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Where Did Marjorie Taylor Greene Come From?


I.

She was very late. A man named Barry was compelled to lead the room in a rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” to stall for time. But when she did arrive, the tardiness was forgiven and the Cobb County Republican Party’s November breakfast was made new. She wasn’t greeted. She was beheld, like a religious apparition. Emotions verged on rapture. Later, as she spoke, one man jumped to his feet with such force that his chair fell over. Not far away, two women clung to each other and shrieked. I was knocked to my seat when a tablemate’s corrugated-plastic FLOOD THE POLLS sign collided inadvertently with my head. Upon looking up, I came eye-level with a pistol tucked into the khaki waistband of an elderly man in front of me. “She is just so great,” I heard someone say. “I mean, she really is just amazing.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene arrived in Congress in January 2021, blond and crass and indelibly identified with conspiracy theories involving Jewish space lasers and Democratic pedophiles. She had barely settled into office before being stripped of her committee assignments; she has been called a “cancer” on the Republican Party by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; and she now has a loud voice in the GOP’s most consequential decisions on Capitol Hill because her party’s leaders know, and she knows they know, that she has become far too popular with their voters to risk upsetting her.

Nobody saw her coming. Not even Greene saw Greene coming.

II.

She was a product, her family loved to say, of the “Great American Dream.” There was a three-story home at the end of a shaded driveway in the small town of Cumming, Georgia, north of Atlanta; there was a finished basement in which Marge—and that is what she was called, Marge—and her friends would gather in faded nylon one-pieces after a swim in Lake Lanier.

Her father was Robert David Taylor, a Michigan transplant for whom a three-story home had never been guaranteed but who had believed acutely in its possibility. Bob Taylor was the son of a steel-mill worker; he had served in Vietnam; he had hung siding to pay for classes at Eastern Michigan University. He had married the beautiful Carrie Fidelle Bacon—“Delle,” to most people, but he called her Carrie—from Milledgeville, Georgia, and rather than continue with college, he had become a contractor and built a successful company called Taylor Construction. For Marjorie Taylor, the first of Bob and Delle’s two children, the result was a world steeped in a distinctly suburban kind of certainty: packed lunches and marble kitchen countertops, semiannual trips to the beach, and the conviction that everything happens for a reason.

She came of age in Cumming, the seat of Forsyth County. With her turtleneck sweaters and highlighted mall bangs, Marge Taylor might have been any other teenage girl in America. At South Forsyth High School, class of 1992, she was a member of the Spanish club and a manager of the soccer team. She may not have been voted Most Spirited, but she dressed to theme during homecoming week; she may not have had the Best Sense of Humor, but by graduation she had amassed her share of inside jokes with friends. “Shh … It’s the people outside!” her senior quote reads in the high-school yearbook. “Run the cops are here! I’m gone!!” She was “nice to everyone,” “upbeat,” with “tons of confidence,” recalls Leslie Hamburger, a friend of hers and her brother David’s. “I have nothing but good memories.” The good-but-not-great student was hardly, in other words, an overachieving scold already plotting her ascent to Washington. It’s difficult to imagine an 18-year-old Ted Cruz bothering with something called the Hot Tuna Club.

illustration of black and white yearbook photo with girl in white turtleneck and short blonde hair captioned
Illustration by Eric Yahnker. Source image: South Forsyth High.

Forsyth County was a calm, quiet, ordered place. But it had a history. In September 1912, an 18-year-old white girl was found bloodied and barely breathing in the woods lining the Chattahoochee River; she died two weeks later. Within 24 hours of her discovery, four Black men had been arrested and charged with assault. A white mob dragged one of the suspects from his cell and hanged him from a telephone pole. Two others were tried and executed. White residents then decided to undertake nothing short of a racial cleansing. On horseback, armed with rifles and dynamite, they drove out virtually all of the county’s Black population—more than 1,000 people. So successful were their efforts that the county would experience the modern civil-rights era vicariously at best. There were no whites only signs to fuss over in Cumming, because there were no Black people to keep separate.

