U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and U.S. Rep. John Lewis embrace on the House floor during tributes from members of the Georgia delegation in honor of Isakson's retirement from Congress. Screen grab from U.S. House of Representatives livestream.

‘Two icons from Georgia’ embrace during moving tribute to Sen. Isakson

Members of Georgia’s congressional delegation gathered Tuesday to pay tribute to retiring U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, and one emotional moment highlighted his bipartisan nature.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, started his remarks by recounting a day 20 years ago when he introduced newly elected Isakson on the House floor. They developed a close friendship over the years while working on legislation despite the fact Isakson is a Republican.

“You, senator, led a team that could cross the aisle without compromising your values,” Lewis said. 

“I will come over to meet you, brother,” Lewis said before walking toward the Republican side of the room where Isakson was sitting.

Isakson, despite his health issues, rose from his seat to meet Lewis halfway. They embraced warmly, and Isakson whispered words of gratitude to Lewis during the exchange caught on the House’s livestream.

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, who organized Tuesday’s tribute, appeared to hold back tears when he retired to the rostrum.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson embrace on the House floor during a tribute to the retiring senator on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. Image is ascreen grab from the House livestream.

“I wish all of America could be here to see that: Two icons from Georgia embracing,” said Scott, a Republican from Tifton. “What a wonderful sight that I think is representative of days of past and the days to come and how we should work together. Thank you both so much.”

Isakson is retiring from Congress at the end of this year. He said in August that he made the difficult decision after a series of health setbacks, including a fall in July that resulted in four broken ribs.

He also had surgery to remove a malignant growth on his kidney and has been public about his bout with Parkinson’s disease.

Almost all of Georgia’s House members paid tribute to Isakson on Tuesday. Members of the U.S. Senate will do the same in December, when Isakson will also give his farewell speech.

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About the Author

Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell
Tia Mitchell is the AJC’s Washington correspondent.
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