Rep. Calvin Smyre remembering Max cleland: A bald black man in Khaki suit next to a short haired white man in a navy suit with a pink tie behind a wooden podium with mic
Rep. Calvin Smyre (left), a Democrat from Columbus, and Rep. Scott Holcomb (right), a Democrat from Atlanta, smile as they share warm memories of former Senator Max Cleland, Nov. 9, 2021. (Screenshot from meeting)

As the Georgia General Assembly began their special session meeting Tuesday, Rep. Scott Holcomb, a Democrat from Atlanta, and Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Democrat from Columbus, led a moment of silence to honor their friend and former colleague, Max Cleland. 

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Cleland, who was 79, passed away in his home Tuesday morning. He served in the Vietnam war, where he sustained injuries that would cost him three of his limbs and received both Bronze and Silver Stars for acts of valor. He went on to serve as a Georgia state senator, the administrator of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a United States senator, and the Georgia secretary of state. 

Holcomb struggled to hold back tears as Smyre gripped his shoulder in support. 

“He lived a life that was not without pain and suffering,” Holcomb said. “That understanding of pain and suffering led him to a life of service, where he wanted to help others, and ease their suffering.” 

Holcomb recalled how at the end of their first conversation, Cleland embraced him and said “I love you, brother. And I’m going to help you.” He ended every conversation from then on with the same remark, Holcomb said. 

Smyre recalled his first time meeting Cleland in 1975, and a recent visit only a few weeks ago, which he said gave him an opportunity to reflect on Cleland’s impact. He said Cleland was a wonderful person and was always full of spirit. 

“He was a great Georgian,” Smyre said.

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