Credit: GPB's Lawmakers

In a one-on-one interview with GPB Lawmakers host Donna Lowry, Rep. Calvin Smyre, known by members as “Dean of the House” because of his long tenure in the state House of Representatives, talked about his journey from a young leader of a grassroots organization to a longstanding House leader.  

WATCH: The full interview on Lawmakers

"I had an organization called LOTT: Leaders of Today and Tomorrow," Smyre recalls. "I found the best, brightest, young people I could, about 20-25 of us. I wanted to meet with the leaders of today, and we were going to be the leaders of tomorrow."   

But Smyre says that it was one relationship in particular that ultimately convinced him to jump into the public arena.  

"My mentor, the late A.J. McClung, who was vice mayor of Columbus and a person who I admired immensely, called me to his house, and said that you ought to run for office," he recalled. "'You started community service. You started this public service working in the community. What do you think politics is? Public service.' I thought about it, and thus my candidacy was born." 

Smyre also highlighted the mentors and relationships that led to him becoming the youngest representative to be elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1974.  

"Hosea Williams said 'If you get into politics, make sure you look at it through a knothole. You get inside the ball game to see what the players and managers are doing.' That was a good lesson from the late Hosea Williams."   

Smyre attributes his success in serving under both Democrat and Republican leadership to having good relationships and maintaining his focus to serve the people. 

He says it was “tolerance of how other people thought, and be open to other ideas, and to other people's opinions" that was key.

“The more you let come to you, the more you can talk about things," he said. "My career has been that way from day one. I always felt that tolerance would be a part of my M.O. I've tried to do that my entire 48-year career."


An earlier headline for this story read “Lawmakers: On Day 34, Rep. Calvin 'The Dean' Smyre reflects on nearly 40 years in the House.”