‘He put Fannin County on the map:’ Community remembers Georgia House Speaker David Ralston

The Blue Ridge community remembers Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

Ralston spoke fondly of an entire hilly corner of Georgia that he called home.

He was born in Ellijay and had a law practice here in Blue Ridge — population, 1,200 or so.

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Just talking with townspeople today, you could feel a great sense of loss.

He loved the town — he lived right here in the heart of it. And the town loved him back.

Go to almost any shop in Blue Ridge — O’Neal’s Barber Shop, for one — and you’ll hear something like this: “He was a great man, good man. It seemed like he was really good with the community,” Ray O’Neal said.

O’Neal never cut Ralston’s hair, but some of the speaker’s security detail would come in for a trim.

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Head over to Southern Drug Company, and owner Suzanne Davenport feels like she’s lost a member of the family.

Ralston, she says, was much more than a local politician — he was an ambassador for this community.

“He put Fannin County on the map. He was very powerful in his position as speaker of the house. He brought people to our county who never experienced Fannin County before,” Davenport said.

But let her speak of her experience with the hometown lawmaker.

She remembers back in pharmacy school when he invited her fellow students to the Capitol.

“Anyone from Fannin County, he welcomed with open arms. He’d give us a hug and we’d have a private meeting with him,” Davenport said.

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Just stand on the corner in Blue Ridge and strike up a conversation with a local.

And you’ll hear something like this from Len Crawford.

“His son dated my daughter for a while, so I knew him through that. He did so many good things for this area,” Crawford said.

Ralston and his wife Sheree lived right here in downtown Blue Ridge.

He loved downtown, talking about it often — the restaurants, the shops and the vibe.

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