Hugh Gillis, Georgia’s longest-serving lawmaker, has died

State Sen. Hugh Gillis holds up his right hand as he takes the oath of office along with the rest of the members of the state Senate were sworn into office in 2000, his 52nd year in the Legislature. AJC file.

State Sen. Hugh Gillis holds up his right hand as he takes the oath of office along with the rest of the members of the state Senate were sworn into office in 2000, his 52nd year in the Legislature. AJC file.

Former House Democratic leader DuBose Porter sends word that Hugh Gillis, who before his retirement had become the longest-serving member of the General Assembly, has died.

For decades stretching back to the Great Depression, the Gillis family epitomized rural power in Georgia. Hugh Gill’s father headed up the state’s road-building authority. Hugh Gillis served 56 years in the Legislature – first in the House and then in the Senate. It was a career that began when Democrats, led by Eugene Talmadge, ruled the state, and ended in 2004 after the Republican era spear-headed by Sonny Perdue.

From the entry in the Georgia Encyclopedia, which puts Gillis’ birth in 1918 – which would have made him 94 at his death:

Gillis first served in the House of Representatives from 1941 through 1944, then served eight more years from 1949 to 1956. “When I first came in ‘41, I was right out of college,” he said. “Back then the governor ran most everything and if you didn’t agree with the governor’s program, you were on the outside looking in. I found out right quick that was not the thing to do.” He served a two-year senate term for 1957-58, then was reelected to the senate in 1962—winning a legislative seat he would hold for the next forty-two years.

…Gillis is the only lawmaker who voted on both landmark bills to change the state flag—in 1956, when the Confederate battle emblem was added to the design, and in 2001, when the Confederate version of the flag was replaced by the blue version. He voted both times in favor of the Confederate version of the flag.

Porter said that Gillis’ health had been good until lately. But he confirmed something that former Gov. Zell Miller had mentioned a few months ago – that a bout with shingles had robbed the former Senate president pro tem of his sight.

A full obituary, with funeral details, can be found here.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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42 comments Add your comment

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

January 1st, 2013
5:58 pm

Gillis was a classic rural Democrat…….He voted both times in favor of the Confederate version of the flag.

Kinda lays waste to the democrat claim that Republicans were the racists.

Bubba

January 1st, 2013
6:03 pm

Thanks for noting the passing of a legend. But don’t forget that he was a successor to his father and grandfather. Hugh’s grandfather, Senator Neil Gillis, Sr., played a crucial role in the founding of Treutlen County in 1917 and in development of the forestry industry in Georgia. Hugh’s father, Jim Gillis, served as state senator and Georgia’s first highway commissioner. For years the stub of I-16 ended near Jim Gillis’s Soperton home so it was referred to as “Jim Gillis’s driveway.” The passing of Hugh Gillis marks the end of both an era and a dynasty, except that Hugh’s son Donald is a Superior Court judge appointed by Gov. Perdue.

William Ray

January 1st, 2013
6:03 pm

He was a gentleman and a true Georgia leader. Although politics took a turn to nasty all around him in his latter years, Senator Gillis never did. It was a pleasure and honor to have known him.

Emfinger

January 1st, 2013
6:04 pm

No, you are all bigots! Now go put on your robe.

james

January 1st, 2013
6:11 pm

For the democrats wanting to play the racist card, just remember Lincoln was a Republican

Cathy Cox

January 1st, 2013
6:31 pm

Hugh Gillis was one of the greatest gentlemen who ever served this state. He was a true public servant, humble, hard-working and dedicated to the state of Georgia.

Vashtai

January 1st, 2013
6:44 pm

When LBJ passed civil rights and voting reform, he noted at the time that “we’ve lost the south for a generation.” It’s been a mighty long generation…

Dan Deacon

January 1st, 2013
6:47 pm

Hugh Gillis was one of the most distinguished gentlemen around in our lifetime. He served his country & the citizens of our state with conviction for what was right. If anyone can step up to the plate and present a record of his accomplishments and contributions made to the state of Georgia, then by all means come forward. That would be extremely hard to do. Major contributions through his dedicated work toward agriculture, infrastructure and education, especially colleges, throughout rural Georgia were achieved. 56 years of his life was dedicated to helping others through his public service.

