Columbus' 78-year-old Georgia House Rules Chairman Richard Smith dies of flu.

Georgia House of Representatives powerhouse dies. The House Speaker's office said that Columbus Republican State Rep. Richard Smith, who led the House Rules Committee, died of the flu at home before daybreak Tuesday.

Smith, 78, represented the 139th District, which comprised Muscogee and Harris counties, in the General Assembly for his 10th term. He was House Rules Committee chairman since 2020. This leadership position decides what legislation the House considers.

“You never had to wonder where he stood with Richard Smith, did you?” said Newington Republican House Speaker Jon Burns, who entered the House with Smith in 2005. He was always truthful. He was kind to his honesty.

With Rules and other committees postponing sessions, Smith's 180-member chamber desk was dark. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty visited the chamber Tuesday morning to mourn Smith, the usually raucous chamber turned silent.

Kemp stated, "He has been my friend and colleague for 20 years, and as the speaker said, you knew it as a friend." “He stood with me when others didn't, but that didn't bother him. Just did what he believed was right.”

Smith worked in Statesboro, Cedartown, and Columbus for decades in the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension program, alternately stern and compassionate.

He was temporary city manager for the Columbus consolidated administration in 1989 and 1990 and a Columbus City Council member from 1999 to 2022 before joining the House.

Kemp must call a special election to replace Smith. Smith leaves wife Clara, children Shannon, Ashley, and Justin, and grandkids.