ATLANTA — A memorial service for former U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson was held in Atlanta Thursday
Isakson died on Dec. 19 at age 76. Elected three times, the Republican stepped down at the end of 2019, after announcing that his physical health was declining because of Parkinson’s disease.
“He particularly loved to vote for a bipartisan bill and authored an awful lot of bipartisan legislation,” said former Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss.
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As many as 20 current and former senators attended, as well as a who’s who of Georgia politics including Gov. Brian Kemp and former governors Nathan Deal and Roy Barnes.
A millionaire real estate broker, Isakson was one of the founding fathers of the Georgia Republican Party. He spent more than four decades in political life, rising through the state House and state Senate to Congress when he won Newt Gingrich’s former seat before winning a Senate seat in 2014.
“To be clear, our colleague was a savvy legislator, a cunning dealmaker,” McConnell said. “There wasn’t a naïve bone in his body. But Johnny’s achievements didn’t come despite his quiet virtues, they came because of those virtues.”
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Senate Chaplain Barry Black remembered that it was Isakson who asked that the two be prayer partners and said Isakson asked him to speak at the service.
“It dawned on me, this brother is ready; this brother is finishing strong,” Black said of Isakson’s attitude toward his struggle with Parkinson’s.
Isakson’s children shared more personal remembrances. Son Kevin Isakson talked about his father’s interest and attention to his family, remembering that as Isakson’s Parkinson’s Disease progressed, he would exercise by walking to Kevin Isakson’s house and visiting.
“He would walk up to my house; it was about a mile, uphill,” Isakson said. “He would come in and he would take a break. He’d have a cup of water and check in on whoever was there.”
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Daughter Julie Mitchell remembered all the things her father had done for her — teaching her how to drive, walking her down the aisle to be married, and buying the keg for her University of Georgia graduation party. “Go Dawgs,” she said to laughter.
Son John Isakson remembered instruction from his father on how to give a speech in middle school, calling it “the best advice anyone ever’s gotten about how to talk to people.”
“He was that great,” John Isakson said. “I loved him very much. I will miss him every day.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for contributions to The Isakson Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and funding for research related to neurocognitive diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and related dementia. The initiative was established by Isakson following his retirement due to Parkinson’s. Donations can be made by clicking here.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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