Stroke keeps quiet grip on ex-lawmaker

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ATLANTA - Former Georgia House of Representatives speaker Tom Murphy is spending his retirement at home in Bremen, where he is recovering from a stroke.

Mr. Murphy, a Democrat, lost his 22nd run for the House in November 2002. He had presided over the House since 1974 and still holds the title of the nation's longest serving speaker of a state legislature.

Mr. Murphy, an attorney, had planned to have more time for his practice in Bremen and his vegetable garden when he left the Legislature.

But he suffered a stroke 10 months after the House came under Republican control in 2004.

Now 83, Mr. Murphy spends his time at home and rarely speaks. It's a change for Mr. Murphy, who once used his words to manage the often rowdy Georgia House.

"A lot of things are worse than death and this is one of them," said former Rep. Bill Lee, Mr. Murphy's friend of nearly four decades.

Mr. Lee visits as often as he can and the one-sided talk is mostly about University of Georgia football, the weather and family.

"His eyes perk up. You can tell he's grasping everything," Mr. Lee said.

Butch Benefield, the retired trooper who drove and protected Mr. Murphy for 27 years, says he tells the man who is still called "Mr. Speaker" how much he's missed and catches him up on the latest gossip of those Mr. Murphy knew in his political life.

"He tries to talk," Mr. Benefield said. "And every now and then he'll get out a word."


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