David Poythress, 1943-2017, !Presente!
Poythress held numerous positions in Georgia state government, twice sought the Democratic nomination for Governor, served in the United States Air Force, and practiced law in the Atlanta area.
Poythress served as Assistant Attorney General, Deputy State Revenue Commissioner, and Secretary of State – all appointed positions. Following these appointments, he decided to seek elected office and was elected Georgia State Labor Commissioner in 1992 and re-elected in 1994.
He served two terms as Chairman of the Board of the State YMCA of Georgia; and served on the boards of Common Cause Georgia, Wesley Homes, and the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women.
In 2010, four candidates sought the Democratic nomination for Governor. Former Gov. Roy Barnes, former Attorney General Thurbert Baker, and former State Rep. DuBose Porter all avoided going on record with Atlanta Progressive News – refusing to discuss their positions on the issues.
Only one man had the courage to answer questions – David Poythress. He thus demonstrated a commitment to transparency and a belief in empowering Georgia voters to make informed decisions.
APN would go on to formally endorse David Poythress in the Democratic primary.
David, and his wife, Elizabeth Poythress, were a political power couple, both with deep involvement in causes of civic importance. Elizabeth serves as President of the League of Women Voters of Georgia.
“Under David’s selfless leadership he strived to make things better for organizations and the people in those organizations or agencies,” Elizabeth Poythress said in a statement to APN.
“Integrity, honesty, and duty before self were his guiding principles. He was a great father, incredible grandfather, devoted husband and friend, and an unwavering patriot. He will be greatly missed,” she said.
“Personally, David was something of a mentor on the Board,” Jon Sinton, who served with Poythress on the Common Cause board, told APN.
“It’s really unusual that you meet somebody that is so accomplished. He was a General, he was the Secretary of State of Georgia, he ran ran for governor twice, and he ran the Georgia National Guard. Most of us would feel pretty good about ourselves if we had the opportunity to be just one of those things, he was all of those things,” Sinton said.
“If you met him and didn’t know who he was, you would just think this was a nice, conversationalist, he was humble, you wouldn’t have even known all he accomplished, he wouldn’t have talked about it,” Sinton said.
Sinton went to say that while the memorial for the General is strictly going to be a close family affair, he knows that the General was loved and respected by many.
“He could fill some mega-church here in the metro, I’m sure at least one-thousand people would attend his memorial to pay their respects,” Sinton said.
“He was a great listener. He took people’s concerns into account and made sure he heard different perspectives before making a decision,” Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis, who served as Poythress’s campaign manager in 2010 and serves on the Democratic National Committee, told APN.
“You have an idea of how a General would act, but he did not meet any of those stereotypes; he wasn’t a ‘my way or the highway’ type of man,” Davis said.
When APN asked Davis what she learned from the General, she remarked how calm he was even under a lot of pressure.
“I have been blessed to work with a lot of great people in the political arena, but David Poythress set a standard for leadership that not many people match. He had a quietness and calm about him that was extraordinary,” Davis said.
“He would have made a damn fine governor,” Davis said.
Roy Barnes won the 2010 nomination, and went on to lose to Nathan Deal.
Poythress attended Emory at Oxford, and earned his degree and his commission as an U.S. Air Force officer at Emory University in Atlanta, where he also earned his law degree in 1967.
He volunteered for duty in Vietnam and served one year as defense counsel and Chief of Military Justice at DaNang Air Base. Following his active duty, Poythress continued his military service in the Air Force Reserve, attaining the rank of Brigadier General before retiring in 1998.
Poythress’ civilian law practice focused mostly on public finance and taxation.
In 1999, Gov. Barnes appointed Poythress Adjutant General – the commander of the Georgia Army and Air National Guard – in the rank of Major General. He was reappointed in 2002 by Gov. Sonny Perdue, who also promoted him to the rank of Lieutenant General.
Poythress had overall responsibility for two brigade level deployments to Bosnia (2000) and Iraq (2005). In addition to leading Guard members in first response to Hurricane Katrina, he also served on the command cell of the Georgia Homeland Security Task Force from September 12, 2001 until his retirement in 2007.
He was a Rotarian; a Mason; and a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the USO, the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.
A private memorial service is being planned.
Poythress is survived by wife Elizabeth, sister Eva Higgins, son Cullen Gray Poythress, stepdaughters Candace Pinnisi, Kristin Placito, eight grandchildren, one great grandchild, niece Leigh Poythress Wilson, and nephews Randel Whitfield Higgins and Mirabeau Lamar Higgins.