House Rules Chairman John Meadows, left, raises his hand on the 39th day of the 40-day legislative session in March 2017. Meadows, who was first elected to the state House in 2004, died Tuesday morning at age 74. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Powerful Georgia House Rules Chairman John Meadows dies

One of the most powerful legislators in Georgia, House Rules Chairman John Meadows, died Tuesday after battling stomach cancer. He was 74.

Meadows, a Republican from Calhoun, was remembered as a blunt Marine Corps veteran who had the power to decide which bills lived or died at the Georgia Capitol.

House Speaker David Ralston described Meadows as “courageous and forthright” as lawmakers gathered Tuesday for a moment of silence on the floor of the state House.

“He didn’t care who you were or what the issue was. He was going to tell it like it was,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “There are some people you just can’t replace. He’s one of them.”

As the Rules Committee chairman, Meadows’ approval was needed before bills could advance to the floor of the House for a full vote.

He seemed to relish his role as gatekeeper, negotiating with senators to pass bills that House leadership wanted before he’d approve their legislation.

Before his election to the House in 2004, Meadows served 13 years as mayor of Calhoun and three years as a member of the Calhoun City Council. Meadows’ House District 5 covered Gordon and Murray counties in North Georgia, where he worked as an insurance salesman.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, shared her love of the chairman.

He was “a person who cared very much for those that are disadvantaged,” said Unterman, who often champions legislation to protect children and senior citizens. “He also cared about the vulnerable population, whether it was young or old.”

Meadows stuck by his friends and left no doubt what he stood for, House Ways and Means Chairman Jay Powell said.

“He’d tell you exactly what he thought. You might not like it, but he was not going to sugarcoat it,” said Powell, a Republican from Camilla. “You didn’t really like it at the time, but in the long run it was the best thing for you to know where you stood and what he thought.”

Meadows died the morning that the Georgia General Assembly convened for a five-day special session to consider $270 million in disaster relief to help South Georgia communities recover from Hurricane Michael.

Meadows is survived by his wife, two children and three grandsons.

Read and sign the online guestbook for John Meadows

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