Rarely does one have the opportunity to be face to face with greatness.
Senator Johnny Isakson gave me – and everyone he met – that opportunity.
The son of a Greyhound bus driver, Senator Isakson rose to prominence on the quality of his character, the strength of his resilience, and the intensity of his work ethic.
I’m sure support from his loving and devoted wife Dianne didn’t hurt either.
I’ve been fortunate to call Senator Isakson a friend and a mentor for many years. During those years, he taught me perseverance, how to always work hard and continue on no matter what is thrown at you.
When serving as the Minority Leader of the Georgia State House, he remarked that he had so few members that General Custer had better odds than he did.
We’ll surely miss that quick wit and his dedication to the great people of Georgia, even when the odds were stacked against him.
Johnny Isakson was the only Georgian to ever serve in the Georgia State House, the Georgia State Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. At each of those levels, he successfully advanced policies that made life better for people in his home state and for the whole of America.
For that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.
During a time when our country seems to be increasingly divided, Senator Isakson managed to build bipartisan bridges. He didn’t just reach across the aisle – he made friends with people regardless of their political ideology.
He taught me, with his every action, to judge not by a person’s political affiliations, but by the content of their character. And I keep that with me to this day.
My staff once told me that Senator Isakson was not one to get involved in fights; but, in the background, he is in a knife fight, and he’s winning. He was tenacious, cunning and smart, but never forsook humility, professionalism, and sportsmanship.
As a fellow Member of Congress from Georgia, I know that everyone who walks those halls wants to be remembered as a statesmen and successful legislator. Few will live up to that legacy. Senator Isakson is among them.
Before he was a Senator, or a politician of any kind, he was a veteran. He never forgot those roots. During his several years as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I heard stories about Senator Isakson calling veterans’ families personally and apologizing for issues they encountered at the VA Center.
Senator Isakson was a busy man, but never too busy to thank our great veterans and their families. That is a characteristic all us of should strive to emulate.
He overhauled the VA choice program and modernized VA hospitals, taking concrete steps to make lives better for the men and women who sacrifice their own safety and security for our freedoms.
He also took care of his staff and colleagues. Once a year, the Russell building would fill with members and staff from both sides of the aisle there to enjoy his annual barbecue.
While the food was good, the conversation and company were even better.
Last year, I had the honor to watch as he and the late Congressman John Lewis embraced on the House floor. I will not soon forget that moment, as two of the greatest voices for freedom in our generation, both from Georgia, proved yet again that respect knows no political party.
Senator Isakson, thank you for setting an example for what it means to govern with integrity.
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Savannah, represents Georgia’s 1st Congressional District.