Georgia lost some notable politicians in 2017

Georgia lost some of its long-time politicians on the state and local level in 2017.

They ranged from local commissioners, such as Fulton County’s Joan Garner who spent decades championing LGBT rights before it became a widespread cause, to Agricultural Commissioner Tommy Irvin, who with 42 years in office was the longest-serving head of a department in Georgia history.

Irvin came by his knowledge of farming hard. He grew up a poor sharecropper's son.

He started his political career serving as a school board member, graduated to a term as a state legislator and went on to get elected as the agricultural commissioner for ten terms. He died in September.

Early in the year, in January, Warren Evans from Augusta passed away. Like Irvin, he started in local politics before serving in the state legislature and then as state insurance commissioner.

Evans was a Korean War veteran and Emory law school graduate.

He lost a runoff for the office of state Insurance Commssioner in 1990.

Fulton Commissioner Joan Garner was elected in 2011 and maintained her seat until her death in April. While at home ill, she received news that a conference room at the county's new health building was being named after her.

She advocated for LGBT rights, and fought for more testing of and treatment for people with HIV and AIDS. She was a founder of the county’s HIV/AIDS task force.

Credit: Kent Johnson

Credit: Kent Johnson

Lottie Watkins served one term in the Georgia House in the late 1970s, but she was an Atlanta businesswoman that many politicians came to for support, from Mayor Maynard Jackson to President Jimmy Carter.

She died in April.

Frank Bates started life in rural Georgia, figting to integrate schools. After getting his jaw broken at a forerly all white school in 1965m his family decided that, for his safety, he should finish high school in Atlanta. He attended Booker T. Washington High School while holding down a full-time day job and then went on to DeKalb Junior College.

After serving in the military, he received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Fort Valley State University, and obtained his law degree from Atlanta Law School in 1977.

Bates began a 30-plus year career in government with the district attorney's office in Thomson. Later, he would work for two governors – Joe Frank Harris, representing state workers in employment discrimination cases, and Miller, as executive assistant for community relations. Harris also appointed him deputy director of the state Democratic Party.