The End of an Era

There will not be another Tommy Irvin for quite sometime – if ever in Georgia. Irvin’s retirement at the end of his current term is not a surprise; we all knew he did not qualify to run for reelection several weeks ago. This past Sunday, The Macon Telegraph featured a nice write-up covering his career.

Georgia politicians come and go, but for more than four decades Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin has remained.

He’s a walking 6-foot-5-inch storybook of Southern farming and politics. He was born to sharecroppers who bartered for what they couldn’t produce, yet he regulated the massive industrial farms that make Georgia agriculture a $7 billion industry. The 80-year-old remained a loyal Democrat even as his party fractured over civil rights and Republicans swept into power.

 Like him or not, there is one thing you can say about Commissioner Irvin – he has stayed put. This is why I say there will not be another Tommy Irvin. So many of our politicians today seem to be seeking office wishing to use that office as a springboard to a future, higher position. The general age of the average politician makes it nearly improbable for them to serve in a statewide position for so long as well. Irvin spent 42 years as Commissioner of Agriculture – that means he was there nearly two decades before I was born.

 Looking at the bigger picture, things in Georgia have changed significantly since days of yore. No longer do we have Senators like Walter F. George, Dick Russell, Sam Nunn, and Herman Talmadge – who, like them or hate them, staid in office for nearly three decades each. (Nearly four for Russell) I have a great bit of respect for most of the candidates running this cycle, both Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian – but I just do not see many of them becoming an institution like these men did and like Irvin did. I think Gary Black will likely  be our next Commissioner of Agriculture and I am positive that he will do a great job for the people and farmers of this great state. But I just do not see him, nor Carter or Powell, as having the staying power of Tommy Irvin. But what do I know, I’m just a low grade political junkie.


  1. MSBassSinger says:

    Good article, and I do not disagree with it.

    However, the correct word is “stayed”, not “staid”.

    For some reason, misuse of words like “loose” when it should be “lose” bugs me. Perhaps I require medication…

  2. Samuel says:

    Wait a second…..”staid” could be correct usage….meaning “sober or sedate”….naaaagh…..those guys were neither sober nor sedate….OK….so stayed it is!

  3. slyram says:

    Ron, you are right. I was an ag congressional staffer most of the time on the Hill and he protected and promote Georgia’s number industry well. At a USDA conference in Albany earlier this year, Irwin was still on the cutting edge with ag advancements and the importance of a safe affordable food supply as well as new energy sources.

  4. polisavvy says:

    That was a wonderful article/tribute to a fantastic man. He’s served Georgia extremely well!

  5. Buzzfan says:

    Gonna be weird seein’ somebody else’s name on those stickers on the gas pumps.

    Enjoy your retirement, Tommy! Thank you for your service.

  6. Game Fan says:

    Good article. And GAME FAN is gonna go fer the farthest thing from a corporate lobbyist for agribusiness as he can find, Democrat or Republican. With Commissioner of Ag, as many will remember I supported Irvin back in ’06(??)

  7. Glen Ross says:

    Great article on Commissioner Irvin. Whoever replaces him has some big shoes to fill.

    “So many of our politicians today seem to be seeking office wishing to use that office as a springboard to a future, higher position.”

    It does seem that the worst politicians tend to be the most upwardly mobile. An individual’s desire to hold a public office is often negatively correlated with their qualifications or abilities for said office.

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