Michael Joseph Egan, 89: Legislator, lawyer devoted to public service

Metro Atlanta has lost a longtime public servant. Michael Joseph Egan, a Harvard Law School graduate who served many years in Georgia’s Legislature, with spans in both houses, had been called the “Conscience of the Senate.”

Egan’s personal life and his career in law and politics, friends and relatives said, reflected his desire to serve others.

The Savannah native was born Aug. 8, 1926 to the late Michael and Elise Egan. He died Jan. 7 in his home in Atlanta at age 89.

“Mike Egan was a fine man, an admirable public servant, and a valued personal friend,” said former President Jimmy Carter. Egan served as Associate Attorney General in the Carter Administration. Before being appointed to that post in 1971, he had become a leading Georgia lawmaker, elected to the state House of Representatives as a Republican in 1965 and re-elected seven times. In 1971 he was elected House Minority Leader.

As a rare Republican, Egan’s first vote was to seat Julian Bond, an Atlanta Democrat and African-American who had angered the powers of the Capitol with his opposition to the Vietnam War.

He returned to the General Assembly in 1989, serving as a state senator until 2000.

“My party lost a trailblazer,” said former state Rep. Edward Lindsey. “Mike told me that the key to political success was to keep my opponents temporary and friends permanent,” Lindsey wrote after Egan’s death. “A lot of folks would do well to follow that advice today.”

Service was apparently a theme in Egan’s life from an early age. He was an Eagle Scout. After graduating from Portsmouth Priory Prep School in Rhode Island in 1944 and attending Yale College, he was drafted into the Army and commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Benning, where he was later inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Honor.

After his Army service, Egan graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1955 and returned to Atlanta to practice at the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan. He was a partner there until retiring in 2000. He was a member of many law associations including American Law Institute and Georgia and Atlanta Bar Associations, and he received various awards throughout his lifetime including Conservation Legislator of the Year in 1998 and the River Defender Award in 2000.

In his leisure time Egan enjoyed reading, savoring a good gin martini and loyally following the Atlanta Braves and The Westminster School’s Wildcats baseball team.

His son Mike Egan remembers his father as someone who was always thinking of others, even when he was away from law and politics. He served on many boards, including those of the Atlanta Fulton County Library, Catholic Social Services, The Westminster Schools and Trust for Public Land. Egan was a devoted parishioner at the Cathedral of Christ the King for 61 years. (Condensed this from longer list of boards)

“He was an active public servant and all about faith and family,” Mike Egan remembered. “His favorite place in the world was on the front porch at the beach in the early evenings, surrounded by family.”

A funeral Mass will be held at the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, Atlanta at 10 a.m. Thursday. The family will receive visitors following the service. A private interment will follow later in the afternoon at Arlington Memorial Park.

Egan is survived by his wife Donna, children: Moira Egan Vore of Washington, D.C.; Michael Egan III of Atlanta; Donna Egan Rogers of Greenville, SC; Cole Egan of Atlanta; Roby Egan of San Diego; John Egan of Atlanta and 16 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Buckhead Christian Ministry, 2847 Piedmont Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30305 or the Cathedral of Christ the King.

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