In January 1987, a white resident organized a “Walk for Brotherhood” to commemorate what had happened 75 years earlier. The project was complicated by the immediate wave of death threats he received. Arriving from Atlanta, the civil-rights leader Hosea Williams called Forsyth the most racist county in the South. Oprah Winfrey came down to cover the event. But most people in Forsyth ignored the whole affair; broach it in conversation, and you were considered a pot-stirrer. George Pirkle, the county’s resident historian, was reminded of this as recently as 2011, when he readied for publication The Heritage Book of Forsyth County. He told the mayor of Cumming about his plans to include the region’s Black history in the volume, and got an incredulous response: “Well, why in the world would you want to do that?” As Martha McConnell, the local historical society’s co-president then and now, told me, the subtext was clear: “Don’t be starting things.”

In the end, the Heritage Book did not go starting things. Look through it today and you will see the neatly arranged census data that cuts off at 1910. To include 1920, of course, would have revealed that the Black population was suddenly gone. To go beyond 1920 would have revealed that the Black population never came back.

All of which is to say that Marge Taylor’s worldview was shaped in a community artificially devoid of sociocultural conflict, a history scrubbed of tension. That’s the basic attitude here toward the past, Pirkle told me: “If you don’t talk about it, it goes away.”

Decades later, as they considered her scorched-earth rise to power—the conspiracy theories and racist appeals and talk of violence against Democratic leaders—some of her teachers would find themselves wondering how they’d failed to notice the young Marge Taylor. How was it that they had no memory of her holding forth in civics class, or waging a boisterous campaign for student office? How could it possibly be that in fact they had no memory of her at all?

III.

She did as she was supposed to do, graduating from South Forsyth High and then packing up and moving an hour and a half away, to Athens, for four years at the University of Georgia. She would flit all but anonymously through the campus of 20,000 undergraduates. For Marge Taylor, UGA was about becoming the first in her family to graduate from college—setting herself up to run Taylor Construction. Almost certainly it was also about meeting a nice man. Perry Clarke Greene was a nice man. Three years her senior, he was tall and earnest and came from Riverdale. He, too, was in the university’s Terry College of Business. They exchanged vows the summer before her senior year, in 1995.

Among the things I do not know about Marjorie Taylor Greene—she would not speak with me for this story—is what her wedding was like. A newspaper account, if it exists, has yet to turn up. I do not know whether she stood before an altar laden with white gladioli, as her grandmother once had, or whether the reception was a small affair at her parents’ home in Cumming or something bigger somewhere else. I also do not know whether, on that day, she was happy: whether the quiet and respectable life that now unfurled before the new Mrs. Perry Greene felt like enough.

The young couple moved into a three-bed, three-bath colonial with symmetrical shrubbery in the north-Atlanta suburb of Roswell. Perry Greene became an accountant at Ernst & Young, and Marjorie Greene became pregnant. In January 1998, she smiled alongside the other mothers with tired eyes and loose clothing as they learned to exercise and massage their newborns in the North Fulton Regional Hospital’s “Mother Lore” class.

It wasn’t long before Perry started working for his father-in-law as general manager of the family business. After facilitating the sale of Taylor Construction, in 1999, he moved on to Taylor Commercial, a former division of the company, which specialized in siding for apartment complexes and subsidized-housing projects. Soon after, Bob Taylor named his son-in-law president of the company.

Marjorie, meanwhile, tended to their one, two, and finally three children. There were lake days with Mimi and Papa, three-week Christmas vacations in the sun, and annual drives to visit Perry’s extended family in Oxford, Mississippi. A lot of time was spent traveling to fast-pitch softball tournaments—Taylor, the middle child, was barely a teenager when she started getting noticed. (“Can’t believe she is being recruited in 8th grade,” Greene would write on her personal blog after a weekend at one university.)

