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Chambliss prepares for oath

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January 6, 2003

Washington, D.C. -- More than 600 Georgians traveled to the nation's capital to be a part of this historic swearing in. Gil and Liz Klemann are long-time Republican leaders from Albany. They flew into Washington Monday morning, and spent the afternoon meeting with members of Georgia's congressional delegation. But they are primarily there to show support for Saxby Chambliss.

As a young man, Saxby Chambliss didn't set out to become a politician. But today, he is one of the most successful politicians in Georgia- a powerful man with very powerful friends.

Saxby Chambliss is now just a few hours away from officially becoming a United State senator. “It's an awesome challenge," he said.

But it's not a lifelong dream. "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision I would get into politics."

Chambliss was born 59-years ago in Warrenton, North Carolina, the son of an Episcopal minister. "He was really always grounded in his faith," says wife, Julianne.

Chambliss met his future wife through his fraternity at the University of Georgia as a fiscally conservative college student. "He realized he could take me free to eat at the Sigma Chi house," said Julianne.

A few years later, Saxby and Julianne were married. “She's been putting up with me for 36 years," said the Senator.

After law school in Tennessee, the Chamblisses settled in Moultrie in 1969. Daughter Leah is a school teacher, married with two children, son Bo is a lawyer in Washington. And Chambliss built a successful Moultrie law practice.

"I was happy practicing law and doing what I was doing. I didn't think about going into politics," Chambliss said.

That changed in 1992 when some Republican leaders encouraged him to run for Congress. "I decided the only way you're going to change Congress is to change the people."

Chambliss lost that first race, but was hooked on politics. "We basically never stopped campaigning, and were fortunate to be elected in 1994."

Chambliss went to Washington as part of the Republican Revolution led by fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich, and he's proud of his record during his eight years representing the Eighth District. "I never went to bed at night without feeling good about the way I voted."

Two years ago, Chambliss' best friend in the Senate, new majority leader Bill First, suggested he run for the upper house. It was a year later when he and his wife finally decided to challenge incumbent Max Cleland. "He's been a statewide officer holder for 20 plus years. He's a guy that you can't beat, but I never believed that."

He and Julianne tirelessly toured the state and got a lot of help from another close friend, the President. "We became good friends early on in his campaign,” the Senator said. “Once he got elected, that strong friendship continued and we became better friends."

What started as a long shot campaign ended November 5th with a surprisingly wide victory. One he calls "Humbling." And that humbling experience will culminate Tuesday at 1:00 PM, when Saxby Chambliss is sworn in as Georgia's newest United States Senator.

posted at 5:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com