Max Cleland dies; senator and veteran lost limbs in Vietnam

Georgia News

FILE – In this Jan. 20, 2008 file photo, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland sits on stage listening to an introduction by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., during the Democratic Party of Georgia’s annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Atlanta. Fifty years ago Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that historians call the crucial catalyst for deep American involvement in the Vietnam War. Cleland, who had been badly wounded in Vietnam, was among those who supported the 2002 legislation to go to war in Iraq. “I can’t believe I volunteered for one war which turned out to be a massive tragedy for the United States and I went to the Senate and voted for another war which turned out to be a massive tragedy,” he said. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

ATLANTA (WJBF) — Former Georgia U.S. Senator, Max Cleland has died.

He passed away in his Atlanta home from congestive heart failure.

Cleland was a Vietnam war veteran who lost three limbs to a hand grenade blast. Despite his disability, he dedicated his life to public service.

Cleland served in the U.S. Senate, Georgia Secretary of State and as a state senator.

He was 79-years-old.

President Joe Biden issued the following statement, mourning the loss of Cleland:

Max Cleland was an American hero whose fearless service to our nation, and to the people of his beloved home state of Georgia, never wavered.

As a 25-year-old serving in the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, Max lost both of his legs and his right arm in a grenade explosion at Khe Sanh. After grueling months in the hospital, enduring multiple surgeries and a long road back to recovery, Max turned his pain into purpose.  He continued his distinguished public service, becoming a lifelong champion of the dignity and rights of working people and America’s wounded veterans.  His leadership was the essential driving force behind the creation of the modern VA health system, where so many of his fellow heroes have found lifesaving support and renewed purpose of their own thanks in no small part to Max’s lasting impact.

I had the distinct honor of knowing Max as both a colleague and a friend during our six years together in the United States Senate.  He was a man of unflinching patriotism, boundless courage, and rare character.  I was proud to have Max by my side.  He will be remembered as one of Georgia’s and America’s great leaders.

Max Cleland was a good man who loved God and country. 

Jill and I are deeply saddened to learn of his passing, and our prayers are with all those who loved him.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued the following statement, regarding the loss of Cleland:

“Marty, the girls, and I join Georgians in mourning the loss of a great patriot, Max Cleland. Senator Cleland’s service to our state, nation, and his fellow veterans was defined by his optimism, grit, and determination to give hardworking Georgians a better chance to achieve the American dream. Max’s example of persevering through adversity will continue to inspire generations of Georgians for years to come.”

U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff released this statement:

“Senator Cleland was a hero, a patriot, a public servant, and a friend. His advice as I entered the Senate and in the early months of my tenure have been invaluable. Georgia and the nation will deeply miss him. Alisha and I are keeping Senator Cleland’s family in our prayers.”

U.S. Senator Reverand Raphael Warnock also issued a statement on Cleland’s passing:

“The nation has lost a true giant of public service, and Georgia has lost one of our fiercest champions. My prayers are with Senator Cleland’s family and all those who loved him. Senator Cleland was a passionate patriot with a big heart for our veterans, and he always put the people of Georgia first. Georgians will long remember and admire his honorable life, legacy and contributions to our state and nation.”

President Bill Clinton issued the following statement:

Hillary and I mourn the passing of our friend Max Cleland, a proud American patriot, an extraordinary public servant, and a good man.  Throughout every stage of his life—from soldier to senator and beyond—he stayed true to his convictions with a special combination of courage, humility, and heart.  I will be forever inspired by the strength he showed in supporting normalization with Vietnam after having made profound personal sacrifices during the war.  I was amazed at his devoted service in the Senate and the determination and joy he mustered just to get ready for and make the most of each new day.  Although the past was always with him, he refused to live in it.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his many friends and the people of Georgia he served so well.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms:

Senator Cleland was a kind, selfless, courageous man. He would reach out to me, during some of my most challenging times, to offer words of encouragement. I am grateful for his service and friendship.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger:

Max Cleland was a dedicated public servant who sacrificed for his country time and time again: as a Vietnam veteran, as Georgia’s Secretary of State, and as a U.S. Senator. The country was better for your selflessness and dedication. You will be missed.

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