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Former Columbus Georgia state rep tapped to serve in UN General Assembly

President Joe Biden has announced his intent to nominate former state Rep. Calvin Smyre to represent the United States at the 78th Session of the United Nations later this month.

The Columbus Democrat served in the Georgia legislature for 48 years, including a stint as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. He left the Gold Dome last year after Biden nominated him U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic, an appointment that was later changed to ambassador to the Bahamas. The U.S. Senate has yet to confirm the nomination.

“This momentous announcement is a testament to … Representative Smyre’s enduring commitment to diplomacy, equality, and the wellbeing of people both within Georgia and across the globe,” the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus wrote in a statement released Monday.

“The former dean of the Georgia General Assembly has served the state of Georgia and the nation for over four decades. Now, he’ll be able to take his gifts and knowledge of helping the least and left out on the international stage.”

Elected to the Georgia House in 1974 at the age of 26, Smyre held numerous leadership positions over the years. He served as the first Black chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party and the first Black governor’s floor leader in the General Assembly.

Smyre chaired the powerful House Rules Committee before Republicans took control of the chamber in 2004.

His legislative record is highlighted by the critical role he played in replacing Georgia’s segregation-era state flag featuring the Confederate battle standard and by his sponsorship of legislation making Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a state holiday.

More recently, Smyre was a key player in the passage of a hate crimes law in Georgia in 2020 and the repeal of the state’s 1863 citizens arrest law after the murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery by three white men.

Smyre also has been active in national Democratic politics, co-chairing Bill Clinton’s Georgia presidential campaigns in 1992 and 1996. He also served the Al Gore presidential campaign in 2000 as a deputy.

A banker, Smyre retired in 2014 as executive vice president of corporate affairs of Columbus-based Synovus Financial Corp. and president of Synovus Foundation.

The 78th Session of the UN General Assembly will run from Sept. 18 through Sept. 26.