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Johnny Isakson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johnny Isakson
Johnny Isakson official Senate photo.jpg
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
January 3, 2005 – December 31, 2019
Preceded byZell Miller
Succeeded byKelly Loeffler
Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – December 19, 2019
Preceded byBernie Sanders
Succeeded byJerry Moran
Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – December 19, 2019
Preceded byBarbara Boxer
Succeeded byJames Lankford
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th district
In office
February 23, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Preceded byNewt Gingrich
Succeeded byTom Price
Member of the Georgia State Senate
from the 21st district
In office
January 11, 1993 – January 6, 1997
Preceded byBill English[1]
Succeeded byRobert Lamutt[2]
Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 10, 1983 – January 11, 1991
Preceded byHerbert Jones Jr.
Succeeded byPaul Heard
Member of the
Georgia House of Representatives
from Cobb County
In office
January 10, 1977 – January 11, 1991
Preceded byChuck Edwards
Succeeded byLynda Coker
Constituency20-Post 1 (1977–1983)
21-Post 2 (1983–1991)
Personal details
John Hardy Isakson

(1944-12-28)December 28, 1944
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
DiedDecember 19, 2021(2021-12-19) (aged 76)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Cause of deathParkinson's disease
Political partyRepublican
Dianne Davison
(m. 1968)
EducationUniversity of Georgia (BBA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1966–1972
RankStaff Sergeant
UnitGeorgia Air National Guard

John Hardy Isakson (December 28, 1944 – December 19, 2021) was an American businessman and politician who served as a United States senator from Georgia from 2005 to 2019 as a member of the Republican Party. He represented Georgia's 6th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1999 to 2005.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard (1966–1972) and graduated from the University of Georgia. He opened a real estate branch for Northside Realty and later served 22 years as the company's president. After a failed bid for the Georgia House of Representatives in 1974, he was elected in 1976. He served seven terms, including four as minority leader. Isakson was the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia in 1990, but lost. Two years later, he was elected to the Georgia Senate and served one term. He unsuccessfully ran in the Republican primary in the 1996 U.S. Senate election.

After 6th District Congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich resigned, Isakson ran in the February 1999 special election to succeed him, winning by a 40-point margin. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004 after Democratic incumbent Zell Miller opted not to run for re-election. With the backing of much of Georgia's Republican establishment, he won both the primary and general elections by wide margins. He became the senior senator from Georgia when Saxby Chambliss retired in 2015. On December 31, 2019, midway through his third Senate term, Isakson resigned from the Senate due to health concerns and was succeeded by fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler who was appointed by Brian Kemp, the Republican Governor of Georgia, to fill the vacant seat.

Early life, education, and real estate career

Isakson was born on December 28, 1944, in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Julia (née Baker) and Edwin Andrew Isakson, a Greyhound bus driver,[3] who later established an Atlanta real estate firm.[4] His paternal grandparents were of Swedish descent, and his paternal grandfather was born in Östersund. His mother was of mostly British ancestry, and her family has been in the American South since the colonial era.[5][6]

Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 to 1972, leaving service as a staff sergeant.[7] Isakson enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he became a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity.[8][9] Shortly after graduating from UGA, he opened the first Cobb County office of Northside Realty, a prominent Atlanta-area real estate firm that his father, Ed, helped to establish. Isakson became company president in 1979, a post he held for 22 years, during which Northside became the biggest independent real estate company in the Southeast and one of the largest in the United States.[10][better source needed]

Early political career (1974–1998)

Isakson as a state representative in 1977
Isakson as a state representative in 1977

Georgia House of Representatives

In 1974, Isakson first ran for the Georgia House of Representatives in an eastern Cobb County district and lost. He ran again in 1976 and won. He served seven terms in the House. He won re-election unopposed in 1984[11] and 1988.[12] In his last four terms (1983–1990), he was the Republican Minority leader. In 1988 and 1996, he was co-chair for U.S. Senator Bob Dole's presidential primary campaigns.[13]

1990 gubernatorial election

Isakson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1986
Isakson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1986

Isakson was the Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia in 1990. He won the Republican primary with 74% of the vote in a four candidate field.[14] In the general election, he was defeated by Democratic Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller 53%–45%.[15] His campaign was managed by Jay Morgan while Miller's campaign was managed by James Carville. Miller ran on a pledge to start a state lottery and use the revenue for public schools. Isakson proposed a ballot referendum on the lottery.[16]

Georgia Senate

Isakson with President George H. W. Bush in 1990
Isakson with President George H. W. Bush in 1990

In 1992, Isakson was elected to the Georgia Senate.[17]

