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Former Ga. Speaker Murphy dead at 83

Dec. 18, 2007 at 3:48 PM

ATLANTA, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Tom Murphy, who helped shape the Atlanta area during 28 years as speaker of the Georgia House, has died at 83.

Murphy suffered a severe stroke four years ago, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported. He died late Monday.

Murphy was an old-fashioned Roosevelt Democrat who wore a white Stetson hat and was usually biting on a cigar. A son of rural Georgia who practiced law in Harrelson County, he kept the Democratic Party in power for years by helping to shape an alliance between rural whites and urban blacks.

As state House speaker from 1974 to 2002, Murphy helped build public transportation in the Atlanta area and highways in its suburbs.

"Ironically, the best friend that the metro Atlanta area ever had was Tom Murphy," former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, told an interviewer before Murphy's death. "He was a bridge between old and new."

But he was also tough. While he was lieutenant governor, former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller once said that a bill he favored had been buried in "Murphy's mausoleum." Murphy responded that if he had a mausoleum Miller might be in it.

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