Johnny Isakson, an affable Georgia Republican politician who rose from the ranks of the state Legislature to become a U.S. senator, has died. He was 76.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office confirmed the death in a news release Sunday.
Isakson, whose real estate business made him a millionaire, spent more than three decades in Georgia political life.
In the Senate, he was known as an effective, behind-the-scenes consensus builder. His own views on flashpoint issues such as abortion became more conservative over the years as Georgia’s own politics shifted from blue to red.
In 2015, Isakson disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He remained in office until the end of 2019, retiring two years before his term ended.
“Georgia has lost a giant, one of its greatest statesmen, and a servant leader dedicated to making his state and country better than he found it,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “Johnny Isakson personified what it means to be a Georgian. Johnny was also a dear friend to Marty, the girls, and me - as he was to so many. He answered the call to public service many times over his career as a state legislator, minority leader in the Georgia House, chair of the State Board of Education, Congressman, and finally as Senator."
Isakson first flirted with politics as a student at the University of Georgia, volunteering for Republican Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964.
“I went and looked at the vote patterns and where I lived, which is east Cobb County. (It) had gone Republican, but nobody else had around them. It wasn’t a total Republican district, but it looked like it was moving that way, so I said, ‘Well, I really believe more in what Richard Nixon stands for economically than George McGovern,’” Isakson said.
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