Georgia House Speaker David Ralston

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, files House Bill 1013 on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, on the floor of the House of Representatives with Clerk of the House Bill Reilly.

(The Center Square) — Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, died Thursday following an extended illness.

Ralston, 68, announced earlier this month he would step down as state House speaker. Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, R-Milton, will serve as the 74th state House speaker for the remainder of Ralston’s term, which ends in January.

"We were so sorry to learn about the passing of Speaker David Ralston. David was a stalwart Republican who served in the State Senate, carried our banner as a candidate for Attorney General and led the House of Representatives as Speaker," Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer said in a statement.

"I was privileged to serve with David in the General Assembly," Shafer added. "He gets too little credit for his leadership on conservative issues, particularly in the areas of protecting life and securing our Second Amendment rights."

Ralston, an attorney, was elected to the House in 2002 and first elected as speaker in 2010.

When he died, Ralston was the longest currently serving state house speaker nationwide. Last week, Ralston ran unopposed and was re-elected to Georgia’s seventh House district, which includes parts or all of Dawson, Fannin and Gilmer counties.

"Speaker Ralston was a steady, reliable guiding force under the Gold Dome in good times and tough times," Georgia Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch said in a statement on behalf of his caucus. "He cherished the idea of his beloved House being a body that truly represented all of Georgia’s people, and he respected each of the elected members that comprised it, regardless of partisan differences.

"It takes a genuinely good and decent person to lead that way," Gooch added. "That is how Speaker Ralston will be remembered in our hearts and our history, as a genuinely good and decent man."