A Georgia hero was born in Atlanta on this day in 1942.
Joseph Maxwell Cleland — “Max” — grew up in Lithonia. While enrolled at Emory, Cleland joined the Army and went to Vietnam. On April 8, 1968, Capt. Cleland was serving in the 1st Cavalry Division at Khe Sanh when he lost both legs and his right forearm in a grenade explosion. For his valorous combat service, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Soldier’s Medal.
After many months of surgeries and rehab, Cleland launched a political career. In 1970, he became the youngest member of the Georgia Senate. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to head the Veteran’s Administration — at 35, the youngest person and the first Vietnam vet in that post.
Cleland was elected Georgia’s Secretary of State in 1982, until a close–fought election sent him to the U.S. Senate in 1996. He lost a bitter 2002 re–election campaign to Republican Saxby Chambliss.
Despite horrific personal injuries and political setbacks, Max Cleland continues as a public servant, in a remarkable life that began on August 24, 1942, Today in Georgia History.