1996 U.S. Senate election

In 1996, Isakson ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. During his campaign, Isakson expressed his support for abortion rights in a campaign advertisement.[18] Isakson finished second in the primary election with 35% of the vote, but the winner Guy Millner, a millionaire businessman, failed to get a majority of the vote (receiving only 42%).[19] Therefore, per Georgia law, he was forced into a primary runoff election. Millner defeated Isakson in the runoff 53%–47%.[20] Millner lost the general election to Democrat Max Cleland.[21]

In December 1996, Isakson was appointed head of the State Board of Education by Gov. Zell Miller.[22]

U.S. House of Representatives (1999–2005)



In November 1998, 6th District U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich faced a revolt in his caucus after the Republicans lost five seats in the midterm elections. Amid the turmoil, Gingrich announced on Friday after the Tuesday elections not only that he would not run for a third term as Speaker, but he would also not take his seat for an eleventh term beginning in January 1999. Isakson ran for the seat in a special election in February. He won the election with 65% of the vote, forty points ahead of the second-place finisher Christina Fawcett Jeffrey.[23]


Isakson won re-election to his first full term with 74.75% of the vote.[24]


Isakson won re-election to his second full term with 79.87% of the vote.[25]

President George W. Bush and Senator Isakson aboard Air Force One in 2005.
President George W. Bush and Senator Isakson aboard Air Force One in 2005.


During his tenure in the House of Representatives, Isakson served on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, aiding President Bush in passing the No Child Left Behind Act.[3] As a Representative, Isakson sponsored 27 bills.[26] He was a member of the U.S. House Education Committee.[27] In October 2002, Isakson voted in favor of the authorization of force against the country of Iraq.[28]

U.S. Senate (2005–2019)

Isakson with Neil Gorsuch in 2017
Isakson with Neil Gorsuch in 2017
Isakson with Brett Kavanaugh in 2018
Isakson with Brett Kavanaugh in 2018



In early 2003, conservative Democratic U.S. Senator Zell Miller—who had been appointed to fill out the term of the late Republican Senator Paul Coverdell and elected to the post in his own right in 2000—declared his intention not to run for a full term in the Senate in 2004. Isakson immediately entered the race. He faced 8th District U.S. Congressman Mac Collins and businessman Herman Cain in the primary.[29]

It was initially thought Isakson would face a difficult primary since many socially conservative Republicans still felt chagrin at Isakson's declared support for abortion rights in 1990. However, he won the Republican primary with 53%, with Cain a distant second and Collins third, averting the need for a runoff. In the general election, he easily defeated the Democratic candidate, 4th District Congresswoman Denise Majette, by 18 points. Isakson's election marked the first time in Georgia's history that both of the state's U.S. Senate seats had been held by Republicans, as Saxby Chambliss had won the other seat by defeating Nunn's successor, Max Cleland, two years earlier.[30][circular reference]


In 2010, Isakson was unopposed in the primary. He won re-election with 58.3% of the vote in 2010, defeating State Commissioner of Labor Mike Thurmond.[31]


Isakson was re-elected to a third term in 2016 with 54.8% of the vote.[32]

Tenure and legislation

As a senator, Isakson sponsored or co-sponsored 130 bills, just 8 of which became law.[33]

In 2010, Isakson apologized for referring to voters as "the unwashed" in off-hand comments, saying he "didn't mean anything derogatory by it."[34]

Isakson resigned from the Senate for health reasons on December 31, 2019.[35] He is the longest serving Republican senator in the history of Georgia.[36]

Committee assignments

Political positions

When compared to his Republican peers in the Senate, Isakson was neither more liberal than average nor more conservative than average.[42]


During his campaign for U.S. senator in 1996, Isakson expressed his support for abortion rights in a campaign advertisement.[18] In 2005, Isakson reportedly identified himself as pro-life with exceptions.[43] In March 2017, Isakson—who was recovering from back surgery—came to the U.S. Capitol in a wheelchair to vote to repeal an Obama administration rule that had made it unlawful for states to bar abortion providers from receiving Title X funding. The Senate vote on the bill was 50–50, and Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote that allowed the bill to pass.[44]


In July 2019, Isakson was one of eight senators to introduce the Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, a bill that would alter the definition of an agricultural commodity to include both horticultural and aquacultural products and promote a larger consistency in regulation through both federal and state agencies as part of an attempt to ease regulatory burdens on trucking and the agri-community.[45]

Gun laws

In 2017, Isakson said that while he did support concealed carry nationwide, he did not support campus carry and stated that it is "not the appropriate thing to do."[46]

In February 2018, in response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Isakson said, "We have to do everything we can within our powers to make sure it never happens again."[47]


Isakson voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and voted more than 60 times to repeal it.[48][better source needed]


In 2019, Isakson voted to support President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration regarding border security.[49]

Personal life

Isakson and his wife, Dianne, were married in 1968, and had three children.[50] His wife is a watercolor artist,[51] and served as honorary co-chair for Marietta's Theatre in the Square playhouse in 2007.[52]

