Former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson dead at 76

Former Georgia Republican Sen, Johnny Isakson died Sunday at the age of 76, prompting politicians from both sides of aisle to praise his legacy.

Isakson’s death was announced by the The Isakson Initiative, a nonprofit that Isakson founded to raise awareness and funding for research related to neurocognitive diseases.

The former senator himself had battled Parkinson’s disease for years, though a cause of death was not specified.

Decades ago, Isakson served in the Georgia Air National Guard before enjoying a successful real estate career, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Isakson, who was a member of the Georgia legislature for 17 years, won election in 1999 to the House seat vacated by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

According to The New York Times: “In the House, Mr. Isakson joined the education committee and became a strong advocate of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which required states to test all elementary and high school students and close gaps in reading and math achievement. He was photographed with the president in the Oval Office and aboard Air Force One, and was soon a national notable.”

Then in 2004, he ran for Senate and won. Isakson served in the Senate until he retired in 2019, citing health reasons.

Isakson opposed gay marriage, abortion and the Affordable Care Act, but he earned a reputation as a well-liked deal-maker who could drive both sides to compromise.

Democrats and Republicans, including current members of the Senate, mourned Isakson’s passing:

“If you had a vote in the Senate on who’s the most respected and well-liked member, Johnny would win probably 100 to nothing,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was close to Isakson, told The AJC in 2019. “His demeanor is quite different from what most people expect of politicians.”

Isakson was survived by his wife and three children.