ATLANTA – Georgia House Speaker and State Representative David Ralston has died. He was 68.
Ralston’s staff on Wednesday confirmed his death from WSB following a prolonged illness.
The news comes after Ralston announced earlier this month that he was stepping down as speaker due to a “health challenge”.
“The House needs a Speaker who can give the office the time and energy it needs,” Ralston said in a statement at the time. “I love the house and want the honorable men and women who serve in it to be successful.”
To this day, Ralston holds the title of longest-serving house speaker in the country.
His political career dates back to 1992, when he was elected to the Georgia Senate, a time when Democrats held a majority in the state legislature.
He first came to power after a scandal involving then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson.
Richardson’s ex-wife said in a television interview that he had an affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist while enforcing legislation that would benefit the utility.
Ralston decided to run against Richardson in 2008, saying internal GOP feuds were keeping the General Assembly from getting things done.
Although he lost that election, it placed Ralston in a position to take over the Chamber after Richardson’s resignation.
He was eventually elected Speaker of Georgia House in 2009 and held that post before resigning in November 2022.
During his tenure as Speaker of the Georgia House, Ralston has survived several revolts over the years from fellow Republicans who wanted the chamber to more aggressively support Conservative legislation.
He also fended off an attempt to be ousted by a group of 10 Republican lawmakers after an investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News found he frequently delayed criminal cases, claiming court dates had interfered with his legislative duties .
Following the news that he was stepping down, Gov. Brian Kemp said Ralston was a great leader for Georgia.
“David Ralston has been a steadfast leader for Georgia throughout his time as Speaker, and our state is better off because of his wisdom and commitment to all Georgians as he guides the House through challenging times,” Kemp said.
Former Governor Nathan Deal called Ralston a personal friend.
“David has been a good, personal friend of mine for more than 40 years,” Deal said. “He was an outstanding leader. His steady hand and leadership helped bring order and efficiency to what can at times be a sluggish and unpredictable body. I could not have asked for a better partner during my tenure as governor.”
Ralston was born in Ellijay and was a graduate of Gilmer County High School. He then attended Young Harris College and North Georgia College (now the University of North Georgia), where he received his bachelor’s degree with honors. He later received his law degree from the University of Georgia.
Ralston is survived by his wife, Sheree, and two children.
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