Don’t dare call him a racist, it only shows your ignorance…..he appointed more blacks during civil rights days than all the governors combined. He was a man of integrity and fought for what was right…not politically correct. Citizens he represented to this day are recipients being rewarded by efforts of the honorable Senator Hugh Gillis. His dignified and honorable legacy will live on forever and never be forgotten. If we only had legislators today that worked as hard as he did, just imagine what could be accomplished.

Real Athens

January 1st, 2013
7:01 pm

“Kinda lays waste to the democrat claim that Republicans were the racists”

But then you uphold the new stereotype everyday on these blogs.

Buck Farrack

January 1st, 2013
7:01 pm

My Ancestors Are Slaves, Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them. SPIKE LEE

uuuuhhh, ole Spikey, your ancestors were sold into slavery by your other ancestors, not stolen, lol!

Bobby

January 1st, 2013
7:50 pm

The support of the 1956 Confederate emblem in the State flag does not make one racist. Nor does it absolve modern day Republicans who are racist even if they hide behind the American flag now instead of the Confederate.

Sparta_Bubba

January 1st, 2013
8:00 pm

Aesop keep in mind most racist Democrats are now Republicans. According to Strom Thurmond, Sonny Perdue and most other “party switchers” they became Republicans when “the Democratic party left them.” In other words the Democratic party dropped the mantle of racism and the Republican party picked it up and ran with it. Look up Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and check out Goldwater’s presidential run. Democratic President Lyndon Johnson was correct when after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act he stated “I fear we have lost the South for a century.” He was correct, the Republicans couldn’t wait.

What T F?

January 1st, 2013
8:01 pm

Why isnt the christian cross considered a racist hate symbol, since in reality, it is the Klans greatest symbol? The one they burn in peoples yards to frighten and scare. Guilt by assocaition must also apply to Ole Glory as well as the Christian cross. Google Klan carrying US Flag, you will see millions of klansmen marching in DC carrying nothing but ole glory and many other such pics. Yep, lets change ole glory. Lets take down that hate symbol over all these christian churches while were at it.

Old Violin

January 1st, 2013
8:04 pm

Mr. Hugh was well known as a tough politician, with more clout than anyone else in the capitol, but to me he was a neighbor who lived just up the road, who spoke to everyone who approached him and although he wasn’t a close personal friend, he was a friend. His family still commands alot of respect in the Treutlen County area, and deservingly so. My thoughts and prayers are with the family, and R.I.P. Mr. Hugh !

What T F?

January 1st, 2013
8:04 pm

Go to this link, then scroll to the bottom. There is YOUR TRUE hate symbols, guilt by association.

http://www.pointsouth.com/csanet/kkk.htm

Travis McGee

January 1st, 2013
8:26 pm

@james — Lincoln was indeed a Republican and so were those who gave the south Reconstruction — a travesty and scourge!

Travis McGee

January 1st, 2013
8:28 pm

@Sparta_Bubba: Yours was an excellent post.

Jill Stuckey

January 1st, 2013
8:42 pm

The Senator did so much good for so many people, this state is a much better place thanks to him and his family. My thoughts and prayers are with those that loved him.
My friend I will miss you.

Susan Peebles

January 1st, 2013
8:52 pm

Senator Gillis was a true statesman committed to the well being of Georgia and its constituents. Thank you Senator Gillis for your service to our state. R.I.P.

Ray

January 1st, 2013
8:58 pm

I served as a page for Sen. Gillis when I was in elementary school. My stepfather knew him well as he had served in the legislature from Laurens County and became friends with Sen Gillis. He was a fine man.

