Skip to main content

Richard Smith, Influential Georgia House Rules Committee Chair, Dies at 78

Longtime public servant died at his home from complications of the flu.

January 30, 2024
Richard Smith Georgia

Rep. Richard Smith, a 20-year veteran of the Georgia General Assembly and chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, died Tuesday morning. He was 78 and had been ill with the flu.

“The House lost a giant today, and we all lost a friend,” House Speaker Jon Burns posted on X. “Today and the coming days will be tough—but together, we will celebrate his life, remember the good times, and honor the lasting legacy he had on Georgia. RIP, Mr. Chairman.”

Gov. Brian Kemp remembered Smith as a longtime public servant and valued friend of nearly 20 years:

“This morning, the entire Kemp family is saddened by the news of Representative Richard Smith’s passing. A long-time public servant and valued friend, he represented the Columbus area well and had an important impact on the entire state during his times as chairman of the House Rules Committee.”

Smith, a Republican, was born in Wrightsville, Ga., and moved to Madison, Ga., where he quarterbacked Morgan County High School’s state championship football team. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and a master’s from the University of Florida.

Rules Chairman Rep. Calvin Smyre (D), said, “At this time words can’t adequately express my pain and sadness this morning when I learned of the passing of my dear friend, Chairman Richard Smith. He was a steady hand and trusted colleague for me over many years. We shared a great friendship.”

Smith appeared on WRBL-TV recently to talk about legislation to address gang crime.

Burns described Smith as “larger than life” and someone who “embodied what it meant to be a statesman.”

“He loved everyone in this building, and never met a stranger. He was incredibly kind, generous, wise, supportive and exceedingly loyal. But he would also tell you how he felt, why he was right, and wouldn’t mince words about it.

“More than anything, he was a friend in the truest sense of the word. He was also a devoted husband and family man who loved his wife, Clara, more than anything in the world,” Burns said.

“When I think back to all of the memories we shared—the late night meetings, the laughs, the hugs, the wins, the losses, the highs and the lows and the ups of the downs of this place—I’m struck by one thing: how Richard lived life, every single day, to the very fullest.”

Mark Wolf is a senior editor at NCSL.

  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.