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Johnny Isakson: former US senator from Georgia dies at 76

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement on Sunday that Peach State “has lost a giant” and remembers Isakson as “one of its greatest statesmen and a devoted servant leader. to make his state and his country better than he found it “.

“Johnny Isakson personified what it means to be a Georgian. Johnny was also a very dear friend to Marty, the girls and me – as he was to so many others,” Kemp said in a statement.

He was a senator for almost 15 years until he stepped down in 2019 due to health concerns. He had surgery to remove a growth on his kidney at the time of his announcement and was recovering from a fall that had fractured four ribs, while his Parkinson’s disease continued to progress.

“I am leaving a job that I love because my health issues are weighing on me, my family and my staff,” Isakson said at the time. “With the growing health issues that I am facing, I have concluded that I will not be able to do the long term job in the way that the citizens of Georgia deserve. It goes against every fiber of my being to leave in the middle of my term in the Senate, but I know it is the right thing to do on behalf of my state. “

Born in Fulton County, Georgia, he began his official political career as a member of the state general assembly in 1976. He submitted an unsuccessful candidacy for governor of Georgia in 1990 and was elected to the State Senate in 1992. Isakson also ran for United States Senate in 1996 and was chairman of the Georgia Board of Education before winning a seat in the United States House, where he served in the 1999 chamber to 2004.

President Joe Biden mourned the death of Isakson, calling him a “patriot and a gentleman,” in a statement Sunday.

“Johnny was a proud Republican, but he put the country ahead of the party and enjoyed consensus building over political combat. I always liked Johnny’s description of the only divide he considered to be between.” friends and future friends, ”Biden wrote. “In memory of Johnny, let’s heed the wisdom he offered upon his retirement from the Senate, where he urged everyone to spend less energy describing issues and more effort working together to provide answers.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Sunday called the former senator a “friend”, adding that Isakson was “a true statesman with a servant’s heart, he was always attentive to the needs of our people. communities “.

Former Republican Senator David Perdue, who was in the Senate with Isakson from 2015 until Isakson’s retirement, also recalled his compatriot Georgian in a statement Sunday morning.

“Johnny was an effective colleague, a mentor I admired and a friend I deeply cherished,” Perdue wrote. “The past few years haven’t been easy for Johnny, but he has responded to every obstacle with unwavering resilience. His dry mind and kind heart will be missed by all who knew him.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Aaron Pellish, Alex Rogers, and DJ Judd contributed to this report.