ATLANTA — Long-serving Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson made a farewell address from the Senate floor on Tuesday, ahead of his retirement at the end of the month due to ongoing health issues.
The Republican, who announced his retirement at year's end back in September as he battles Parkinson's disease, delivered his remarks at 2:30 p.m.
The address was followed by a tribute from his fellow senators and a formal tribute by the junior senator from Georgia, Sen. David Perdue, who called it a bittersweet moment.
"It’s bitter because my friend, my mentor, and partner in the United States Senate, Johnny Isakson, is stepping down at the end of this month," Perdue said.
For those of us who know this man, this is tough to come to grips with. I’ll dearly miss him on many levels. I’ll miss having him here in the United States Senate alongside me. I’ll miss his words of wisdom. I’ll miss his patience. Most of all, I think I’ll miss his example.”
Tuesday evening, Isakson tweeted that Christmas came early for him.
"Thanks to my Senate colleagues for an unforgettable afternoon. Our lunch and the remarks so many made today on the Senate floor will be cherished by me, my family, staff and friends. Thank you. It has been an honor of a lifetime," he said.
Isakson has served in the Senate since 2005, completing roughly 15 years in office as a legislator who has gained respect across the political spectrum.
Last month he was honored by Georgia's Congressional Delegation on the U.S. House floor, a moment that included a touching tribute from venerated Atlanta Democrat and Civil Rights leader Rep. John Lewis.
"Sen. Isakson is a special man. He is a good man," Lewis said then. "Time and time again he stood up with his, he worked with us to uplift African Americans in the state of Georgia. I am lucky enough, and just blessed really to call you a friend and a brother."
In September, Isakson spoke with 11Alive's Doug Richards about leaving public life after 45 years of serving Georgia in some capacity, as well as his declining health.
"It’s only a matter of days or months before I can't do some of the things I’m supposed to do," he said.
He promised, however, that he was going to "finish on a high (note)."
On Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp will announce Isakson's replacement. That person, whom the Associated Press has reported will be financial services executive Kelly Loeffler, will serve until a special election in November.
That election will determine who serves out the remaining two years of Isakson's term.
In 2016, Isakson won re-election with 54% of the vote and became the first Republican in Georgia to be elected to a third term in the U.S. Senate. After more than three decades in the real estate business, Isakson became the only elected official in Georgia to serve in the Georgia House, the Georgia Senate, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate.
In a release this week, his office said he had "earned the reputation as a compassionate, honest and bridge-building public servant throughout his long political career" and released a video of colleagues past and present offering their thoughts on his legacy.
“He will always be remembered for honesty and integrity, and setting an example of intellectual honesty for a younger generation of people who are going to be our leaders tomorrow,” former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn, a Democrat, said.