Georgia House Representative found dead this morning; lawmakers in mourning

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. — The state of Georgia is mourning the death of State House Representative Jay Powell.

The 67-year-old was sworn into office in 2008. The Republican represented House District 171, which includes portions of Colquitt, Decatur, and Mitchell counties.

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant learned Powell died this morning at Brasstown Valley Resort.

'​​​​​​The Georgia Bureau is investigating the death.

“He was a champion for rural Georgia, that was his heart and passion. He was known as an expert in tax policy, and he used that expertise to boost rural Georgia,” said Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s political reporter Greg Bluestein.

Governor Brian Kemp released a statement on Powell's death.

"Chairman Powell was a trusted leader and compassionate public servant whose work positively impacted countless people’s lives over the years. His loss is devastating to Georgia. The Kemp family asks everyone to lift up Jay’s loved ones, friends, and fellow legislators in prayer as they try to grapple with this tragedy."

House Speaker David Ralston also is reacting to Powell's death.

“This loss touches us all and leaves a hole in our hearts and in the heart of our House family,” said House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “Jay Powell served with integrity and his leadership truly moved Georgia forward.”


Powell was the chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

“Basically, without Jay Powell’s support, no legislation got to Governor Kemp’s desk, so you needed his signoff in order to get a vote in the House, in order to get huge measures passed,” Bluestein said.

He also served on the Governmental Affairs, Judiciary, Rules, and MARTOC committees.

“Chairman Powell treated everyone with kindness and respect,” said state Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democrat from Atlanta. “He tried to find common ground and he deeply cared about our state and its people. His loss is crushing for the House.”

Tributes to Powell also came from top Democrats.

“Words cannot convey the immense respect I have for Chairman Jay Powell,” said House Minority Leader Bob Trammell.

And former House colleague Stacey Abrams tweeted, “He cared about community and getting good done.”

Powell ​​​​​​​is the second Rules Committee chairman to die in the last year.

His predecessor, Chairman John Meadows of Calhoun, died last November at age 74.