Tribute: Military, civic leader David Poythress

David Poythress 62OX 64C 67L, former Emory trustee, attorney, a two-time candidate for governor, and commander of the Georgia Army and Air National Guard during the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnian wars, died January 15. He was seventy-three.

Poythress received his political science degree, law degree, and commission as a US Air Force officer at Emory then entered active duty as an assistant staff judge advocate at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Texas in 1967. He served four years on active duty, volunteering for service in Vietnam and spending a year as defense counsel and chief of military justice at Da Nang Air Base. After active duty, he continued in the Air Force Reserve, retiring in 1998 with the rank of brigadier general.

Before seeking elected office, Poythress was an assistant attorney general, deputy state revenue commissioner, and chairman of a study committee Governor George Busbee appointed to tackle the thorny issue of nursing home reimbursements from Medicaid. This and his subsequent work on Medicaid led to him being nicknamed the “Mr. Fix It” of state government.

In 1979, Busbee appointed Poythress secretary of state after the death of incumbent Ben Forston. Poythress ran for a full term as secretary of state in 1982 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Max Cleland.

Poythress took a ten-year break from politics and practiced tax law in Atlanta before jumping back into politics in 1992. He won a special statewide election for labor commissioner against Democratic incumbent Al Scott of Savannah. In 1994, he was elected to a full term as labor commissioner.

In 1999, Governor Roy Barnes appointed Poythress to lead the Georgia Army and Air National Guard. Governor Sonny Perdue reappointed him in 2002, promoting him to lieutenant general and making him the state’s first three-star adjutant general.

Poythress was on several boards and was vice chairman of the Board of the National Guard Association of the United States and a two-term chairman of the Board of the State YMCA of Georgia. He recently worked as a consultant and adviser to international companies in the defense industry.

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