Dean of the House, Rep. Calvin Smyre, says goodbye after 48 years in office
State Rep. Calvin Smyre of Columbus is leaving the Georgia House of Representatives after nearly 48 years of legislative service to the people of Georgia.
Smyre, aka the Dean of the Georgia House of Representatives, has partaken in his last Sine Die under the Gold Dome and is headed to an Ambassadorship role with the Dominican Republic after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
During his 49 years in office the soft-spoken and humble Smyre was famous for working across the aisle to get important things done. He has been part of many of the state’s major advancements for almost five decades including the HOPE scholarship, building the Georgia Dome, establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday, placing King’s statue on the state Capitol’s grounds, and overhauling the state’s citizen’s arrest statute and passing a hate crimes law.
During his tenure, Smyre has often quoted the late Gov. Zell Miller, who he counted as a friend, when he reflects on how far he’s come in his life. “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post, you know he or she didn’t get there by themselves, somebody had to put them there,” he said. “That’s where I am in my career. I didn’t get here alone.”
Smyre’s first campaign manager Bennie Newroth says he represents the first of many things. He was the first lawmaker to represent his newly drawn Columbus district in 1974. He was the first Black legislator to serve as a governor’s floor leader in the House when Joe Frank Harris picked him for the job. And he was the first Black person to lead the Democratic Party of Georgia.
Gov. Brian Kemp called Smyre an unmatched statesman who’s worked to make Georgia a better place.
“Calvin’s passion for public service and his love for the Columbus community and our state will be missed at the Georgia state Capitol, but we know he will bring that same spirit of dedication and leadership in service to our nation,” Kemp said.
The son of a U.S. Army officer and homemaker mother, Smyre was born at Fort Benning and moved from base to base. He spent the bulk of his high school years in Germany before returning to Georgia to attend Fort Valley State College where he joined Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. Smyre married while he was in college, divorced in 1970, and never remarried.
Smyre serves as the chairman of the board of the Fort Valley State University Foundation and recently retired from Synovus Bank after serving as executive vice president of corporate external affairs and president of the Synovus Foundation.
As he leaves the institution where he has spent nearly 50 years for the Dominican Republic, Smyre says life is about doing the work for the ones you leave behind. “My motto and my mantra has been always to plant seeds to trees for the shade you may never see. If you think of it in those terms, you’re not thinking for the moment, you think for the future.”