ATLANTA – Georgia is mourning the loss of David Ralston, long-time Speaker of Georgia’s House of Representatives, who passed away from an extended illness. The death of Speaker Ralston, (R-Blue Ridge), comes just 12 days following his announcement that he would not seek nomination for another term as Speaker, citing a “health challenge.” Ralston was 68.
Ralston had announced on Nov. 4 that he planned to serve the remainder of his term as Speaker, which ends in January 2023, and his term as state representative for the 2023-2024 legislative term. He ran unopposed for re-election on Nov. 8.
“Serving as Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives has been the honor of a lifetime, and I owe a heartfelt thank you to my colleagues for the trust and confidence they placed in me thirteen years ago,” Ralston said in his announcement. “I need to take time to address a health challenge which has arisen recently, and the House needs a Speaker who can devote the necessary time and energy to the office. I love the House and want to see the honorable men and women who serve in it succeed. I will work the remainder of my term as Speaker to ensure a smooth transition for my successor.”
Ralston, who was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2002, had served as Georgia’s 73 speaker since 2010. Prior to that, Ralston served in the Georgia State Senate from 1992 to 1998.
Ralston earned the distinction as the second-longest serving Speaker in Georgia’s history and the longest, tenured House Speaker in the country before his death.
Ralston championed legislation that granted state employees three weeks of paid parental leave and comprehensive adoption reform. He also pushed for the state’s appeal of the Citizen’s Arrest law and new hate crimes legislation after the death of Ahmaud Arbery in 2020.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens issued the following statement:
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.
“We were aligned on many issues that affected the lives of Atlantans. And when we were not, I could always count on the Speaker to be open to differing points of view. He and I shared a commitment to drawing circles of inclusion, rather than lines of exclusion, even when it meant crossing party lines.
“Speaker Ralston was a wise and fair leader, whose love for Georgia was immense. He was a valued and vocal partner for us as we fought to keep Atlanta whole. And he is leaving some mighty big shoes to fill under the Gold Dome.
“On behalf of the City of Atlanta, I offer my condolences to his loved ones. Rest easy, my friend.”
The Atlanta City Council released the following statement regarding Speaker Ralston:
“We offer our prayers and condolences to the colleagues, friends, and family of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston. Georgia will remember him for his ability to reach across the aisle and mend the discussions between opposing parties so that all Georgians may benefit from bipartisan legislation. He was a committed leader that supported the expansion of mental health services, adoption reform, and substance abuse treatment. We join everyone in remembering and saluting David Ralston.”
State Rep. Jon Burns (R-Newington) called Ralston a “fiercely loyal” friend and a “titan” in the political world.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Speaker David Ralston. Georgia has lost a titan of our political world, and, more importantly, I have lost a dear friend. As a leader, Speaker Ralston was selfless and brave – always willing to place the good of Georgians ahead of his own personal gain,” Burns said in a statement. “As a friend, he was fiercely loyal – always willing to provide wise counsel and support. Our state will miss him greatly. I will miss him always.”
Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer issued the following statement:
“We were so sorry to learn about the passing of Speaker David Ralston. David was a stalwart Republican who served in the State Senate, carried our banner as a candidate for Attorney General and led the House of Representatives as Speaker.
I was privileged to serve with David in the General Assembly. He gets too little credit for his leadership on conservative issues, particularly in the areas of protecting life and securing our Second Amendment rights.
Sheree, his children and all those who were blessed to know him are in our prayers. He will be long remembered and greatly missed.”
Ralston lived in Blue Ridge with his wife, Sheree, where he was an attorney.