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Former U.S. Rep. Jenkins remembered fondly
Tributes pour in after congressmans death Sunday
0103Ed Jenkins
Ed Jenkins

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Jenkins grilled Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings, ran for majority leader in the House and brought home funding for constituents in North Georgia.

"He was unique and one of a kind," said his daughter, Janice Jenkins, on Monday.

Tributes poured in Monday for Jenkins, who died Sunday at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta after a long illness. Jenkins represented the 9th District, which included Hall County, from 1977 to 1993. He was 78.

The longtime Democrat from Jasper "really looked after his district," said Gainesville lawyer Julius Hulsey. "He worked hard in Congress and got a lot of money for Hall County and Gainesville."

Hall County "was under a federal lawsuit, as were many counties at (one) time, to increase and improve jail conditions, and so he was able to secure 100 percent (federal) funding for the old jail (on Main Street)," Hulsey said.

Jenkins was elected to Congress in 1976, the same year that another Georgian, Jimmy Carter, was elected president. He served on the House Budget and Ways and Means committees.

An attorney, Jenkins served in the Coast Guard as an aide to his predecessor, Rep. Phil Landrum, and as a prosecutor before being elected to Congress.

"He was one of the smartest lawyers with the most practical common sense of anybody I've (known)," Hulsey said.

In 1990, the Almanac of American Politics described Jenkins as "one of the smartest operators on Capitol Hill."

The publication praised his dispassionate questioning of then-Marines Lt. Col. North during the Iran-Contra hearings and cited his efforts to protect the textile industry.

After retiring from Congress, Jenkins remained active in church and civic affairs and served on the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. He would have turned 79 Wednesday.

"He'll be missed by a lot of people," Janice Jenkins said. "He always believed in second chances. He helped a lot of people."

In addition to his daughter, Janice, Jenkins is survived by his wife, Jo; a daughter, Amy; and two grandsons.

Nathan Deal, as a Gainesville lawyer, succeeded Jenkins in Congress and held that post until resigning in 2010 to make what would be a successful run for governor.

In a statement released Monday, Deal said, "Congressman Ed Jenkins represented his constituents in Georgia's 9th District with distinction and care. He was recognized as a leader in the House. He served the state of Georgia well."

Jackie Sosby, a Gainesville resident who was appointed Jenkins' press secretary in October 1983, said she believes that "if more of today's members of Congress were like (him), we would not be in this divisive state of nongoverning."

Jenkins "formed coalitions across regions, party lines and ideologies to draft and pass legislation to benefit the people," said Sosby, who started in February 1983 as a staff assistant for Jenkins.

"He was always mindful of how any action would affect the common people, the average middle class."

Sammy Smith, a Gainesville City Board of Education member who served as Jenkins' chief of staff for 15 years, remembered Jenkins as a "great public servant and a personal mentor in public and private life."

He said Jenkins' death is "a loss to his family and ... to North Georgia."

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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