State House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, this morning will read a special order in tribute to the late lawmaker and prominent attorney Michael Egan, who died at age 88.
The Savannah native and graduate of Harvard Law School was first elected to the House in 1966 and became House minority leader in 1971. Although Republican members were far outnumbered in those days, the genial lawmaker was a solid leader of the loyal opposition who got along on a personal level with many Democrat colleagues.
A March 21, 2000 story on Egan by journalist Tom Baxter notes that, in 1967, he was one of the few House members to vote to allow civil rights activist Julian Bond to be seated in that body, despite Bond’s controversial opposition to the Vietnam War. And, Baxter wrote, Egan consistently called for the adoption of legislation to open up the closed-door practices of the Democrat leadership.
Interestingly, after former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, he named Egan to be an associate attorney general under Attorney General Griffin Bell. He resigned from the Georgia House and served from 1977 to 1979. After Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980, Egan returned to Atlanta and resumed the practice of law, focusing on federal taxation and estates and trusts. He was the chief reporter of an American Law Institute/American Bar Association handbook on the federal estate and gift tax.
In 1989, concern for better and more open government found him back in the Legislature. When Republican state Sen. Paul Coverdell was named director of the Peace Corps by President George H. W. Bush. Egan won the special election to replace Coverdell in an Atlanta-area Senate district and served through the 2000 session.
Baxter wrote: “Both parties may come to miss the departure of someone who could mix dissent and civility in the way Egan has.”