Johnny Isakson is the Senior Senator from the state of Georgia. Johnny Isakson is a wholly decent human being. It’s hard to be both. Trust me.
He was born in Atlanta in 1944, the son of a Greyhound bus driver. His mama and ‘em had been in the American South since Colonial days. Johnny was raised right, and it shows. He graduated from the University of Georgia, Hallowed be thy name. That makes him good people in my book.
He and his wife, Dianne, were married in 1968. 1968. I was still picking up towels for the Newton County Ram basketball team in 1968 and crying when we lost games. I didn’t cry often. According to my math, they have been married about 53 years. He must be a great guy. I can’t imagine my lovely wife, Lisa, putting up with me for 53 years.
Johnny and Dianne have three children and eleven grandchildren. That’s a whole football team, if they will play coed and he can get them to play both ways. I wonder if you can spoil eleven grandkids as much as I spoil my one, Sir Henley the Adorable.
Oh, yes. Johnny and Dianne are also faithful members of the United Methodist Church. That’s something else we have in common.
None of this is why we all know the name, of course, except the part about him being a Senator. After building a successful real estate business in the Marietta and North Atlanta area, Johnny entered public service, which sounds a lot better than politics, and he is one of the rare individuals for whom I think the term is appropriate.
The litany of his elected offices is long and distinguished.
State House. State Senate. U.S. House. US Senate. In fact, he is the only Georgian ever to hold those four positions.
In 2004, Isakson was elected to the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Georgia, as Junior Senator to Saxby Chambliss’s Senior office, making them the first two Republicans to serve as Georgia Senators simultaneously.
He was reelected in 2010 and 2016 and has served with honor and distinction. Again, I say that he has served the people of Georgia and not serviced them and that is a keen distinction. He is a conservative, make no mistake about that, but he is his own man and though he usually agrees with the rest of the party he has never been one to blindly follow the party line, especially if the party line goes against his personal values and beliefs or what he thinks is not in the best interest of the people of Georgia.
I’m not just writing that. I believe that.
A few years ago, Johnny Isakson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is an insidious illness that has no respect for anyone or any station in life. I know all about Parkinson’s. We have watched my father-in-law slowly succumb to it for the past few years. He is now in the final stages and it is heart-breaking.
The disease affects everyone in different ways and does its mayhem at different rates. No medical provider can predict how fast or how slow it will progress or how debilitating it is likely to be at what pace.
Senator Isakson knew that he had the disease prior to the last election cycle, in 2016, and was very open with the public about it. The public understood and sent him back to Washington for a third term. Sadly, the disease began to win the battle sooner than we all had hoped and Johnny’s condition began to deteriorate more rapidly.
Last week he made the courageous decision to step down, for the good of his constituents and the state as a whole. He didn’t have to. Others have held on and remained in office long after they could be of service or contribute or do their job. Senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court Justices come to mind. I could name many, past and present, but I will not, for the intention of this missive is not to contend them but to praise Johnny Isakson, for his caring and his courage, for his is a man worthy of praise.
Thank you, Senator, for a job well done. I salute you and appreciate you and in Porterdale terminology I declare you to be much a man. I can offer no higher praise.
May God be with you in your struggle.