Georgia governor honors Isakson with new Parkinson’s research program

News and analysis from the AJC's political team
January 16, 2020 - Atlanta - as the Georgia 2020 General Assembly continued for it's fourth legislative day.   Bob Andres /



January 16, 2020 - Atlanta - as the Georgia 2020 General Assembly continued for it's fourth legislative day. Bob Andres /

Former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson received a hero’s welcome in the Georgia House on Thursday, where he was celebrated for his four decades of public service and honored with a new research program.

After thanking Isakson for being a “statesman and a true patriot,” Gov. Brian Kemp said the University of Georgia will launch a professorship to develop treatments for the Parkinson’s disease that forced the three-term Republican to retire.

Kemp said the professor recruited to the program will be directed to “develop better treatments for patients like Johnny – better medicine, and a better way of life.”

He added that his legacy of service inspired research that will “move one step closer to a cure” of the disease.

As Isakson was showered with booming applause, the microphone picked up Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan telling the governor it was a “great idea.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be great,” the governor replied. “We’ve got to figure out how to do it now.”

Kemp’s office said the governor was referring to how to cure Parkinson’s disease, not how to finance the program.

A Kemp spokesman said UGA president Jere Morehead has assured the governor that the school would secure funding for the professorship, which will cost at least $500,000.

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Isakson’s surprise announcement in August to step down from the U.S. Senate two years before his term ended came as he was struggling with the side effects of Parkinson’s and other medical issues.

The governor has since tapped Kelly Loeffler, a former financial executive, for the seat. She faces a November election for the final two years of his term against several Democratic contenders and a possible challenge from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

- Staff Writer Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this report.

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