Fred Taylor, 82: ‘Master politician' helped Busbee, Miller become governor

Fred Taylor, a driving force behind making it legal for Georgia governors to succeed themselves and who was once recognized as one of the state's most influential people, has died. He was 82.

Mark Taylor, a former Georgia legislator and lieutenant governor, said his father recently experienced several heath challenges and was ultimately unable to regain his strength following surgery in November. He died Friday at his home in Albany.

Mark Taylor called his father a “tireless worker” who was committed to public service and Georgia.

“He would always say we have our civic rent to pay,” Mr. Taylor said. “He also said we always need to be involved in encouraging good government in Georgia.”

Mr. Taylor said his father was passionate about helping Georgia’s economy grow so that there would be opportunities for Georgians and entrepreneurs.

Fred Taylor knew a thing or two about the entrepreneurial spirit. He started his first business, a truck repair garage, in the early '60s in Ocilla, his son said. He went on to own a Mack truck dealership, and he eventually started his own trucking company, now called NationLease.

Mr. Taylor grew up in Alma on a small family farm and graduated from Bacon County High School. During the Korean War, he served in the Air Force, where he learned the importance of managing time and being organized, his son said.

“There is one thing for sure about every election, and that is they will not change the date of the election,” Mark Taylor said. “You have a certain period of time to get yourself organized ... and he knew that and could do it in that period of time.”

A Democratic Party powerhouse, Fred Taylor spent more than 30 years in Georgia politics. Though he never ran for office, he was a master at identifying people who should, said Tommy Coleman, a former Albany mayor and Taylor family friend.

Mr. Taylor's contributions to what is known as Constitutional Amendment No. 2 in Georgia improved the state's political landscape, Mr. Coleman said.

"He knew a governor needed more than four years to get things done," he said. "And I think the amendment has served many governors well."

Mr. Taylor was a “master politician,” said Tommy Malone, an Atlanta attorney who used to work in Albany.

“He distinguished himself, first of all, by helping George Busbee become governor,” Mr. Malone said. “He went on to serve as Busbee’s chief of staff. His legacy was certainly extended by offering up his son to serve the people of Georgia, and I think that was a vision that he probably had, at least during the time he was chief of staff, if not the day Mark was born.”

In addition to working with Mr. Busbee, Fred Taylor also helped Zell Miller reach the Governor's Mansion. He was a state fundraising co-chairman for President Jimmy Carter's re-election bid, and he was involved with his son’s political career.

Mark Taylor said his father was “fearless” in his pursuits and was determined to do anything he started well.

“I think there is a quotient of fearlessness in any entrepreneur,” he said. “The naysayers always outnumber your cheerleaders, but my father was willing to take the risk. He would do his due diligence, but he was consistently willing to try new ventures.”

A funeral is planned for noon Tuesday at Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church in Albany. A private burial will follow.

Fred Taylor is also survived by his wife of 56 years, Tommie Taylor; daughters, Marsha and Linda; and five grandchildren.