Powerful Former House Speaker Dies

ATLANTA (AP) _ Longtime Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy has
died at the age of 83.

Terry Coleman, who briefly succeeded Murphy as House speaker, says Murphy died just after 10 p.m. last night. Earlier yesterday, Coleman said Murphy's health was deteriorating fast.

He suffered a stroke in 2004. Friends said his health had been in gradual decline ever since.

Details on official state ceremonies are still to be worked out. Governor Perdue ordered flags on state buildings and grounds lowered to half-staff until sunset on the day of Murphy's funeral.

Murphy was the longest-serving state House speaker in the nation when voters in his west Georgia district turned him out of office in 2002. That election would turn out to be the beginning of the Republican revolution in the state and two years later Murphy's chamber was in GOP hands.

Perdue issued a statement shortly after Murphy's death calling him "a dominant figure in Georgia politics'' for more than a quarter century. Perdue said that as a public servant, Murphy always fought for the children of Georgia, veterans and the disabled.

Former Governor Roy Barnes, whose defeat at the hands of Perdue in 2002 began the Republican dominance in Georgia, said last night that, to a large extent, the prosperity of Georgia and the state government's financial stability is due to Murphy.

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