Tommy Irvin (born July 14, 1929) served as Georgia's Commissioner of Agriculture from 1969 until January 2011. He was elected to his 10th and final four-year term in November 2006. Irvin did not seek re-election in 2010. Gary Black (R) succeeded Irvin as Commissioner of Agriculture after winning the 2010 election. Irvin holds a record as the longest-serving Commissioner of Agriculture in the United States, and the longest-serving statewide official in Georgia.
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Irvin's tenure as Commissioner was not without controversy. One high profile example, which caught the attention of the media, had to do with the killing of dogs and cats. In 1990, Georgia's "Humane Euthanasia Act" became one of the first laws in the nation to mandate intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital as the prescribed method for euthanizing cats and dogs in Georgia animal shelters. Prior to that time, gas chambers and other means were commonly employed. Irvin's Department was tasked with licensing the shelters and enforcing the new law, through the Department's Animal Protection Division. However, Commissioner Irvin did not abide by the terms of the law, and instead continued to license gas chambers. In March 2007, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Commissioner Irvin were sued by former State Representative Chesley V. Morton, who had written the law. The Fulton County Superior Court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs, validating the terms of the Humane Euthanasia Act, with an injunction prohibiting the Department from issuing licenses to shelters using gas chambers in violation of the Act. When the Department continued to license a gas chamber in Cobb County, Georgia a second court action was brought, which resulted in the Department being held in contempt. The cases received widespread coverage in the media, casting Irvin in an unfavorable light.
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A Hall County, Georgia native, Irvin was elected to his first public office as a member of the Habersham County Board of Education in 1956. He later served as school board chairman and president of the Georgia School Boards Association.
A Democrat, Irvin was elected to four terms in the Georgia General Assembly as a Representative from Habersham County, where he served on the House Agriculture, Education, and Appropriations Committees and chaired the House Industrial Relations Committee and the Governor's Conference on Education. He was the Governor's Floor Leader and later served as Executive Secretary to the Governor.
He was a delegate to the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Democratic National Conventions.
In 1998, a portion of Georgia Highway 365 was named Tommy Irvin Parkway in his honor.
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