Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 18
'I've tried to be a citizen who does his part
to help my community. When we had a
hard vote to make, I studied to make sure
I was doing the right thing.'
-Sen. Johnny Isakson
Isakson's family attends his swearing-in in the U.S. Senate in 2010.
Isakson "open for discussion and
dialogue," even though the two
often held differing views.
"Whatever the issues were,
he was always willing to have
a conversation, always approachable and a remarkable
person with a lot of discernment," Smyre says. "Although
we're from different parties,
I have nothing but respect and admiration for him.
With the political atmosphere the way it is now, we need more
Johnny Isaksons in the Senate."
His friend and fellow former U.S. senator, Saxby Chambliss,
well recalls Isakson's penchant for thoroughly investigating
issues before voting.
"My wife was a classroom teacher, and when Johnny
was chairman of the state school board, he would ask for her
perspective on education issues," Chambliss says. "I appreciated the fact that he was setting policy based on what's in the
best interests of our children, not political interests. And that is
Johnny. That's what he's about."
That vigorous attention to others' concerns and ideas
helped make Isakson the beloved public servant he became,
according to his peer.
"In most incidences, when the federal government gives a
major appropriation to a state for an entity, like a port, the two
senators fight each other to see who could get a press release
out first to take credit," Chambliss says. "In our case, Johnny and
I did joint press releases."
Friends since their freshman year at the University of
Georgia in 1962, Chambliss and Isakson eventually became the
first two Georgia Republicans to serve in the U.S. Senate at the
"It would not be unusual for Johnny and me to talk six or
eight times a day, and we encouraged our staffs to have lots of
conversations," Chambliss recalls. "We wanted to know we'd
discussed issues from the top level down to make sure we made
the right decisions."
Of his numerous achievements in office, Isakson cites a
Students at Alice
School in Albany had
a chance to visit with
Isakson before he held
a roundtable discussion
about education at the
school in 2009.
few that mean the most
to him, including saving
pension funds for Delta
Air Lines employees in
2006, making improvements to housing programs after the 2008 recession and providing better security for Peace Corps workers through the Kate
Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011, named for
a Georgia volunteer who was murdered while serving in Benin.
"Another is the port in Savannah," the former statesman
says. "For 19 years in Washington, D.C., I've worked on this,
and, thankfully, my last year in office was the year we fully
funded Savannah's port, which is critical to Georgia's economy
and global trade."
Isakson concluded his Senate career as chairman of both
the Ethics and Veterans' Affairs committees.
The former senator expresses gratitude to his wife, Dianne,
and their three children and eight grandchildren for supporting his public service career. Appreciation is also evident for
Marietta, where he grew up, ran a business, raised a family and
taught sixth-grade Sunday school for 30 years.
"I would say that staying in the same place-living in the
same place-was a key to my success in politics," he says.
The opportunity afforded to him by living in the United
States was also key.
"The difference between America and every other place
is the people and the opportunities we have," Isakson says.
"There's not going to be another America. If we screw this one
up, it's over.
"Everybody needs to be involved in the way they can best
contribute, whether in school PTA, local government or church.
The more all of our taxpaying citizens are involved, the better
we're going to be as a country."
Jackie Kennedy is a freelance writer from LaGrange.
Georgia Magazine - February 2020
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia Magazine - February 2020
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Intro
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover1
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover2
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Contents
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 4
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 5
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 6
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 7
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 8
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 9
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 10
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 11
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 12
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 13
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 14
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 15
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 16
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 17
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 18
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 19
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 20
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 21
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 22
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 23
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 24
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 25
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 26
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 27
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 28
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Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - 38
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover3
Georgia Magazine - February 2020 - Cover4