Tommy Irvin, former ag commissioner and mentor to Zell Miller, dead at 88

Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin in 2009. AJC file

Tommy Irvin, who as agriculture commissioner was Georgia’s longest-serving constitutional officer, died late Thursday, his grandson has confirmed. He was 88.

Irvin passed at his home in Mount Airy in east Georgia, with family around him, his grandson, Chris Irvin said.

For decades, Irvin was an inside player in the state Capitol, serving as a top aide to one governor and mentor to another.

“Tommy Irvin was one of Georgia’s great people who helped build this state. Agriculture remains Georgia’s biggest economic engines – he always looked after consumers while supporting farmer,” said DuBose Porter, chairman of the state Democratic party. “He was a lifelong Democrat who never wavered, understanding what we stand for.”

Irvin first came to widespread prominence as executive secretary for Gov. Lester Maddox. Maddox appointed him agriculture commissioner in 1969, and Irvin served in that office 42 years, until his retirement in January 2011.

Irvin was known to be suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a diagnosis he received just before leaving office, and was hospitalized after a car accident in 2014. Longtime journalist Tom Crawford penned a retrospective on Irvin for Georgia Trend magazine in 2007, after his last campaign.  It included these paragraphs:

Irvin helped a young educator in a neighboring North Georgia county win his first race for the state Senate in 1960 – a crewcut fellow named Zell Miller. Later, after Irvin left the House to become executive secretary to Gov. Lester Maddox, he brought along Miller (who had lost two congressional races against Phil Landrum) to work in the Maddox administration.

“I like to say I got Zell his first job in state government,” Irvin chuckles. “I remember when I brought him down here, I kept bringing Zell around to the governor’s office as often as I could and introduced him to Lester so he’d know who he was.”

When Phil Campbell resigned as agriculture commissioner in 1969, Maddox turned to his top aide and named Irvin as Campbell’s replacement…

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Generally speaking, you don’t find out that a state lawmaker is leaving her seat with a press release like this:

ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) today announced that he has appointed Rep. Doreen Carter (D-Lithonia) to the House Study Committee on Distracted Driving. 

Rep. Carter will fill the position vacated by Rep. Keisha Waites who has submitted her resignation from the House of Representatives, effective on Monday, September 18.

We’re presuming that Waites, an Atlanta Democrat, is running for the chairmanship of the Fulton County Commission.

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U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the only African-American Republican serving in the Senate, talks to reporters prior to his meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the chamber, had a White House sit-down with Donald Trump to discuss the president’s statements after the Charlottesville violence that erupted out of a gathering of white supremacists.

But on Thursday, during the flight to inspect the damage that Hurricane Irma had done to Florida, Trump indicated that he hadn’t been convinced by Scott’s argument – and again condemned the violence by the anti-fascist protest movement known as “antifa,” according to the Washington Post.

You could almost hear the sigh that accompanied Scott’s reaction via Twitter:

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to expect the President’s rhetoric to change based on one 30-minute conversation is unrealistic. Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but white supremacists have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period.”

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On the other hand, the White House announced Thursday that President Donald Trump signed the joint resolution co-authored by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson that denounced white supremacy in the aftermath of last month’s fatal protests in Charlottesville, Va.

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Even Newt Gingrich has endorsed Donald Trump’s sudden bipartisan partnership with Democrats over the DACA measure. The former Georgia lawmaker launched a Twitter storm to try to explain the president’s overtures across the aisle. Among Gingrich’s takeaways: “We are entering a period of tension where Pres Trump tries to get things done without a stable majority in Congress. It is going to be rocky.

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The Savannah-Chatham police department indicates that about 50 evacuated homes have been burgled in the last week – down from last year’s experience with Hurricane Matthew, according to the Savannah Morning News.

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Over at the Tallahassee Democrat, Bill Cotterell points out that Hurricane Irma hasn’t resulted in any truce between Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida press:

The Tallahassee press is corralled in a little room with a big glass wall at the Emergency Operations Center, able to see into the command post but unable to hear what is said in twice-daily briefings with state and county officials. Reporters press against the inch-thick window, like puppies a pet shop, trying to cadge a random lead.

The Division of Emergency Management could easily admit them to hear it all in real time, or at least flip a switch and pipe in audio to the news conference room. Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist used to do that, and Scott did a time or two previously.

But Scott’s administration treats information like ranchers in the Old West treated water: If we’ve got it, it must be ours and we, alone, will decide when, whether and how to release some. There are aides who field questions for reporters, many of whom camped at the EOC full-time during the storm, but their answers are well-scrubbed and optimistic.

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The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that speed and a driver trying to pass in the right-hand lane were factors in the car crash that led to Cassville Congressman Barry Loudermilk and his wife Desiree being hospitalized on Tuesday. Pointing to a citation from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Sentinel reports:

The congressman, who was driving, was attempting to merge into the right-hand lane when his 2017 Nissan Rogue was struck by a passing 2016 Nissan Versa, the report states.

The collision, which happened about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, knocked the Loudermilks’ SUV off the roadway and into an embankment, causing it to roll over at least twice, the report reads. 

The other driver, who was not injured, was cited for driving without insurance. The paper also reported that neither drugs nor alcohol were considered a factor in the accident. The Loudermilks were treated for non-threatening injuries and released that same day. Both have been at home recovering in Georgia this week, the Republican’s office previously said.

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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved former state Rep. B.J. Pak to be the U.S. attorney based in Atlanta, advancing the Trump administration’s first Georgia judicial nominee.

Pak, a former federal prosecutor who represented a Gwinnett County-based district in the state House for three terms, is not considered a controversial nominee and is expected to be easily confirmed. The full Senate will need to sign off on his nomination before he can be sworn in.

The Judiciary committee announced plans to consider two other of the president’s other Georgia picks, U.S. district judge nominees Michael Brown and Billy Ray, next week.

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Clay Tippins, a Republican businessman, filed paperwork Thursday to run for Georgia governor. “I’m angry that cronyism and identity politics have broken America and are endangering Georgia, and I want to do my part to fix it,” he said in his campaign website. Read more about Tippins here.

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3 comments
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BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

In 2006 Irvin and Thurber Baker were the last two Democrats elected to statewide political office. The drought will continue for the foreseeable future.