As for Taylor Commercial, it was eventually bought by Marge and Perry. Financial-disclosure documents filed in 2020, when Greene first ran for office, reveal a company whose value ranged from $5 million to $25 million. There is a photograph that Greene cherishes: of her as a child smiling alongside her father at a construction site. Bob did not want his daughter to see her inheritance as a given; Greene has said that her father once fired her from a job she held at the company as a teenager. But now the girl in the photograph was chief financial officer of Taylor Commercial; her college sweetheart was its president; her family was by that point living in a tract mansion in Milton, which borders Alpharetta. Who could say, of course, how regularly she made use of the indoor pool, or marveled at the built-in aquarium on the terrace level—two features of this “smart-home luxury estate,” in the words of a recent listing. But she could at least enjoy the fact of them.

Another thing I do not know about Marjorie Taylor Greene: I do not know precisely how long it was before the shape of her life—the quiet, the respectability, the cadence of carpooling and root touch-ups—began to assume the dull cast of malaise. Perhaps it was during one of the many softball tournaments, another weekend spent crushed against the corner of an elevator at the Hilton Garden Inn by grass-stained girls and monogrammed bat bags. Perhaps her Age of Anxiety arrived instead on a quiet Tuesday in the office of her multimillion-dollar company, when it occurred to her that running this multimillion-dollar company just might not be her purpose after all.

What I do know, after dozens of conversations with Greene’s classmates and teachers, friends and associates, is that by the time she reached her late 30s, something in her had started to break.

IV.

Later, on the campaign trail, Greene would anchor much of her story in the fact that she was a longtime business owner: a woman who’d always more than held her own in the male-dominated world of construction. In beautifully shot television ads, voters saw a woman whose days were a relentless sprint between building sites—hard hats, reflector vests, jeans—and light-filled conference rooms, where she wore dresses with tasteful necklines and examined important blueprints.

That is not a fully accurate picture. People at Taylor Commercial seem to have liked Greene personally, but she spent only a few years on the job and did not put her stamp on the company. Call her on a weekday afternoon, and there was a good chance she’d answer from the gym. She had “nothing to do with” Taylor Commercial, one person familiar with the company’s operations told me. “It was entirely Perry.” A 2021 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that the Taylor Commercial website during those years scarcely hinted at Greene’s existence. The only flicker of acknowledgment came in the last line of Perry Greene’s bio, a reference to the wife and three children with whom he shared a home.

By 2011, the Journal-Constitution reported, Greene was no longer listed as the chief financial officer, or any other kind of officer. A year earlier, the company had been hit with state and county tax liens. Greene would one day joke about her lack of business acumen. But it doesn’t seem to have been terribly funny in the moment. Greene simply didn’t love the work. She had grown up with this business; she had gone to school for this business. And yet the girl in the photograph, as it turned out, had little interest in running this business.

Some people close to Greene would describe the ensuing dynamic—her own connection to the business weakening while her husband’s grew stronger—as a source of tension for the couple. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s path to Congress could perhaps be said to have begun here: when, in the aftermath of her tenure as CFO, she appeared determined to strike out in search of something to call her own.

In 2011, the same year she stepped away from her job, Greene decided to commit herself to Jesus Christ. Or recommit herself, perhaps. Last spring, Greene revealed, apparently for the first time publicly, that she was a “cradle Catholic,” born and raised in the Church. This disclosure was occasioned after Greene told Church Militant, a right-wing Catholic website, that efforts by bishops to aid undocumented immigrants reflected “Satan controlling the church.” In response, Bill Donohue of the conservative Catholic League demanded that Greene apologize. Greene felt moved thereafter to share the details of her own personal relationship with Catholicism, explaining that she had stopped attending Mass when she became a mother: when she’d “realized,” she said in a statement, “that I could not trust the Church leadership to protect my children from pedophiles, and that they harbored monsters even in their own ranks.”

Greene eventually decided to join North Point Community Church, one of the largest nondenominational Christian congregations in the country. And so during a service one Sunday, as applause and encouragement echoed across the sanctuary, Greene waited her turn to be immersed, blond hair tucked behind her ears, Chiclet-white teeth fixed in a nervous smile.

