Bob Dallas
Bob Dallas

I do not know the words to fully describe the life of Sen. Jim Tysinger, who died Feb. 12. To the one, all who knew Jim called him a gentleman who without fail worked to better our state and community.

But those words do little justice, for he was more than that. Elected to the council for the city of North DeKalb, Jim saw his city dissolved by the efforts of his state senator. Unhappy, Jim ran against him and in 1968 was elected senator, a position he held through 2004.

At the time, Jim was one of just a handful of Republicans in the Georgia Legislature. This gives you an idea of Jim’s character — undaunted by long odds.

In the wake of the Watergate scandal, Georgia Republicans were in short supply. But Jim believed his conservative principles were shared by many and Watergate did not define his ethics. So he started the weekly North DeKalb Saturday Morning Breakfast Forum (now named after him) and the yearly Lincoln Day Dinner.

Jim led these meetings to encourage conversation, not conflict, to resolve the political issues of the day.

As a Georgia Tech engineer, Jim knew collaboration would produce better results. These meetings were open to all, Democrats, Republicans, and nonpartisans alike. So long as the office holders or seekers were honest and worked for the greater good, they were welcome.

And it was Jim who led the effort for DeKalb Republicans to reach out to African-Americans and Latinos throughout all of DeKalb County.

Retired state Sen. Jim Tysinger in the library at his home in Brookhaven.

Jim’s willingness to work with all while maintaining his principles was his trademark.

This is best reflected in Jim chairing the Georgia State Senate Science and Technology Committee as a Republican when the senate was dominated by Democrats. Without Jim’s leadership and willingness to work with a Democratic governor, there would be no Brook Run Park in Dunwoody. Engineers like Jim know there is more than one way to span a river.

And while his list of legislative accomplishments is too long to set forth here, one recent event sums it up.

The Ashford-Dunwoody interchange over I-285 is named after Jim Tysinger. Last fall, when the Diverging Double Diamond Interchange (DDI) was christened, local and statewide officials, including the Lieutenant Governor who served with Jim as a senator, spent more time thanking Jim than talking about the first of its kind interchange.

By way of background, it was Jim who sponsored the legislation that led to the creation of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, without which the Perimeter area would not be the Southeast’s top retail and office market, and the DDI would not have been built.

What started as a celebration of a bridge became a celebration of an engineer who was more than just a builder of bridges.

So, it is the engineer which we mourn in passing and celebrate in life. Senator Jim Tysinger is that gentleman who showed us it is what we build to serve others that matters most.

Dunwoody lawyer Bob Dallas serves as moderator of the Sen. Jim Tysinger Saturday Morning Breakfast Forum.