Health and death

In June 2015, Isakson disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but added that the diagnosis would not affect his 2016 re-election plans.[53] He continued his campaign and was elected in November 2016 to serve a third six-year term in the Senate. On August 28, 2019, however, Isakson announced that he would resign his Senate seat for health reasons on December 31, 2019.[54]

Isakson died at his home in Atlanta on December 19, 2021, nine days short of his 77th birthday.[55][56]

Electoral history

1990 Georgia gubernatorial election[57]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Zell Miller 766,662 52.89 -17.62
Republican Johnny Isakson 645,625 44.54 +15.05
Libertarian Carole Ann Rand 37,367 2.58 ±0
Majority 121,037 8.35
Turnout 1,449,654
Democratic hold
2000 general election in Georgia's 6th congressional district[58]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 256,595 74.75%
Democratic Brett DeHart 86,666 25.25%
Total votes 343,261 100.00%
Republican hold
2002 general election in Georgia's 6th congressional district[59]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 163,209 79.91%
Democratic Jeff Weisberger 41,043 20.09%
Total votes 204,252 100.00%
Republican hold
2004 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia[60]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson 346,765 53.2%
Republican Herman Cain 170,464 26.2%
Republican Mac Collins 134,053 20.6%
2004 U.S. Senate general election in Georgia[61]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Johnny Isakson 1,864,205 57.88% +19.97%
Democratic Denise Majette 1,287,695 39.98% −18.22%
Libertarian Allen Buckley 69,051 2.14% +2.14%
Majority 576,510 17.90%
Turnout 3,220,951
Republican gain from Democratic Swing
2010 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia[62]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 558,298 100.00%
Total votes 558,298 100.00%
2010 U.S. Senate general election in Georgia[63]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 1,489,904 58.31% +0.43%
Democratic Michael Thurmond 996,516 39.00% -0.98%
Libertarian Chuck Donovan 68,750 2.69% +0.55%
Independent Steve Davis (write-in) 52 0.00% N/A
Independent Raymond Beckworth (write-in) 24 0.00% N/A
Independent Brian Russell Brown (write-in) 12 0.00% N/A
Majority 493,388 19.31%
Total votes 2,555,258 100.00%
Republican hold
2016 U.S. Senate Republican primary election in Georgia[64]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 447,661 77.50%
Republican Derrick Grayson 69,101 11.96%
Republican Mary Kay Bacallao 60,898 10.54%
Total votes 577,660 100.00%
2016 U.S. Senate general election in Georgia[65]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Johnny Isakson (incumbent) 2,135,806 54.80% -3.51%
Democratic Jim Barksdale 1,599,726 41.04% +2.04%
Libertarian Allen Buckley 162,260 4.16% +1.47%
Total votes 3,897,792 100.0% N/A
Republican hold