Many baptisms at North Point are accompanied by testimony, in which the congregant shares a brief word about her journey to Christ. Video of Greene’s testimony is no longer on the church’s website, but the journalist Michael Kruse described its key moments in an article for Politico. From the stage that morning, he wrote, Greene spoke about “the martyrs book,” meaning, I think, the Book of Martyrs, John Foxe’s 16th-century history and polemic on the persecution of Protestants under Queen Mary. As she’d considered the “conviction” of such men and women, “how they died for Christ,” Greene said, “I realized how small my faith was if I was scared to do a video and get baptized in front of thousands of people.” Before those thousands of people, she accepted Jesus as her lord and savior.

Greene’s congressional biography leaves the impression of deep and meaningful engagement with North Point, but according to a person in the church leadership, her involvement tapered off after several years. This person noted, somewhat ruefully, that Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who defied President Donald Trump, has long been involved in North Point, but “no one ever asks me about him.”

V.

It was around this same time that Greene, as she later put it on a local radio show, “finally got brave enough” to step into a CrossFit gym. Greene’s original gym of choice had been the Alpharetta branch of Life Time. The gym, with its LifeSpa and LifeCafe, bills itself as a “luxury athletic resort,” and it’s easy to see how Greene might have tired of the ambience. She is not—has never been—the kind of biweekly gym-goer who walks for 45 minutes on the treadmill while watching Stranger Things on an iPad. In one of the few candid shots of Greene in her 11th-grade yearbook, she is flat on her back on a weight bench, lifting two heavy-looking dumbbells. “Marge Taylor pumps some Iron,” the caption reads.

In 2007, a workout partner at Life Time told Greene about CrossFit, a fitness regimen that combines Olympic weight lifting with calisthenics and interval training; it has long been popular among law enforcement and members of the military. The two women went on CrossFit.com and printed out the workout of the day, or “WOD,” in CrossFit parlance. This was, in the early years of CrossFit, how most newcomers engaged with the program, printing out the WOD and heading to their regular gym. By the end of that first WOD, Greene was sold. In 2011, she started going to the CrossFit gym in Alpharetta.

What Greene found at the gym (or “box,” as it is known) was community. The coaches, the members, the stragglers who popped in “just to see what this is all about”—they loved her. This is something many observers in Washington and elsewhere do not appreciate about Greene: that she can be extremely likable, so long as you are not, in her estimation, among “the swamp rat elites, spineless weak kneed Republicans, and the Radical Socialist Democrats who are the demise of this country that we all love and call home.” She has a sugary voice and a personable, generous affect; she is, when she wants to be, the sort of person whom a stranger might meet briefly and recall fondly to their friends as “just the nicest woman.” “The softer side of Marjorie Taylor Greene is what her friends, neighbors, and the people who elected her know,” Jamie Parrish, a Georgia Republican and close friend of Greene’s, told me. Her supporters back home can seem genuinely confused by her chilly or hostile portrayal and reception elsewhere.

At CrossFit, Greene’s warmth made her a star. “CrossFit’s really intimidating,” she explained in one radio interview. “Most people’s experience with CrossFit is … they run across ESPN, and they see these monster people doing crazy amazing things, and they’re usually like, ‘Ohhh, I’m never gonna do that.’ ” But Greene could put people at ease. When she started coaching classes herself, the reviews were stellar. “I loved working out with Marjorie Greene,” Carolyn Canouse, a former client, told me by email. “She was patient with my lack of athleticism, and always encouraging and supportive to everyone in the gym. She would bring her dog to work with her sometimes (he was adorable!), as well as her children who were all down to earth and nice to be around.”

Illustration of several overlapping images of Marjorie Taylor Greene working out: holding large barbell overhead and yelling; pushing a tractor tire; holding heavy ropes
Eric Yahnker

Greene trained on most days and competed in a workout challenge known as the CrossFit Open; at her peak, she was ranked 47th in the U.S. in her age group. Over time, she seemed to regard CrossFit less as a grounding for the rest of her life and more as an escape from it altogether.

When Greene was running for Congress, a man named Jim Chambers, jarred by her self-presentation as a paragon of family values, wrote about her alleged extramarital affairs at the gym in a Facebook post. (The New Yorker’s Charles Bethea later reported on text…



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