Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican who succeeded Newt Gingrich in the House of Representatives, and in 15 years in the Senate was a moderate conservative, often championing bipartisan cooperation, until his resignation for health reasons in 2019, died on Sunday at his home in Atlanta. He was 76.
His death was confirmed by the Isakson Initiative, which he founded to raise money for research into neurocognitive diseases. It did not specify a cause, but when he resigned, Senator Isakson had cited progressive Parkinson’s disease and surgery to remove a growth on a kidney.
Mr. Isakson made a fortune as a real estate executive before going into politics at 32. He served 17 years in the Georgia Legislature, lost a race for governor and another to succeed Senator Sam Nunn, a retiring Democrat who had been in office for 25 years. As a consolation, the governor named Mr. Isakson to head the state Board of Education. It seemed his political career was over.
But Mr. Gingrich, the mercurial House speaker from Georgia, was facing a revolt in his caucus over midterm election losses. He resigned as speaker and announced that he would not take his seat for an 11th term starting in January 1999. A month later, Mr. Isakson, well-liked in the state for his legislative and education work, won a special election and took Mr. Gingrich’s seat.
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.
Affirming his growing popularity, Mr. Isakson won re-election to his first full term in 2000 with 75 percent of the vote and his second term in 2002 with 80 percent.
In 2003, another opportunity arose. Senator Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat and former governor, chose not to run for re-election. Mr. Isakson jumped into the race and easily defeated the Democratic candidate, Representative Denise Majette, for a Senate seat.
“Johnny Isakson’s decisive election to the U.S. Senate completes the Republican sweep of Georgia, giving the state two Republican senators for the first time in modern history,” Georgia Trend Magazine said. “Well respected among Democrats and Republicans, cut from the same cloth as …….