link, by Mike McAlary.
  7. SNL Transcripts: Steve Martin: 09/24/77: National Express Card

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