Truth-O-Meter

January 1st, 2013
9:04 pm

Farrack @ 7:01
It is often an attempt of some who want to negate the horrors of slavery in America to paint other Blacks as complicit. Yes, many Africans were sold into slavery by other Africans. It was customary to sell ones enemy into servitude, especially after a war. However, what those Africans had no idea was that the slave traders would not release those Africans as was done after a period of time in Africa. So it may be factual that some Africans participated in the trade, one should never believe that they did so knowing of the torture those poor souls would face once in a foreign land.

Even the Bible has accounts of captured enemies being place into servitude but later released during a period called “Jubliee.”

Truth-O-Meter

January 1st, 2013
9:24 pm

My condolences to the family of Mr. Gillis. I attended college with persons from the Soperton area. They were all proud of the distinction the Gillis family gave to their community.

jd

January 1st, 2013
9:27 pm

@Buck…got it wrong son. You need to re-read the (his)tory book. You probably got your information from good ole boy Rush…you know the drug addict…….so your assignment is to figure out why African battle victors sold the captured battle losers. And….please don’t make stupid statements!

John Hall

January 1st, 2013
9:27 pm

The 1956 Georgia Flag was an honorable symbol and it is a shame scalawag politicians changed it. There is no honor in turning your back on your own people. Shame on all that changed it. May dixy rise again and throw off the shackles of federal tyranny.

Trey Kennedy

January 1st, 2013
9:35 pm

One of the biggest problems with the world today is ignorant people. That’s why we have Obama for 4 more years. It really disturbs me when ignorant people make rude comments about a man who just passed away who they didn’t even know. Senator Huge was is the House of Representatives when Pearl Harbor was bombed!!!! Very few living people could have possibly live through what he has lived through.

Apology for Morons

January 1st, 2013
9:51 pm

May I apologize for the couple of low classed morons here who disrespected the death of a great man.

Trey Kennedy

January 1st, 2013
9:54 pm

IContinued:

What he has lived through. Anyway, I went to work as forester for his family’s company Gillis Ag & Timber Inc in 2002. I worked for his son Hugh Jr and grandson Ben until I decided to leave in 2007. Probably one the biggest mistakes I ever made because the Gillis organization both family and employees all treat each other like family. Any one of them will give you the shirt off of their back. I have never worked with better people. So, in 2011 I ask for my job back and they let me come back like nothing had ever happened. Since then, the economy has made it very hard to conduct profitable business and they have been very patient with me trying make ends meet. I could go on and on telling everybody how good the Gillis family’s is but I will just end by saying I am very sorry for the Gillis family’s loss and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.

George Hooks

January 1st, 2013
10:02 pm

Sen. Hugh Gillis was one of Georgia’s finest. He a true gentleman. Georgia is a better state because he gave his life in public service. A giant oak & Christian gentleman, has fallen. We are all better because of his life. MR. HUGH, all of the senate loved you.

mike

January 1st, 2013
10:12 pm

A good article reflecting on this man’s life and the only thing the idiots of Georgia can do is bring up that stupid flag mess, President Obama, who sold who into slavery which the good school book makers have been trying to rewrite slave history anyway. No wonder this state is so far down on the list when it comes to education and economics. More bank failures than any other state. The man did a lot for his district over the years. Try giving the man some credit in his death. What have you morons done other than go out and buy guns after this lastest shooting of children.

Cyndi Williams

January 1st, 2013
10:14 pm

Sen. Gillis hired me and I was so fortunate to have worked for him. I will never forget the many stories he told…He could of written a book. My heart is broken but I know his former senate friends/family welcomed him with open arms. I’m sure they are sharing many stories now. Praying for Montez & family…

gim

January 1st, 2013
10:20 pm

The murders of Julie Love, Eugenia Calle, Eve Carson, Jennifer Ross, Brittnay Fox, etc, by African American Diversity absolves all those who love the Confederate flag and what it stands for.

Until we can have back our White girls murdered by the blacks, the Confederate flag grows in esteem every day.

“As bad as racism is, Diversity is worse.”

Senate girl

January 1st, 2013
10:29 pm

Jim,
PLEASE remove these very disrespectful post that have nothing to do with this great man. It’s not the time nor the place. Anyone using this to post about politics/racism must not have known Sen. Gillis or his family. VERY INAPPROPRIATE!!!!

