The extra-long obituary of former Georgia state Rep. Jack Connell in The Augusta Chronicle in February told of his legacy of service to Augusta and Richmond County. He retired in 2002 after he served for 34 years.
However, the full impact of his accomplishments may not be realized or appreciated by many citizens. Many residents will now gain and benefit from Connell’s many years of public service.
As a young man, Jack was a bombardier in the Army Air Force, during World War II. He flew 79 missions and received the Air Medal with the Oak Leaf Cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his crew’s mission over Normandy in World War II.
HIS MULTITUDE of honors and involvements in Augusta and Richmond County, and beyond, clearly show examples of the extent of his positive influences on the city and the surrounding areas, during his long tenure in state government. Now the region, perhaps once considered metro Augusta, is the second-largest city in Georgia. Some may now call for limited terms of office, but evidence of all his positive contributions seems to dispute such a policy. His life achievements of dedicated services chronicle what one man who served for 34 years could do for so many.
Whether for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, or as an advocate for the arts, he supported programs for all – for children, students and the elderly. He received the Courageous Legislator Award for Strength and Commitment, to improve the former Gracewood State School. He also identified funds for many important projects, including for a research center for the Medical College of Georgia, for hospitals and numerous other health-concerned projects and improved conditions for state employees.
Jack Connell was indeed a “jack of all trades.” His efforts improved educational entities such as the former Augusta State University. At one time he owned the minor-league baseball team the Augusta Rams.
HIS LEGACY AS speaker pro tem of Georgia’s House of Representatives for 28 years made him the longest serving pro tem in any state in the United States. In this position, he was the respected leader who often took over at the well to conduct the legislative sessions, at times when the speaker of the House, the famed Tom Murphy, was away. Murphy was known for the many years he served, as the most influential man in Georgia. But Jack Connell also held a most important position, and was a leader in a multitude of ways.
Jack improved and led the way toward the growth of Georgia becoming the most important state in the Southeast. He no doubt aided greatly in making Augusta the second-most important city in Georgia.
We will rarely, if ever, see a man like Jack Connell. Today,
his name may be unknown to many young people in Richmond County and Georgia, but his outstanding record will seldom be equaled. I recall with fond memories Jack, his work and his friendship and that of his lovely wife, Nan.
(The writer is a retired research aide in the Georgia House of Representatives, and currently a freelance writer. She lives in Sandy Springs.)