Former U.S. senator and Veterans Administration leader Max Cleland of Georgia died Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, more than 53 years after a live grenade dropped by a fellow soldier in Vietnam robbed him of three limbs. He was 79.
The injuries, however, did not take the unfettered optimism and grit that helped him climb from Georgia politics to some of the nation's top offices.
A Democrat bound to a wheelchair most of his adult life, the 79-year-old Cleland was one of the first veterans from the killing grounds of Southeast Asia to enter American politics. He took a state senator's seat in 1971, three years after his wounding, and went on to serve as top administrator in the U.S. Veterans Administration, as Georgia Secretary of State, a U.S. senator and an appointee in other federal agencies.
Cleland died at his Atlanta home from heart failure, according to a close friend and caregiver.
Max is survived by his cousins, Emily Carden Foster, Mercer T. Cleland, Jr., William 'Bobby' Cleland, Sara Ellen Cleland Wilkinson, Linda Cleland Breedlove, Brenda Cleland Worthey, Wayne Cleland, Helen Cleland, Wendell Powell, Marcia Kesler Attaway, Phillip William Kesler, Gary Ronald Kesler and lifelong friends to Max and the family, Bill and Betty Chapman, Wayne and Nell Howell, Bill Daniel and devoted friend, Linda A. Dean.
His obituary said the family would like to extend a special thank you to Max's ""Hidden Heroes"" who extended love, support and comfort to Max daily. Thank you to the Staff at Emory University Hospital, Long Leaf Palliative & Hospice Care, Dr. Paul Cox, Mrs. Eva Henson, Dorothy Horton, Bubber Waters, Jason Moon, Steve Edwards, Aubrey Lukwesa, Brian C. Chitomfwa, Mike Olson, Jim Galloway, Jason Meininger and Alan Smith.
A private graveside service will be held and a celebration of Max Cleland's life will be held at a later date. Henry Funeral Home and Cremation in Lithonia is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hugh & Juanita Kesler Cleland Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Max Cleland Leadership Program at Stetson University.
Stetson University Development Office, 421 N. Woodland Blvd., Unit 8286, DeLand, FL 32723. Online at: https://www.stetson.edu/administration/development/give.php
Read more about Max Cleland on ajc.com: Full obituary
, an appreciation by columnist Patricia Murphy
and photos of Max Cleland through the years
Published by Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Nov. 9, 2021.