State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, said Tuesday that Georgia lost a giant and Liberty County lost a friend when State Sen. Jack Hill, R-Reidsville, passed away unexpectedly.
“Sen. Jack Hill was without a doubt one of the finest individuals I ever knew,” Williams said. “He was a straight shooter and he had time to talk with everybody. In the 18 years that I’ve been in the legislature, if money was approved for Liberty County by the Georgia General Assembly, it came through Jack Hill. Jack had to bless it, and I will forever be grateful for that. He never told me no if there was a way to say yes. The state has lost a giant and I will truly miss him.”
Hill, 75, was one of the most influential members of the state legislature, and Gov. Brian Kemp announced Hill’s death on his Facebook page.
According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tattnall County Sheriff Kyle Sapp said Hill was found dead in his Reidsville office Monday. While Hill self-quarantined after being possibly exposed to the coronavirus during a Senate session on March 16, Sapp said his death is not believed related to the virus, according to the AJC report.
Hill was first elected to the Georgia State Senate as a Democrat in 1990 and was re-elected to his 15th two-year term in 2018, the Statesboro Herald reported Monday night. Hill announced he would change parties in 2002 and was easily re-elected to his District 4 State Senate seat as a Republican through the 2018 election. He was the longest serving member in the Senate and he had qualified to run for his 16th term in February.
Williams said Hill, though a fiscal conservative in every sense, helped secure millions in funding for local projects ranging from the Midcoast Airport to bringing Armstrong Atlantic’s campus to Hinesville.
“Jack worked across party lines,” Williams said. “If it was a Democrat idea and a good idea he was for it. He didn’t just X it out because a Democrat brought it to him. I’m a living witness to that.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, served with Hill in the State Senate for five years and called him “one of my political and personal mentors.”
“For 30 years, Jack served Georgians with immense dedication and kindness,” Carter said.
At a time when politics has seemingly become more polarized than ever, Hill’s ability to find common ground won the respect of political opponents.
Nikema Williams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Hill “was a good and kind man, and I am grateful for the time we’ve spent together in the Senate and for his years of service to Georgia. My thoughts are with his friends and family at this time – he will be very missed.”
Hill also was remembered by many as a quiet, unassuming man whose role as chairman of the state’s appropriations committee brought with it a great deal of power.
“Jack never looked for headlines,” Williams said. “And yet he was one of the most powerful men in Georgia.”
ill also served as the vice chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, as a member on the Natural Resources and the Environment and Regulated Industries and Utilities, as well as an ex-officio member of the Finance Committee.
In addition to Bulloch County, Hill’s Senate District 4 included Evans, Candler Effingham and parts of Tattnall and Emanuel counties.
Born in Reidsville, where he lived all his life, Hill operated a grocery store in the Tattnall County town for decades. He was a graduate of Reidsville High School and what was then Georgia Southern College, now Georgia Southern University. Hill is survived by his wife Ruth, three children and seven grandchildren.
Jeff Whitten and the Statesboro Herald contributed to this story.