Michael Joseph Egan, beloved family man and friend, distinguished attorney, lawmaker, and public servant, passed away peacefully at his home on January 7, 2016. Mike was born in Savannah, Georgia, on August 8, 1926. He was the son of Dr. Michael J. Egan and Elise Robider Egan, both natives of Savannah. Growing up, Michael, as he was then known, attended elementary school taught by the Marist Brothers and became an Eagle Scout in Troop 116. Although he never lived in Savannah after the age of 18, Mike loved the city and always considered it home. He often returned for Saint Patrick's Day parades and to see childhood friends. His most cherished trips back to Savannah were family summer vacations on Tybee Island in the 1960s and '70s. In 1944 Mike graduated from Portsmouth Priory prep school in Rhode Island and entered Yale College, but was soon drafted into the United States Army. At 19, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after graduating from Officer's Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was later inducted into the Infantry Hall of Fame. Mike served with the 86th Infantry Division in the Philippines until WWII ended. He then returned to Yale, where he was President of St. Elmo fraternity, graduating in 1950. Mike was a "Yalie" through and through, and had fond and happy memories of his years there, especially relating to the lifelong friends he made during that time. One of those friends, Roger Horchow, introduced Mike to his future wife, Donna Cole of Columbus, Ohio, in 1949. Shortly after enrolling at Harvard Law School in the Fall of 1950, Mike was recalled to the Army during the Korean War. As a First Lieutenant, Mike served with the Second Infantry Division in Korea. Before leaving for combat in Korea, Lt. Egan married Donna in 1951, and for their honeymoon they drove cross-country together to San Francisco, where Mike shipped out to the Pacific. Upon his return from Korea, Mike and Donna moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Mike entered Harvard Law School, and where the first of their six children was born. He graduated with Honors in 1955, having served as President of the Legal Aid Society and as a member of Lincoln's Inn Society. He then joined the Atlanta firm of Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan, where he was a partner until retiring in 2000. He was a member of the American Law Institute, American Council of Trust and Estate Lawyers, the Lawyers Club of Atlanta and the American, Georgia and Atlanta Bar Associations. Mike was also a member of the Hibernian Society of Savannah and the Piedmont Driving Club. In 1965, Mike won election to the Georgia House of Representatives as a Republican and was reelected seven times. One of his first votes was in favor of allowing Julian Bond to be seated in the legislature, which many opposed due to Bond's vehement opposition to the Vietnam War. The measure to seat Bond was defeated 184-12, but was ultimately overturned by the United States Supreme Court. This early and courageous vote presaged a political career marked by independent thinking and principled stances. In 1971 Mike was elected House Minority Leader, at a time when Democrats dominated the General Assembly. Mike led a moderate Republican caucus that joined with the progressive Democrats of Gov. Jimmy Carter to pass important legislation over the objection of the allies of Lt. Gov. Lester Maddox. In early 1977, in a move reflective of President-elect Carter's intention to de-politicize the U.S. Department of Justice, Mike was named Associate Attorney General, serving under Attorney General Griffin Bell. His responsibilities included the civil, civil rights, tax, and environmental sections of the Department, as well as involvement in the selection of United States Attorneys and federal judges nationwide. Mike worked with the Carter administration until 1979, when he returned to private law practice. Ten years later, Mike returned to politics, winning a seat in the Georgia State Senate. Although Republicans were still greatly outnumbered at that time, Egan was an effective opposition leader who was respected by, and forged coalitions with, both Republicans and Democrats. Upon his retirement, he was called "the Conscience of the Senate" in an official declaration made by his Senate colleagues. He was a strong leader on behalf of legislation to protect the environment and was named Conservation Legislator of the Year by the Georgia Environmental Council. He was also an early and consistent proponent of gun control legislation, another stance upon which he never wavered. Mike retired from the Senate in 2000, having never lost an election for public office. Mike's work on behalf of community and church was wide- ranging, including service on the boards of Atlanta Fulton County Library (Chairman), Atlanta Fulton County Foundation, Catholic Social Services, Families First, Buckhead Christian Ministry, Brookwood Hills Community, The Westminster Schools, Trust for Public Land, Georgia Wilderness Society, and the North Georgia Water Planning District. He was an active and devoted parishioner at the Cathedral of Christ the King for 61 years and a prominent resident of the Brookwood Hills neighborhood from 1960-2000. Mike loved reading books (mostly historical non-fiction) and newspapers, savoring a good gin martini (on the rocks, one olive), and following the Atlanta Braves and Westminster Wildcats as a loyal fan. But his greatest love and source of happiness was his wife Donna and his family and times spent with them, especially family beach vacations at Tybee, Hilton Head, and Litchfield. His favorite place in the world was on the front porch at the beach in the early evenings, surrounded by his wife, children, sons and daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. Mike is survived by his beloved family: wife Donna, children: Moira Egan Vore (Jim) of Washington D.C., Michael Egan III (Mindy) of Atlanta, Donna Egan Rogers (Jim) of Greenville, SC, Cole Egan (Lee) of Atlanta, Roby Egan of San Diego, and John Egan (Valerie) of Atlanta, and grandchildren: Nina Vore, Michael Egan IV, Katie Egan, Jack Egan, Chas Egan, Eleanor Rogers, Sam Rogers, Cole Egan, Jr., Cameron Egan, Emily Egan, Mallie Egan, John Egan, Jr., Jake Egan, Jackson Egan, Joe Egan and Sam Kravitz; sister-in-law, Sharon Egan, nephew, Colman Egan, nieces, Sharon Egan Putnam and Catherine Egan, all of Atlanta. Mike was predeceased by his sister, Joan Houlihan, and her daughter, Joanie Shotts, and by his brother, William Robider (Roby) Egan. A funeral Mass celebrating Mike's life will be held at the Cathedral of Christ the King at 10:00 AM on Thursday, January 14. The family will receive visitors following the service. A private interment will follow later in the afternoon at Arlington Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Buckhead Christian Ministry, 2847 Piedmont Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30305 or the Cathedral of Christ the King, 2699 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA 30305.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 11, 2016