Sen. Jack Hill, one of the longest-serving members of the General Assembly, who led efforts in the Senate to draft the state’s annual budget since 2003, died on Monday. He was 75.
Hill was found deceased at his office Monday evening, said Tattnall County Sheriff Kyle Sapp. Authorities do not suspect foul play or that his death was in any way related to coronavirus.
Hill’s death was confirmed by multiple state officials Monday night including Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston.
Hill, R-Reidsville, was among the longest serving lawmakers in the General Assembly at the time of his passing. He was also one of the legislature’s most influential members, tasked with overseeing lengthy and often testy negotiations each year of the state budget as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Words of praise and mourning poured from Hill’s colleagues at the state Capitol Monday night, shortly after Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan announced Hill’s passing in a message on Twitter sent around 7:15 p.m.
“For three decades, Georgians have benefited from his leadership and his calm and steady hand at the helm,” Duncan said in a statement. “He exhibited all the characteristics we hope for in a leader and was a true friend to all. Jack always ensured we were good stewards of taxpayer dollars, but it was more than that, he led with kindness and clarity.”
Hill was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1990 and switched to the Republican Party in 2002. He was a grocer from rural Reidsville in Southeast Georgia and formerly chaired the Tattnall County Development Authority.
Hill was in the middle of complicated budget preparations that already involved challenging spending cuts before coronavirus hit Georgia on its pandemic march across the world. Lawmakers, especially Hill, were poised to reconvene in the near future for budget overhauling to account for the devastating economic impacts the virus is causing.
Kemp, in remarks on Twitter, called Hill “a gentle giant” who “was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I ever served with.”
“His loss is devastating to our state, but he leaves behind an unmatched legacy of hard work and public service,” the governor said. “Please pray for his loved ones, colleagues and community.”
Ralston, the House speaker, described Hill as “one of the finest public servants I have known.”
“Quiet, studious, thorough, he exemplified the best in a leader,” said Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “Senator Hill served with integrity. Georgia has lost one of its finest and I have lost a friend and a mentor.”