Mike Egan, a state GOP pioneer, has died

In this AJC file photo from 2000, state Sens. Mike Egan (left) and Clay Land (right) pose to mark their retirement from the Legislature.

In this AJC file photo from 2000, state Sens. Mike Egan (left) and Clay Land (right) pose to mark their retirement from the Legislature.

Mike Egan, one of the true pioneers of the Georgia Republican party died today. The announcement from the funeral home:

A prominent Republican leader in the Georgia General Assembly during the long transition from Democratic to Republican control of state government in the late twentieth century, Michael J. Egan was also a widely respected Atlanta lawyer and a top Justice Department official under U.S. President Jimmy Carter….

A memorial mass will be celebrated on Thursday, the 14th of January at ten o’clock in the morning at The Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30305. The family will greet friends following the mass at the church. A private burial will follow later in the day at Arlington Memorial Park. Arrangements by H. M. Patterson & Son Arlington Chapel.

One of the better things ever written about Egan was by our former AJC colleague Tom Baxter, coinciding with the lawmaker’s retirement in 2000. We reprint it in full here:

Sen. Mike Egan has taken so many stand-on-principle votes — he calls them “votes in opposition to the majority” — over the course of two disconnected decades in the Legislature that as he leaves, they “all sort of merge together in a blob,” and the one he thinks to mention was his very first.

That was in 1967, when as a young Republican House member he voted to allow Julian Bond to be seated in that body, despite the Atlanta Democrat’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Since returning to the Legislature as a senator in 1989, Egan has often been in the minority — sometimes in defense of his party, sometimes opposing his fellow Republicans — on issues where it mattered that somebody cast a losing vote.

Egan went to the well on a point of personal privilege for the first time in his legislative career Monday morning, to apologize for all the fuss he caused when he collapsed on the Senate floor last week, bedraggled with the flu and the frenzy of the session’s closing days.

This started out as a column about how sorely Egan will be missed, but it’s hard to mention his quiet trip to the well without noting that it followed by only a few moments the volcanic eruption of Rules Committee Chairman David Scott, furious at the handling of his Grady Memorial Hospital oversight bill.

For the voters of Fulton County, the retirement of one respected senator, and the self-immolation of another, can’t be good news.

Scott repeatedly ignored Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor’s efforts to gavel him out of order — “This whole place is out of order, ” he stormed — and denounced both Sen. Majority Leader Charles Walker and House Majority Leader Larry Walker over their business dealings with Grady.

Still spitting mad more than an hour later, Scott said he wasn’t concerned about losing his chairmanship over the tirade.

“Look, what good am I as Rules Committee chairman in the Senate if (the House Rules Committee) can hold a bill such as the Grady bill?” a clearly frustrated Scott said.

However it’s resolved, Scott’s angry break with his party’s leadership was a jarring note at the end of a session widely regarded as the most placid in memory. With so many changes looming for the Legislature in the coming decade, his speech was a reminder that storms can arise very quickly.

“The closer we come to a majority, the more partisan things get down here,” Egan said earlier in the day, taking a few minutes before the session began to smoke a politically incorrect cigarette in his office with fellow Sen. Susan Cable (R-Macon).

“The Republicans are going to control the Legislature, not this coming election, but after reapportionment. And I think the two-party system, which I’ve been fighting for since the ’50s, is here, ” he said.

Egan, who is 72 and loaded with grandchildren, won’t be staying around for that widely predicted Republican majority day. But neither will Sen. Clay Land (R-Columbus), considered one of the most talented young legislators in either party, nor Rep. Mike Evans (Cumming), the House GOP caucus chair.

Both parties are being hurt by the early departure of younger legislators, torn by the demands of career and family. But the Republicans feel it more because they are a younger and less experienced party.

And both parties may come to miss the departure of someone who could mix dissent and civility in the way Egan has.

Former President Jimmy Carter echoed that sentiment. He sent us this statement:

“Mike Egan was a fine man, an admirable public servant, and a valued personal friend.” 

Click here to read and sign the online guestbook for Michael J. Egan.


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