See also


  1. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State Senate 21 Race – Nov 03, 1992".
  2. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State Senate 21 Race – Nov 08, 1994".
  3. ^ a b "GEORGIA Johnny Isakson (R)". The Washington Post. November 4, 2004. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  4. ^ "Atlanta roots lie under real estate's family tree". Atlanta Business Chronicle. May 10, 2010.
  5. ^ "Floor Statement on Immigration Reform Remarks as Delivered on the Senate Floor". Johnny Isakson. April 13, 2005. Retrieved February 20, 2007.
  6. ^ "Johnny Isakson ancestry". Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  7. ^ "Veterans in the US Senate 109th Congress" (PDF). Navy League. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 28, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  8. ^ "Greeks in the 113th Congress". North-American Interfraternity Conference. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  9. ^ "Three-term Senator to retire". The Record Online. Retrieved December 20, 2021. Sigma Alpha Epsilon has a rich history of Brothers who have served the United States in an elected office, but few as many times as Johnny Isakson (Georgia '66). He holds the distinction of being the only person elected to represent the state of Georgia in the state House (1977-1990, seven terms), state Senate (1993-1997, two terms), U.S. House (1999-2005, two terms) and U.S. Senate (2005-present, three terms).
  10. ^ "Johnny Isakson Senate". Johnny Isakson Biography. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  11. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State House 021 Race – Nov 06, 1984".
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA State House 021 Post 2 Race – Nov 08, 1988".
  13. ^ "Johnny Isakson will seek Senate seat". American City Business Journals. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  14. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA Governor – R Primary Race – Jul 17, 1990".
  15. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA Governor Race – Nov 06, 1990".
  16. ^ Parker, Laura (October 12, 1990). "Lotto Fever in Georgia Governor's Race". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  17. ^ McKee, Don. "DON McKEE: Sen. Johnny Isakson: Tireless warrior for veterans, citizens". Marietta Daily Journal. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  18. ^ a b Sack, Kevin (June 16, 1996). "Georgian Makes a Bold Stand on Abortion". The New York Times.
  19. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA US Senate – R Primary Race – Jul 09, 1996". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA US Senate – R Runoff Race – Aug 06, 1996". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "Ga.: Democrats Win Key Senate Battle In Peach State". Cable News Network (CNN). Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  22. ^ Almanac of American Politics 2008, p. 463.
  23. ^ "Official Results of the February 23, 1999 Special Election". Georgia Secretary of State. March 16, 1999. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
  24. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA District 6 Race – Nov 07, 2000". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  25. ^ "Our Campaigns – GA District 6 Race – Nov 05, 2002". Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  26. ^ "Representative Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  27. ^ "Column: In their own words: Isakson's impact on education". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  28. ^ "FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 455" (H J RES 114 YEA-AND-NAY). U.S. House. October 10, 2002.
  29. ^ Pettys, Dick. "Isakson Wins GOP Primary For Georgia's Senate Seat". WP Company, LLC. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "List of United States senators from Georgia". Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  31. ^ "Georgia – Election Results 2010". The New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  32. ^ "Georgia U.S. Senate Results: Johnny Isakson Wins". The New York Times. August 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  33. ^ "Senator Isakson's Legislation". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  34. ^ "Isakson apologizes for calling voters 'unwashed'". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. June 17, 2010. Archived from the original on June 21, 2010. Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  35. ^ Rogers, Alex; Bradner, Eric; Mattingly, Phil (August 28, 2019). "Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year". CNN. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  36. ^ Wells, Myrydd (December 19, 2021). "Colleagues and friends in Georgia and nationwide remember Senator Johnny Isakson". Atlanta Magazine. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  37. ^ a b "Senate Finance subcommittee assignments set". Tax News Update. Ernst & Young. January 31, 2019. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  38. ^ Remo, Andrew (December 19, 2013). "Senate Hearing Focuses on Retirement Income". National Association of Plan Advisors. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  39. ^ a b c "A smorgasbord of subcommittees". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 1, 2015. p. A6. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  40. ^ Malloy, Daniel (April 19, 2012). "Isakson says Kony still a priority". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. p. A2. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  41. ^ "Subcommittees". Retrieved November 17, 2019.
  42. ^ Parlapiano, Haeyoun Park, Alicia; Sanger-katz, Margot (July 13, 2017). "Republicans Made 4 Key Changes to Their Health Care Bill. Here's Who They Were Trying to Win Over". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  43. ^ "An Ardent Moderate". January 1, 2005.
  44. ^ Barrett, Ted (March 30, 2017). "Isakson returns to Senate to cast key vote on Planned Parenthood". CNN.
  45. ^ Galford, Chris (July 2, 2019). "Bipartisan Senate effort seeks to ease regulation of agricultural trucking".
  46. ^ Harris, Nate. "Senator Isakson speaks out against campus carry". The Red and Black. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  47. ^ Saporta, Maria (February 20, 2018). "Sen. Johnny Isakson: 'Of course' planning to run for re-election in 2022". Business Journal. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  48. ^ "Health Care – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson".
  49. ^ Hallerman, Tamar (March 14, 2019). "Isakson, Perdue vote to uphold Trump's border emergency". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  50. ^ Clanton, Nancy. "5 things to know about Johnny Isakson". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  51. ^ McQueen, Tucker (December 19, 2008). "White House tree features Georgia". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. pp. C1. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  52. ^ Bentley, Rosalind (March 23, 2012). "How Marietta lost its theater". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  53. ^ Sen. Johnny Isakson discloses he has Parkinson’s disease (Washington Post article-June 10, 2015)
  54. ^ "GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year". August 28, 2019.
  55. ^ Hallerman, Tamar; Malloy, Daniel (December 19, 2021). "Johnny Isakson, 76, Georgia politician respected by both sides, dies". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. ISSN 1539-7459. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  56. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (December 19, 2021). "Johnny Isakson, Longtime Senator From Georgia, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved December 19, 2021.
  57. ^ "1990 General Election Results - Governor". Georgia Secretary of State. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
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  64. ^ "Official Results". Retrieved July 20, 2016.
  65. ^ "General Election November 8, 2016". Retrieved December 19, 2016.

External links

Georgia House of Representatives
Preceded by
C. W. "Chuck" Edwards
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 20th district, Post 1

Succeeded by
Joe Mack Wilson
Preceded by Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 21st district, Post 2

Succeeded by
Lynda Coker
Preceded by
Herbert Jones Jr.
Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Paul Heard
Georgia State Senate
Preceded by
Bill English
Member of the Georgia State Senate
from the 21st district

Succeeded by
Robert Lamutt
Party political offices
Preceded by
Guy Davis
Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Georgia
(Class 3)

2004, 2010, 2016
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Saxby Chambliss, David Perdue
Succeeded by
Preceded by Ranking Member of the Senate Ethics Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee
Succeeded by
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