Ralston, David

David Ralston, the self-described "country lawyer" who helped set the state's political agenda as the powerful speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, died Wednesday after an extended illness.

Ralston, 68, a Republican who came from the hills of North Georgia, was elected speaker by the Republican majority in the chamber in 2010.

He will be remembered for commonsense, nonpartisan legislation, such as the expansion this year of mental health services, as well as reining in Republican colleagues who tried to foment the breakaway of Buckhead from the city of Atlanta.

Ralston began his legislative career in the state Senate, where he represented a North Georgia district as a Republican at a time when Democrats ran the Statehouse. He grew up in the region and hung his lawyer's shingle there after getting a professional start in Athens. He served in the Senate from 1992 to 1998 before making an unsuccessful bid to become Georgia's attorney general.

Ralston returned to the Capitol in 2003 after winning election to Georgia House District 7, which includes Fannin and Gilmer counties and part of Dawson County.

Read more about David Ralston on ajc.com