Fmr. U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson

Former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., died yesterday at the age of 76 and is being eulogized by a wide bipartisan circle of political and business friends. Gov. Brian Kemp calls the Atlanta native one of Georgia’s “greatest statesmen, and a servant leader dedicated to making his state and country better.”

InsideAdvantage Chairman Matt Towery, a longtime friend who in 1990 ran for lieutenant governor when Isakson ran for governor, says, “Uncharacteristically of me, I don’t even know what to say. I knew this was coming but like so many wasn’t prepared. I remember Johnny’s 50th birthday party, weddings and funerals for our various families, as well as a particular golfing trip where my ball almost leveled him. And Pierre Howard, who started this company with me and who is another incredible person, knew Johnny from University of Georgia days and beyond. So many memories of great times. Like so many, I loved him with all my heart. I’ll write and say more later. Right now, I just can’t bring myself to.”

This writer also became a friend of Johnny Isakson when he ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Republican in 1990. As the editorial page editor of The Augusta Chronicle at the time, I wrote the editorial endorsing him over opponent Zell Miller. Ever since then, we frequently talked politics.

And what a political and business career he had. Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane.

The year was 1974. A desire for public service led the 32-year-old to run for a seat on the Cobb County Commission. The UGA grad lost but two years later ran for the Georgia House of Representatives and won. That was the genesis of a 45-year career in public service packed with one significant accomplishment after another.

He served for 22 years as the hard-charging president of Northside Realty, one of the most successful realty companies in the Southeast. But more success was to come to this Republican businessman in the world of politics and policy. Adept at establishing personal relationships across partisan lines, he served for seven terms in the Georgia House– including four as minority leader— and one term in the state Senate. But service in Washington, D.C., beckoned.

Isakson was elected to a seat in Congress in 1999 to represent a suburban Atlanta district. Five years later, he won a U.S. Senate seat which he held until his retirement on December 31, 2019. The senator’s impact on federal and state business policy, foreign policy and global leadership, healthcare, education and in numerous other spheres is immeasurable.

Veterans’ affairs was one of this servant leader’s signature issues. The senator once served as chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee and under his leadership Congress passed significant reforms to improve Veterans Administration accountability and access to care.

We salute you, Senator Johnny Isakson. Rest in peace.

Phil Kent is the CEO and publisher of InsiderAdvantage Georgia and James Magazine.


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