Mercer Distinguished Alumnus and former trustee Nathan Deal was inaugurated as Georgia’s 82nd governor during a 2 p.m. ceremony at the State Capitol in Atlanta on Monday. He becomes the 11th Mercer alumnus to hold that office. Seven Mercerians have led the State of Georgia, and four others have served as governors of the states of Alabama, Texas, New Hampshire and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Mercer students and alumni were originally scheduled to play a role in Monday’s day-long inaugural events, but a winter storm led to the cancellation of all public events, including a morning prayer service where the Mercer University Orchestra was scheduled to perform. Members of Mercer’s Student Government Association, Mercer Ambassadors and other students were to serve as ushers at an outdoor swearing-in ceremony at the Georgia Capitol. And collegiate and alumni members of Gov. Deal’s fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega, were lined up to help out at the prayer service and at the Inaugural Celebration Ball Monday evening at Phillips Arena in downtown Atlanta.
About 20 students from the Townsend School of Music’s McDuffie Center for Strings did perform during a private reception at the Governor’s Mansion on Sunday morning, before the winter storm moved into the area.
Governor Deal earned his undergraduate degree from Mercer in 1964 and graduated from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1966. As an undergraduate, he served as student body president. He would later serve a term on the Mercer Board of Trustees and was named a Distinguished Alumnus by the University.
Following law school, he served two years in the U.S. Army, where he rose to the rank of captain. Upon leaving the Army, Governor Deal moved to Gainesville, Ga., to begin an extensive career in the public legal system and private law practice.
Governor Deal served Georgians as a U.S. Representative to Congress from 1992 until 2010, when he resigned to concentrate full-time on his gubernatorial campaign. His last vote as a U.S. Representative came just before midnight on March 21. The next morning he gave his first speech as a full-time candidate to an audience of students, faculty and staff on Mercer’s Macon campus.
Before being elected to Congress, Governor Deal served as a Georgia state senator, including president pro-tempore, the body’s highest-ranking senator; as a Hall County Juvenile Court judge; and as assistant district attorney of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit of Georgia.
The governor was raised in the Middle Georgia community of Sandersville, the son of two schoolteachers. In addition, Governor Deal’s wife, Sandra, is a retired public school educator who remains involved in education issues today. They are parents of four children and six grandchildren, and are members of First Baptist Church, Gainesville, where he has served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher.
“Since its founding in 1833, generations of young men and women have left Mercer to become leaders of great deeds and influence, including 11 governors, three United States senators, and an attorney general of the United States. Governor Nathan Deal stands in this great tradition,” said Mercer President William D. Underwood. “We are proud of his record of public service over the past several decades, and congratulate him on his inauguration as governor of the State of Georgia.”