James Magazine Mar Apr 2020 - Page 58

he had us add money to Georgia’s budgets for the blind
academy, nursing homes, school bus drivers and those
who didn’t have political power and couldn’t speak for
He loved his family, Bremen and Haralson County. He
was an avid fisherman. (He and Marcus Collins once
caught so many fish in Perry, you couldn’t put them in
one pile!). Murphy was a man of faith and showed this in
how he treated his fellow man. He had a vegetable garden, and every year “worked” it himself. He loved the
University of Georgia football team and Braves baseball.
But next to his family, the thing he loved the most was
the Georgia House of Representatives and its members.
Nothing significant in which Georgia’s government
was involved happened of which he did not approve.
Ultimately, he always came down on the right side: a holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., changing
Georgia’s flag, building the World Congress Center and
Georgia Dome, supporting the Olympics in Atlanta, obtaining an outstanding road network all over Georgia, and
funding the Georgia National Fair and Agricenter. When
Murphy gave his support, it happened— and it made
Georgia a better state.
Georgia has had great House speakers. Some of them
were Fred Hand, Richard Russell, Jr., Roy Harris, George L.
Smith and George T. Smith. Another one is David Ralston,
a Republican, and I think Ralston emulates Murphy. Ask
Ralston about him. Also ask Republicans Johnny Isakson
and Matt Towery. Ask any Democrat who served while he
was speaker. Talk to former Gov. Roy Barnes. What you will
hear: “Fair, accessible, gave you a chance whether he liked
your proposal or not, different from the way he was portrayed, loved Georgia, tough on the outside but always fair,
a good heart, and a great Georgian.”
And, it’s not just politicians and elected officials, almost
all of whom, Republican and Democrat, respected him. It
was also the shoe shine man at the Capitol, the door keepers, the messengers, staff and secretaries in the offices.
Then he was gone— this man who for decades strode
Georgia politics like the Colossus of Rhodes. First, it was
his failure of re-election in 2002 caused by his sacrificing,
during reapportionment, of his legislative district in order
to give necessary votes to help other legislators get reelected. Then came his death on December 17, 2007.
Tom Murphy’s likes will not be seen again. We should
not forget, nor should we allow those who come after us to
forget. A significant and permanent memorial to his memory is in order and should come from a bipartisan effort
emanating in the Georgia House of Representatives— the
institution that he molded, made and loved.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry, a former Democratic
state legislator and a former member of the University System Board
of Regents.


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