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 February 1, 2024

Georgia Representative Richard Smith suddenly passes away at 78

Georgia Republican State Rep. Richard Smith passed away unexpectedly Tuesday, Atlanta News First reported. The 78-year-old represented District 139, which includes Harris County and parts of Columbus, since 2005. 

Smith was a member of Georgia's House Rules Committee and was well respected by his colleagues. After his passing, several of them sent messages of condolence, including GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.

"This morning, the entire Kemp family is saddened by the news of Representative Richard Smith’s passing. A long-time public servant and valued friend, he represented the Columbus area well and had an important impact on the entire state during his times as chairman of the House Rules Committee," Kemp said.

"Richard has been my friend and colleague, for close to 20 years, as we reflect on his years of service and steady leadership, we ask that all Georgians join us in praying for his loved ones and keeping the Columbus community in your thoughts," he added. Josh McKoon, Georgia Republican Party Chairman, also shared a fond farewell to Smith.

"For two decades, I had the privilege of knowing Richard Smith, and eight of those years were spent side by side in the Columbus legislative delegation. Richard exemplified unwavering dedication in serving Columbus and the great state of Georgia, always with a warm and cheerful demeanor," McKoon said.

"His commitment to the community and the state was matched only by his profound love for his family. Richard leaves behind a legacy of selfless service that will forever be etched in our hearts," the chairman continued.

"In this time of loss, we extend our deepest condolences and mourn the passing of a respected statesman. Above all, Richard was a devoted husband, and his love for his family shone brightly in every aspect of his life," McKoon added.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife, Clara, and their family as they navigate through this difficult time. May the memories of Chairman Smith’s contributions and the warmth of his spirit bring comfort to those who knew him," he concluded.

State Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, who is a Democrat, expressed her sympathy as well. "Chairman Smith was a dedicated public servant, who represented his constituents will in the House for 20 years," Butler said.

He was beloved by his colleagues, and he leaves a lasting mark on the General Assembly. My thoughts today are with his wife Clara, his loved ones, and his House colleagues," she added.

According to a later report by U.S. News and World Reports, Smith died from complications of the flu. His colleagues draped his desk in black on Tuesday, and some meetings were canceled after receiving the news.

Smith was best known among his colleagues for being a straight shooter. "You never had to wonder where he stood with Richard Smith, did you?" GOP House Speaker Jon Burns said.

"He was always honest. But he was a compassionate person about his honesty," Burns, who served with Smith since he took office, added.

While the flu seems like a mundane illness, it can be deadly to those who are elderly or weakened. Smith will be missed in the halls of Georgia government and in his home.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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