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Remembering Georgia House Speaker David Ralston
ATLANTA – Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), 73rd Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, died on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022 following an extended illness. He was 68 years old. His loving wife, Sheree, his children and other members of the family were with him when he passed, a statement said.
Note: Speaker Ralston will lie in state at the Georgia State Capitol for viewing by members of the public from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23. A live stream is available here. The South Parking Deck (at Memorial Drive and Capitol Avenue) will be open to the general public for free parking. Other public memorials will continue through Nov. 27, 2022 in various locations. See below for details.
At the time of his death, Ralston was the longest currently serving state house speaker in the country. He represented Georgia’s 7th House district which includes Fannin and Gilmer counties and a portion of Dawson County. He was also the second-longest serving speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives in state history. He served as an Executive Committee member of the National Speakers Conference, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Southern Legislative Conference.
A lawyer from Blue Ridge in the North Georgia mountains, Ralston spoke earlier this year about his decision to step down as speaker:
“Serving as speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives has been the honor of a lifetime, and I owe a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues for the trust and confidence they placed in me 13 years ago,” Ralston said in a statement. “I need to take time to address a health challenge which has arisen recently, and the House needs a speaker who can devote the necessary time and energy to the office."
A champion for job creation and economic development, Speaker Ralston was a driving force behind many legislative accomplishments such as Georgia’s Transportation Funding Act of 2015 and the state’s first-ever cut to the income tax rate in 2018.
Ralston worked with leaders in both parties to move Georgia forward through bipartisan legislation like Georgia’s comprehensive adoption reform in 2018 and the state’s first-ever paid parental leave policy for state employees and teachers in 2021.
In 2022, Ralston led the fight for historic reform of mental health care in Georgia including Georgia’s Mental Health Parity Act and accompanying funding which addresses access to and delivery of mental health services and treatment options throughout the state.
Born in Ellijay, Ralston was a graduate of Gilmer County High School. He went to Young Harris College and North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia), where he earned his bachelor’s degree with honors. He later received his law degree from the University of Georgia.
With the passing of Speaker David Ralston today, the Georgia Constitution provides that Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones (R-Milton) became the 74th Speaker of the House.
Colleagues remember Ralston
“The State of Georgia has lost one of its greatest leaders with the passing of Speaker David Ralston," Speaker Jones said in a statement. "This is an unfathomable loss and one that leaves a hole in the heart of each and every House member.
"David and I were members of the same freshman class — having both been elected in 2002, and I am proud to have served as Speaker Pro Tempore for thirteen years under his leadership," Jones added. "While I will miss his guidance and advice tremendously — I will miss his friendship more. Whether it was growing jobs and expanding opportunity in rural Georgia or making adoption easier and reforming mental health care in our state, David Ralston spent his career in public service trying to lift others up and move our state forward. He knew the awesome power of bringing people together — reasoning together — and finding common ground. Regardless of political ideology, he treated everyone with respect and was a model of civility.
“We pray for his wife, Sheree, and their entire family at this most difficult time," Jones said. "While our House of Representatives will continue to lead, it will never be the same without Speaker David Ralston.”
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, released the following statement:
“Georgia Democrats join the entire state in mourning Speaker David Ralston. Speaker Ralston was a statesman who led with fairness and honesty, looked for common ground, and always put his commitment to Georgia first. His thoughtful leadership was a constant under the Gold Dome, where he truly embodied our state’s motto: Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.
“Speaker Ralston will be missed dearly – by those who agreed with him, and by those who often didn’t. We offer our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”
Memorial Services for Speaker David Ralston
Public memorial services for Speaker Ralston are as follows:
Tuesday, Nov. 22 and Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022
Speaker Ralston will lie in state at the Georgia State Capitol for viewing by members of the public from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22, and from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Click here to view the live stream.
Georgia State Capitol, 206 Washington Street SW, Atlanta
The South Parking Deck (at Memorial Drive and Capitol Avenue) will be open to the general public for free parking.
Friday, Nov. 25, from 2 to 7 p.m.
Visitation at Logan Funeral Home
Logan Funeral Home, 357 Dalton Street, Ellijay
Saturday, Nov. 26, from 2 to 7 p.m.
Visitation at Akins-Cobb Funeral Home
Akins-Cobb Funeral Home, 7871 Blue Ridge Drive, Blue Ridge
Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m.
Funeral Service at Fannin County High School Performing Arts Center
Fannin County High School Performing Arts Center, 1 Rebel Circle in Blue Ridge
Letters of condolence may be sent to the Office of the Speaker, 332 State Capitol, Atlanta, Georgia 30334.
Speaker Ralston’s full obituary may be found here.
Biographical information pulled from the Georgia General Assembly.