Georgia lawmaker proposes renaming state park after longtime senator who died

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, died in April. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, died in April. JASON GETZ / JGETZ@AJC.COM

A Georgia lawmaker said he wants Georgia to rename a Reidsville state park after a longtime state senator who died last month.

State Rep. Bill Werkheiser, a Glennville Republican, wants the state to rename Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park after state Sen. Jack Hill.

Hill, a Reidsville Republican who guided the state budget through the Senate for nearly 20 years, died April 6 at his office. His death was not related to COVID-19, officials said.

Werkheiser said he believed renaming the park after Hill was the best way to honor the former senator’s legacy.

“Senator Hill has been a close friend, mentor and an incredible statesman not only to this area, but the entire state,” said Werkheiser, who serves as chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee. “His wisdom and leadership will be greatly missed. The naming of this park will be a reminder for generations of his contributions to this great state.”

Hill was sworn into the Georgia Senate in 1991 as a Democrat. A retired grocer, Hill switched parties after the 2002 election, helping shift Senate power to the Republicans. He was rewarded by being named chairman of the Senate budget committee.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Terry England, who worked closely with Hill to shape the state's budget, said Hill and his wife Ruth Ann loved to spend time in the Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park. Ruth Ann Hill died about three weeks after her husband.

“I cannot remember the number of times that I would call Chairman Hill and he would tell me, ‘I just got back from walking the park’ or ‘I just took a sandwich out to eat at the park’ and ‘Ruth Ann and I just rode through the park to get away for a little bit,’” England said. “He loved this park and his stewardship on its behalf is evident over every square inch of it.”

The 2020 legislative session was suspended in March to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Lawmakers have not yet set a date to return to the Capitol to finish the session.