President Joe Biden nominated Calvin Smyre, a key Georgia lawmaker, to become U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
State Representative Calvin Smyre, a black Democrat from Columbus first elected in 1974, must be confirmed by the Senate before assuming office. Smyre is hailed as the longest-serving member of the Georgia House of Representatives and has remained a crucial player in legislative affairs, especially as a go-between in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.
Smyre, 74, was the youngest member of the House when he was first elected. He became vice chairman of Synovus Financial Corp, a Columbus-based regional bank, before retiring in 2014.
“I am deeply honored to be nominated by President Biden to serve as ambassador to the Dominican Republic,” Smyre said in a text message to the Ledger-Enquirer. “If confirmed, I look forward to advancing U.S. interests in the Dominican Republic and our relationship with the Dominican government.”
Smyre was the first African-American representative appointed as floor leader for a Georgia governor when Joe Frank Harris elected him in 1983. He authored legislation creating the Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday and was a co-sponsor of a bill that removed the Confederate battle emblem from the Georgia state flag. In 2020, Smyre was a co-sponsor of a bill that reinstated a hate crimes law in Georgia, breaking a years-long stalemate following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery near Brunswick.
He also chaired the House Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation in the lower chamber.
Smyre was the first black chairman of the state Democratic Party, the first black member of the Georgia Democratic National Committee and a delegate to several Democratic conventions. Smyre endorsed Biden and voted for him as one of Georgia’s Electoral College members after Biden won the state.
The nomination drew an outpouring of praise from Georgia political figures, including several Republicans.
“America could not have a better ambassador than Calvin Smyre,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, said in a statement. “Few people have worked harder or harder to advance our state and this nation. I am proud of my friend and congratulate him on this well-deserved honor. “