Tribute to John P. Yates

He Served His God, Country, State and Community Well!

Former Georgia House of Representative District 73, John Yates, age 96 of Griffin, Georgia passed away on Monday, December 11, 2017 after a several months of declining health.

Born to Lamar and Eunice Yates and raised on a farm in Spalding County, Georgia during the “Great Depression”, Representative Yates claims they didn’t know they were poverty stricken until the government told them. He graduated from Spalding High School in 1938. Years later while working, he completed a BBA degree at Georgia State. At the time of him leaving his position, he was the last WWII veteran in the legislature. He and 3 of his 4 brothers served in WWII; 2 were prisoners of war and one was hospitalized, but they all came back home at the war’s end. Representative Yates entered the Army as a Private and 3 ½ years later was a Captain. His military service included extensive service during the Battle of the Bulge, noted as the greatest battle of the war. As a Liaison Pilot of a Piper Cub airplane, he adjusted artillery fire on the enemy. While flying over 200 missions near or over enemy lines, he was awarded 6 air medals and 4 battle stars. After the war Yates joined Ford Motor Company where he had a 35 year career, as Manager of the Los Angeles Parts Distribution Center

Representative Yates was actually the first Republican candidate for the House ever elected in Spalding County. He began serving in 1989, was defeated in the next election, but won back district 73 the following term and remained in office until January 2017. His long service to the state and military experience worked to Representative Yates’ appointment as the Chairman of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee. He has always been a strong supporter of America and the military. Chairman Yates is a member of the Voice of Veterans, an organization that speaks to children about patriotism. He also held membership in the Appropriations, Reapportionment and Motor Vehicles Committees. His most important achievement has been enhancing education by gaining budget support for teaching at the Griffin Campus-UGA and similar support for Griffin Technical College know known as Southern Crescent Technical College and Gordon College where he was a member of the Gordon College Foundation. As Chairman of Defense & Veterans Affairs Committee, he had worked tirelessly to help veterans, service men and women and their spouses. He was a member of Pomona United Methodist Church, Spalding County.


Happiness is……  Having served in the Army for 30 years. I can truthfully say that if anyone deserved recognition for his dedicated years of service it was John.  I knew John for all my life as my grandfather and my dad were friends with John.  As a boy I fondly recall Dad and John talking about World War II.  His decorations of his years of service in the 3rd US Army proved the quality of the man, and his actions taken during the war as a Spotter Pilot for the Field Artillery, (one of the most dangerous jobs at that time) as he flew an unarmed piper cub air craft to call coördinates for artillery strikes on the advancing German Panzers during the Battle of the Bulge and before during the D-Day invasion to protect and support our ground forces.  He went to great lengths to support ground forces that were the tip of the spear, that were taking heavy small arms, mortar, and artillery themselves.  

Most individuals do not know what I am about to tell you but it shows the quality of the Greatest Generation.  While John was in the legislature he assisted one family that was destitute, and had a son severely wounded in Operation Desert Storm.   John opened his home to this family until they were able to get their son home and get resettled.  And I will add that family was black.  But they were paying the price for freedom with a son that as severely wounded in action.
I also remember another incident in which  John was talking with me one day at one of our many lunches, and all of a sudden he looked at me and said Bill, do you know what happiness is and why it means so much to me?  I said “Well John you have been very successful in your life. You were a top official at Ford, You have a had a great military carer. And you are serving in the Georgia Legislature.”  His answer to me was the reason I hope I can be half the man John was during my life. He said: “Nope non of that maters, Happiness is when you talk to your wife every day and as we got older I made a pledge to her that I would take care of her no mater what happened. When she had Alzheimer’s I stayed with her continually, and hired a care giver when the Legislature was in session. I drove home every night to take care of her.  No, Bill, all the remainder I have done is nothing compared to Annie.  Happiness is when you know your wife remembered what you have told her when she looked at me and said I love you so much.
Do I want to be just half the man Jon Yates was.  You BET!
John was a special soldier, my comrade in arms but most of all my dear friend.
Bill Taylor, LTC (R) USA

AJC- December 14, 2017

Representative John P. Yates passed away Monday, December 11, 2017, at the age of 96. Yates was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Georgia General Assembly.

Yates participated as a candlelighter in the state’s official Holocaust Days of Remembrance in 1995, 2010, and 2015. The 2015 ceremony commemorated the  70th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi camps throughout Europe. Yates lit a candle with Holocaust survivor Ben Walker.

Yates is one of seven veterans from Georgia featured in our exhibit “Georgia’s Response to the Holocaust: Witnesses to Liberation”.

During World War II, Yates served as a liaison pilot of a Piper Cub air plane. He provided air cover for vulnerable ground troops and destroyed German targets. In the spring of 1945, Yates participated as a military observer in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, one of the first established in Germany.

“If you fight a war, you have a better perspective of what is important.”

Yates was raised on a farm in Spalding County, Georgia, during the Great Depression. After the U.S. entered World War II, he was drafted and selected for officer candidate school. He signed up to be a liaison pilot and chose an outfit he thought likely to go to Europe – the 35th Infantry Division.

Yates’s experiences during the war had a profound effect on him. He developed a strong commitment to Holocaust education in the state of Georgia. He believed that it may prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

For his courage in flying over 200 missions near or over enemy lines, Yates was awarded six air medals and four battle stars. In 2013, Yates was inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame for his valor, outstanding leadership, and selfless service to our nation.

Yates served in the Georgia General Assembly for over 20 years.  He was the last World War II veteran to serve in the Georgia General Assembly.


John Yates was a WWII pilot, until recently was the only WWII Veteran still serving in a state legislature. I’m proud to have called him a friend. He was living history, and conversations with him were always a pleasure. I always learned something while being entertained. He was a good man, and a great American. God Speed John. You’re going to be missed. ~Charlie Harper