Johnny Isakson of Georgia remembered as the voice of civility in politics | Region

ATLANTA – Friends, family and colleagues of the late US Senator Johnny Isakson gathered on Thursday to honor the longtime Republican lawmaker for being a voice of civility and truth at a time when politics has fallen into polarization and disinformation.

Hundreds of mourners, Republicans and Democrats, filled the pews at Buckhead’s Peachtree Road United Methodist Church to celebrate Isakson’s ability to cross the aisle to make deals, break a line – and host his barbecue annual at Capitol Hill.

Isakson’s close friend, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, remembered the former real estate agent as a shrewd lawmaker and a gentleman who “treated everyone with respect and kindness flawless”.

“But Johnny’s accomplishments did not come despite his quiet virtues, they came because of those virtues,” said the Republican of Kentucky.

Isakson – the only person in the state’s history to sit in both houses of the Georgia legislature, the United States House and the United States Senate – died on December 19, just before his 77th birthday. His family did not disclose the cause of death, but Isakson battled Parkinson’s disease for nearly a decade.

Former US Senator from Georgia Saxby Chambliss wiped away tears as he described his academic escapades with Isakson at the University of Georgia in the early 1960s. He invoked Mark Twain to sum up his friend’s political philosophy: to do this you have to face a difficult decision.

Isakson’s three grown children described him as a dedicated family man who attended soccer games, adored his grandchildren and never failed to tell them how proud he was.

“Dad was a lot to a lot of people, but he was my dad and he was the best,” daughter Julie Mitchell said.

The memorial service drew some 20 US Senators and many current and former elected officials in the state. Among those who attended was Governor Brian Kemp, former Governor. Roy Barnes and Nathan Deal, Speaker of the House David Ralston and Isakson’s successor, US Senator Raphael Warnock.

A day earlier, Warnock had introduced a resolution honoring the life and legacy of his predecessor. It was co-sponsored by the other 99 members of the Chamber.

“He brings us together in death the same way he brought us together in life,” the Atlanta Democrat said in a Senate speech. “It is a model of public service, an example to future generations of leaders of how to stand on principle and move forward while governing with compassion and a spirit of compromise.

Isakson was a particularly popular figure in Georgian politics.

He helped develop the state GOP from a small minority party mainly concentrated in Cobb County to become a dominant force. But he was best known for his willingness to go across the aisle and find common ground with Democrats on thorny issues such as immigration and education.

State leaders saw him as the go-to keeper of Georgia’s parish priorities in Washington, such as securing money for the deepening of the Port of Savannah and keeping the Delta Air Lines retirement system afloat. . He also put forward personal priorities, including legislation to compensate US hostages held in Iran at the end of the Carter administration and overhaul US Peace Corps policies that failed to prevent the murder of a Cumming, Georgia. , originally from Benin.

Parkinson’s disease forced Isakson to retire in December 2019 after serving more than 40 years in elected office. Soon after, he launched the Isakson Initiative, a non-profit organization that seeks to raise funds for research into neurocognitive diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The memorial service was held on the first anniversary of the uprising at the United States Capitol.

A longtime aide said the date of the service had more to do with family availability than with political commentary. But some observers have seen it symbolic that Georgia is putting to rest a lawmaker who represents bipartisan goodwill at a time when political discourse too often feels shattered.

“Johnny Isaksons doesn’t come every day,” said Reverend Brill Britt, the church’s senior pastor, as he kicked off the afternoon’s events.

Instead of flowers, the Isakson family are asking supporters to donate to the Isakson Initiative.

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