Portrait unveiled in Ga. for AP political reporter
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Portrait unveiled in Ga. for AP political reporter

ATLANTA (AP) -- The Georgia state Senate on Monday honored a former Associated Press reporter who covered politics for decades with a portrait that will be hung outside the Capitol press offices.

A portrait of Associated Press reporter Dick Pettys, who covered Georgia politics for decades, is unveiled on the Senate floor as his son Beaux, right, thanks legislators and artist Dick Yarbrough Monday, March 10, 2014, in Atlanta. Pettys died in October 2012 at age 66. The portrait painted by Dick Yarbrough was presented Monday in the Senate chamber.(AP Photo/David Tulis)

Dick Pettys died in October 2012 at age 66. The portrait painted by Dick Yarbrough, a political columnist, was unveiled in the Senate chamber. The Senate press gallery is also to be named after Pettys.

Pettys' wife, Stephanie, and other family members were on hand and one his three sons said the portrait perfectly conveyed a familiar expression in his father's eyes.

"The portrait also captures what a good and kind soul my father was," Beaux Pettys said. "He could ask you the tough questions and you knew there was no personal, partisan or ulterior motive."

An insider with a reputation for evenhanded reporting, Pettys had the ear of everyone from governors and House speakers to low-level clerks and was respected by Democrats and Republicans alike. To the statehouse press corps, Pettys became known as "the dean," who over the course of 35 years developed a vast institutional memory and mentored countless political reporters.

Sen. Steve Thompson, D-Marietta, said he was among the many politicians who knew they would be treated fairly by Pettys, even if they didn't always like or agree with what he wrote.

"I truly loved him as a good friend," Thompson said. "You could always count on a fair shake."

Pettys began working for the AP at the Capitol in 1970, covering the waning days of the administration of Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, the state's last segregationist governor.

When Jimmy Carter ran for the White House in 1976, the AP assigned Pettys to travel with his campaign. His news stories helped introduce Americans to the peanut farmer who would become president. Decades later, in November 2002, Pettys was breaking the news that Georgians had elected Sonny Perdue their first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

Pettys retired from AP in 2005, but spent several more years writing on Georgia politics for the website InsiderAdvantage Georgia.