Jack Connell remembered for helping community, others

Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 5:45 PM
Last updated Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 1:29 AM
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Jack Connell was remembered Saturday much the way he lived – with humor and smiles and very few tears.

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The funeral for Jack Connell was held Saturday at St. Paul's Church. Connell, an Augusta native who served more than 30 years in the Georgia Legislature, died Wednesday at the age of 93.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
The funeral for Jack Connell was held Saturday at St. Paul's Church. Connell, an Augusta native who served more than 30 years in the Georgia Legislature, died Wednesday at the age of 93.

Speakers at the funeral for the longtime legislator and businessman who died Wednesday at age 93 recalled his service to Augusta.

“He was a red-blooded Georgia boy of the Greatest Generation,” U.S. District Court Judge Dudley Bowen Jr. told a full sanctuary at St. Paul’s Church. “Jack was a friend to all of us.”

Bowen said Connell showed that a man can do anything if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.

“I think he lived by that,” the judge said.

Connell served 34 years in the Legislature and was speaker pro tempore of the House for 26 years, considered a national record.

Stories of his legislative effectiveness brought laughter from the crowd, including Connell’s favorite legislative advice: “If you’re going to ask for a lot of money, say it fast so it doesn’t sound so much.”

Former state Rep. Terry Cole­man recalled how Con­nell and powerful House Spea­ker Tom Mur­phy would always “joust” in closed-door budget meetings. Murphy, a west Georgia lawyer, would always push the legal position of legislation, Coleman said, while Connell would offer the businessman’s side.

Murphy might appear to win publicly, Coleman said, but Con­nell usually got something for Augusta in the bargain.

“It’s clear to see what Jack did for Augusta and the state,” he said.

State Rep. Calvin Smyre, of Columbus, said he canceled a Saturday appearance in Macon for the honor of attending Connell’s farewell. He called him a great friend and said Con­nell was instrumental in helping him when he first came to the Legislature years ago.

Another former House colleague, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, now a member of Geor­gia’s Public Service Com­mis­sion, sang instead of speaking, offering a solo rendition of the Lord’s Prayer.

While Connell’s lawmaking was commended, he was also warmly remembered for his kindness.

“I never heard him say a bad word about anybody,” friend Hank Garrett said.

He said he used to marvel that Con­nell was a politician who not only kept his phone publicly listed but also would get up from his beloved card games to answer it.

“He would ask one question of the caller: Are you a registered voter?” Garrett remembered. “If the answer was ‘yes,’ the conversation would begin. If they weren’t, the card game would continue.”

Garrett said Connell’s love for golf often did not always yield success. At his 70th birthday party, for example, Connell had received many golf balls, which his friends then threw into his swimming pool because “we wanted them to get used to being wet,” Garrett said.

Many of those golfing friends took part in Satur­day’s service, with about 70 members of the Augusta Golf Association lining the walkway out of the church as honorary pallbearers.

They watched with others as an eight-man Georgia State Patrol honor guard carried Connell’s flag-draped casket from the church and placed it in the bed of a black Ford F150 pickup for a final trip to Summerville Cemetery for burial.

“He didn’t want to go in a hearse,” a funeral attendant said.

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JRC2024 02/10/13 - 09:59 am
Mr. Connell was a good friend

Mr. Connell was a good friend of my father, myself and my wife. He was always happy and helpful. He will be missed by all who knew and did not have the pleasure of knowing him.

L A Williams
L A Williams 02/10/13 - 04:58 pm
Jack Connell worthy gentleman

Jack Connell was a gentleman, and I considered him a friend.

To so very many he was always there to listen and offer help when possible. As a representative, he was willing to lend a helping hand irrespective of position or status.

He was very simply a good hearted man.

He will be missed, and my condolences go out to his family.

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