Former U.S. Senator from Georgia and one-time Veterans Affairs administrator Max Cleland died of heart failure at the age of 79 on Monday. A Vietnam war veteran who lost both his legs and an arm from a grenade dropped nearby by another soldier during the war, Cleland was a powerful voice within the Democratic Party during his heyday.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes paid tribute to his friend, saying “What happened to him would have destroyed most men. But he persevered through it and prospered.”Max Cleland dies; Former Georgia senator and veteran lost limbs in Vietnam  | WRBL

The Lithonia native graduated from Stetson University in Florida in 1964 and received a master’s degree from Emory University in 1968. He was appointed by then-President Jimmy Carter in 1977 to lead the Veterans Administration after serving in the Georgia Senate.

In 1982 he was elected to be Georgia’s secretary of state, which he held until running for the U.S. Senate in 1996 and beating Republican Guy Milner. He lost re-election in 2002 to U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie.

“I knew Max since I was a young kid serving as the lieutenant governor’s page,” InsiderAdvantage co-founder and chairman Matt Towery remembers. “We both were Stetson “Hatters” (Max was a graduate of the University and I graduated from the College of Law). It created a friendship that lasted through my years in the legislature and beyond. While our politics were different, Max was always an incredibly warm person and we never let politics keep us from having a very friendly relationship. He was a man of courage and conviction who deserves our respect and deepest condolences. He took it ‘to the Max’ and may he rest In peace.”

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