Beach was an early advocate among Republicans, and Thurmond, a Democrat, likened him to “Nixon going to China” – a reference anti-communist President Richard Nixon’s efforts to improve relations with that communist country.
“It took someone in the majority party to really begin to shift the narrative and the thinking,” Thurmond said of Beach. He also cited House Speaker David Ralston and Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash – both Republicans – for their support of the transit legislation.
“I served in the legislature in the mid-‘80s. MARTA was a four-letter word,” Thurmond said. “To have lived long enough to see the transformation that’s occurred, it’s amazing and encouraging at the same time.”