On April 6, Sen. Jack Hill left this world for his eternal home. He leaves behind him a legacy anyone would envy -- three wonderful children, a wife of 48 years, seven grandchildren, two sisters, and two sisters-in-law.
Each week for the past 831 consecutive weeks, Jack published a column to keep those in the 4th Senate District “in the know” on state happenings. The truth is, Jack’s column became more than a weekly herald to those he humbly represented; his powerful position as our Senate’s Appropriation Chairman and the broker of countless deals to serve all Georgians made his column a “must read” to all in Georgia politics. Jack used this column to inform, share facts, and give a glimpse on the path ahead. He was a trusted source and a tried-and-true friend. In 16 years, Jack never missed a column.
Over the course of his Senate career, he published over 1,500 of these columns to our area and our state. We found it fitting to complete his last column, in words of legendary Coach Erk Russell, just one more time.
This week, Chairman Hill would likely have shared that March net state revenues were up 9.8% or $163.4 million. He would have likely pointed out, while impressive, that figure was somewhat a mixed bag. Individual Income Tax collections made the bulk of that gain ($197.5 million, +25.5%), while Net Sales and Use Tax saw a slight tumble (-$11.4 million, -2.4%). Since Individual Income Tax collections grow during times of increased wages and new employment, Chairman Hill would likely say COVID-19’s effect on this figure could be substantial in the coming months. After softly feeding us this hard truth, Jack would likely give us a silver lining -- a high note to end on. Perhaps the state’s passage this year of the marketplace facilitator bill, which requires internet markets to collect Georgia sales tax just like our brick and mortar stores, could create revenue necessary to offset some losses experienced during this time of crisis. Chairman Hill always used this column to point toward optimism even when the days did not seem very bright.
To end this 832nd edition, we turned to those House members and Senators who teamed with him to represent our area. We all held Jack Hill in the highest esteem. His shoes are too big to fill. So instead of trying to fill his shoes, we choose to leave a monument — a monument to a servant who placed others before himself, who served Southeast Georgia and our state with a measure few will ever know, to a husband, a father, a brother, and a friend — Senator Hill, thank you for making us better people by simply allowing us to experience life with you.
"Jack was not only my senator for three decades, he was a dear friend. He had a true servant’s heart. He wasn’t interested in who got the credit, he was only interested in getting it done. You have only to look around his district, and indeed the entire state, to see his fingerprints on so many positive things. Jack was a great man and a good friend. He will be missed by many. My sincerest condolences go out to his family."
— Rep. Butch Parrish, Swainsboro
"We are grieving the loss of a great Georgian, a true statesman and a friend to all who knew him. Jack was a champion for his constituents making sure the needs of the people in his district were met and spent countless hours working through the state budget process. He was a humble, kind man and was quick to credit others for whatever was accomplished or celebrated in the many communities he served. So many people have posted about Jack being their mentor. It made me wonder how he could have been a mentor to so many of us? I already knew the answer, it was because he genuinely loved others and loved this great State of Georgia. May our beloved Senator Jack Hill rest in peace. Our prayers and deepest sympathy to Ruth Ann, their children, grandchildren and other family members. "
— Rep. Jan Tankersley, Brooklet
"Jack was certainly a unique individual. I knew him prior to his election to the Senate when he was a friendly, humble small-town grocer. When he passed, he was one of the most powerful men in Georgia. But what struck me most about Jack was that he never changed from being the cordial, hardworking person he was when he was the hometown grocer. And most importantly, he never lost his sense of humility or his sense of humor. In addition, as an elected politician, he was very apolitical. He stood up for his values and ethics but never really got caught up in the internal politics of the Legislature. He could have been elected president of the Senate or majority leader. However, he learned a lot about budgeting and frugality in his grocery store, so when he got to be the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he found his niche. His knowledge and ability were acknowledged by everyone in state government from the governors, legislators and anyone else who took an interest in how the state spent taxpayer money.
I was proud to work with Jack as a state department head in two agencies, as a constituent, and as a legislator. But most importantly for me is having had such an honest, hard-working servant leader as a personal friend. I’ve always believed that when you live in the hearts of those you leave behind, you never really die. Jack Hill will live in my heart forever."
— Rep. Bill Hitchens, Rincon
"Jack’s character stood out above all. He dutifully watched out for Southeast Georgia and our world is more dim without him here. Though he would never claim it, our state has lost a legend of giant proportions."
— Sen. William Ligon, Brunswick
"Jack’s death was such unexpected and shocking news. He was a man of high integrity, trustworthy and had a dry sense of humor. His jokes always lightened our mood. As chair of Appropriations, he has worked diligently for our state. All in all, Jack was a gentle soul we will all miss."
— Sen. Ben Watson, Savannah
"I had the honor of serving in the Senate with Jack Hill over the last ten years. We both represented Emanuel County. Other counties had been represented by Jack in the past and still claimed Jack as their Senator. During the last four years we shared apartments during the session. I looked up to Jack Hill in the way I looked up to my father. Both served a number of years in the Air National Guard. I frequently sought Jack’s advice, usually on matters pertaining to the state budget. He knew more about the budget and always could find an answer. Jack taught me much about Georgia politics and about life. He was kind-hearted, truly good, and humble. He loved his constituents. We will all miss him."
— Senator Jesse Stone, Waynesboro
"I knew Jack before either of us entered politics. Though he climbed to the highest offices of the Capitol, he never changed. I never saw him as a politician. He continued to be a smart businessman eventually overseeing a State budget over $20 billion. Not only did he refuse to take the credit he deserved, he always gave praise to those around him for the work he had actually done. The State’s firm foundation can be attributed to his wisdom and work ethic. He will be sorely missed."
— Rep. Bill Werkheiser, Glennville
"There is no better reminder of Jack Hill’s respect for our legislative process and his love for the citizens of Georgia than through his weekly column. His dedication to keeping us informed clearly exemplifies the passion he had for public service. He delivered good and bad news in the body of his newsletters, always ending with a sincere invitation to contact him. He responded to every concern. Thank you Jack ... because you did care. We will all miss you and your column."
— House Majority Leader Jon Burns, Newington