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Farewell to Isakson, a Georgia statesman
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

Sometimes, you feel like every morsel of decency has been drained out of our nation’s capital. 

A good portion of the remaining inventory will leave Washington later this month with the departure of one person.

Johnny Isakson may be one of the most decent people to have graced the halls of Capitol Hill. A few days ago, he bid his official farewell to the U.S. Senate. As I watched his body, which is fighting a boxing match with Parkinson’s disease, I was rooting for him like a champion on the ropes. He is already a winner.

When I was in high school, I played hooky to go and watch the Georgia General Assembly in action. This certifies that I am a nerd.

There was a freshman member of the State House from Cobb County named Johnny Isakson. I remember watching over the next couple of years that he had a way of working with Democrats. In those days, you could put all the Republicans in the Georgia Legislature in a small school bus, and that’s not an exaggeration.

He was a likeable guy and knew how to maneuver under the Gold Dome.

In 1990, he ran for governor against Zell Miller. He didn’t win. But it would be Johnny Isakson who Miller would call to join the State Board of Education and help the governor, who was butting heads with a nut-job and future felon who had been elected state school superintendent.

He answered the call and served us well.

The dictionary defines the word “statesman” as a skilled political leader who is respected. We have had a few of them over the years.

Richard B. Russell was a statesman, who was respected on Capitol Hill. His views on segregation kept him from becoming a player on the national stage.

Carl Vinson was a U.S. Congressman from Milledgeville and served for just over 50 years. He was best known for his expertise and leadership on military issues.

Vinson’s grandnephew, Sam Nunn, followed his uncle’s lead and was a military leader in the U.S. Senate.

Nathan Deal is a statesman who served at the state and national level and is respected for his willingness to listen and incorporate the ideas of others.

Now, we can add to that list, Johnny Isakson, who is the only person who has served in the state House and Senate, as well as the U.S. House and Senate. But Isakson learned to work with lawmakers from both parties. He did so without compromising his standards, but found a way to get things done.

Perhaps, the thing that makes Isakson so beloved is his kind and caring way of dealing with people. I never saw him that he didn’t speak to me by name. When I was head of the highway safety office, he was aware of my work and offered compliments.

The governor has made his choice and in a few days, Kelly Loeffler will fill the seat of Johnny Isakson. The new senator-designate will have a ways to go before anyone will say she has taken Isakson’s place.

I hope she has Johnny Isakson’s phone number on speed dial and is willing to call. She will always find a calm voice of reason on the other end.

Georgia is a wonderful state and is a better place because of a fine public servant named Johnny.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

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