GIM – **Fyi -Gillis made his money from Gillis, Ag & Timber!! Do your research before you comment here. The Gillis family made their name long before the legislature!!

Doug

January 1st, 2013
11:10 pm

Honestly, some of you folks need to slip back into your bog.

Bill

January 1st, 2013
11:58 pm

I’m proud to call Hugh, Jim and Neil cousins (We’re all decended from Rachel Gillis). I’m reminded by some of these posts of a comment made to me in 1970 when I was serving in the Air Force. A fellow airman said to me, “I hate all Southerners becaused they are prejudiced.” I simply looked at him and could think of no answer to this truly stupid remark. In any event, I have personally witnessed the hard work that members of my family have done to further understanding and fair treatment for all. Even for those who continue to hate for no reason other than they are hateful people.

Terry Lawler

January 2nd, 2013
1:13 am

Senator Gillis was always a gentleman, even if he had a differing viewpoint on an issue. He came, as you noted, from a long line of politically powerful relatives, but you would never have known it if you met him. Another of our selfless political figures has left us, but we are better off because of his contributions. I was honored to have served with him and to call him a friend. My condolences to the whole Gillis family.

partlycloudy

January 2nd, 2013
5:09 am

Ah yes, the good old boy network and the county unit system. I used to get so mad that the Gillis family had I-16 end at Soperton for many years. The reason: people would stop and get gas, and go to Sweat’s BBQ before heading to Atlanta or Savannah. This went on for years. My dogs and cats always got some BBQ at Sweat’s.

joe

January 2nd, 2013
6:49 am

Bobby Reeves

January 2nd, 2013
7:11 am

One of Georgia’s tallest pines has fallen. Hugh Gillis was a wonderful and down to earth person who always had time for everyone. His contributions to our state are many. I was proud to have him as my state senator for many years and was proud to call him friend.
He lived his obituary every day. I will remember him fondly. (And by the way, contrary to current popular opinion, there is nothing evil or wrong about being successful in business.)

Beth English

January 2nd, 2013
8:44 am

Senator Gillis was a special gentleman with a soft spot for children and adults with disabilities. We could always count on his support. He was wise and diplomatic. This state has lost a legend.

Road Scholar

January 2nd, 2013
8:55 am

I did not know Mr Gillis, but from the heart felt memories and praise for this gentleman contained here, it is apparent that he did much good for his family, county and state.

I wish that other persons who have shown no class in their posts would look up the definition of “gentleman” and try to be one! In the south, if you have nothing good to say about a fallen citizen, then don’t say anything at all. Where were you when your mommas nurtured you? To the naysayers, your mommas must be proud!

To the Gillis family and friends, I apologize for calling out the rude fools posted here and hope that your memories provide you some relief from losing a dear friend. Peace!

Ron Fennel

January 2nd, 2013
10:25 am

Georgia has lost a true gentleman of the Old South. He was quietly effective at representing his area, but was always focused on the state’s interests and largest industry: agribusiness. His family has a long history of public service to Georgia and the incredible tenure of this one man will never be eclipsed. He saw and participated in much of Georgia’s modern history, both good and bad. Whether you cared for his political perspective or not, you could not ignore his influence in the Senate. Hugh Gillis, among the tallest of Georgia pines, has fallen among the forests he so loved. Thanks for giving this young buck some very helpful political lessons along the way. Rest in peace, old friend!

Buddy DeLoach

January 2nd, 2013
7:26 pm

Hugh Gillis was always a gentlemen, always honest, always helpful, always kind. Someone once said, “What a GOD that could make such a man.” He was kind to me from my first day in the General Assembly until the day we departed together. He was a true master of the legislative process and wiling to share his knowledge with new members. I’ll never forget watching Mr Speaker Murphy and Sen Gellis together on Sun evenings. They had so much respect for each other because they both could see so far down the road. My life is better because some of it was spent with Hugh Gillis.