Tom Mishou dies of cancer

Sometimes the best contacts are the ones you rarely mention. By a data base count, I quoted Tom Mishou only five times in 25 years.

I’d known him since he ran Cobb County’s public defender program in the early ‘80s. The last time I put his name in print was in 2007, after he’d thrown off politics to become a private contractor in Iraq. He called himself a “combat bureaucrat.”

“War creates a lot of paper work and I’m currently working in ‘document control.’ I expect to move through a few bases while I stay in-country, so I don’t want to get too settled in, ” Mishou wrote from the “general area” of Mosul. “We take in-coming mortar fire virtually every night. The nearest bunker is 12 paces away. I can make it in three.”

Mishou, a Democrat, served around the state Capitol for a number of years in the Secretary of State’s office, first under Max Cleland, Lewis Massey, then under Cathy Cox, for whom he served as boxing commissioner.

He died Monday morning, after a brief bout with cancer that caught me — and many others — by surprise.

Tom Crawford at Capitol Impact, an old Constitution hand, says a memorial service for Mishou will come sometime in September or October. He adds the following:

As a key political aide to secretaries of state Max Cleland and Cathy Cox, he was the person to see if you needed to get copies of public records involving the agency.

He also had an amazing memory of politicians and election campaigns, both here and in his home state of Minnesota (where he was a high school classmate of one Jim Janos, a hard-assed Navy Seal who later became better known as professional wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura). I spent many hours in Mishou’s tiny capitol office discussing the latest gossip or laughing over the remembered antics of some politico.

He also took on the tasks of serving as state boxing commissioner and executive director of the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission, the agency established by the General Assembly to regulate ticket brokering firms after ticket scalping was legalized….

While on assignment in Iraq, Mishou suffered a heart attack and had to return to the United States for heart surgery. The last time I saw him on a capitol visit a few months ago, I almost didn’t recognize him. He had dropped a lot of weight after the surgery and was sporting a buzz cut instead of his flowing grey hair. But he still had that wicked sense of humor and love of politics that had made him part of the community.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

9 comments Add your comment

Goldie Taylor

August 24th, 2009
6:14 pm

My breathe fell out of my mouth when I read this. The world is a better place because Tom stopped by for a little while. I hope he’ll say hello to Terrell Slayton for me when he gets to Heaven.

Wendy Davis

August 24th, 2009
6:19 pm

What was so terrific about Tom was his eagerness to share his love of politics with others. He had a gift for sharing his wisdom without making the listener feel less wise. He was a true public servant, and he will be missed by all who knew him!

Marcie Hascall Clark

August 24th, 2009
6:59 pm

Very sorry to learn of his passing.
Many civilian contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to toxins causing rapid onset cancers. Might also have contributed to the heart attack.

Jims Marsall

August 24th, 2009
7:46 pm

Tom Mishou? Who? He called himself a “combat bureaucrat” I’m lost here, he was a good/great person how? Are bureaucrats a huge part of the problem in both state & federal government?


August 25th, 2009
9:45 am

Farewell to a good man….


August 25th, 2009
10:25 am

Enter your comments here

brian young

August 25th, 2009
2:31 pm

I had the pleasure of working with Tom on several occasions and he was so easy to work with and a pleasure to be around. I am shocked and saddened on the news of his passing. May God bless him and he rest in peace. Everyone at Prize Fight will miss him. We should have more like him.

Chuck Scheid

August 26th, 2009
11:04 am

I met Tom as a Freshman legislator. He always had a vast knowledge of the history of the issues and was a good and funny teacher on them. We enjoyed the banter on the Capitol issues. His link to boxing was a surprise to me when he got the position, but I knew he would do a great job for the State. I shall miss him.

Gail Buckner

August 31st, 2009
1:56 pm

I spoke with Tom along the Cobb County July 4th parade route. He clearly wasn’t well, but we talked about him coming back to the Secretary of State’s Office. He said he would work on a transition team. So now I know what he meant- he’ll be the guardian angel watching over all of us!