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Rep. Ronald Ginn, 70; Georgia Democrat

By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page B06

Ronald "Bo" Ginn, 70, a former Georgia Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives who later served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges, died Jan. 6 at a hospital in Augusta, Ga. He had cancer.

Rep. Ginn, a former administrative assistant to Sen. Herman E. Talmadge and Rep. G. Elliott Hagan, both Georgia Democrats, later beat Hagan in the 1972 House race. He served until 1983, representing Savannah and the surrounding area in southeastern Georgia.

Rep. Ginn at his Alexandria office in 1988. He served time in prison for bank fraud. (Rick Mckay -- Cox News Service)

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He sat on the Appropriations Committee and chaired a subcommittee on military construction, making him a strong voice on defense matters. He was credited with keeping Fort Stewart open despite presidential opposition.

Choosing not to seek reelection in 1982, he made a bid for the Georgia governorship. One of his campaign ads showed him in a jail cell, promoting his tough policy against drug dealers. At the time, his untarnished reputation allowed such a gamble. When his election bid failed, he became a defense lobbyist.

By 1993, Ginn had filed for bankruptcy. Soon after, the government alleged that he began borrowing heavily to repay a series of loans and had provided creditors with false information about his finances.

He pleaded guilty to bank fraud, having sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank loans before filing for bankruptcy. Reportedly, he courted 12 banks, many of them small lending institutions run by longtime friends.

People were mystified. There was much speculation about the root of his criminal activity, including needing money to help pay the bills for a grandchild with a serious heart ailment, but Ginn stayed mum.

He agreed in plea bargaining to a 26-month sentence, later reduced to 15 months. In 1995, a federal judge who viewed the first sentence as too lenient resentenced Ginn to 21 months in prison, minus 7 1/2months for time served.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, his antique furniture, crystal chandeliers and Oriental rugs were auctioned off, along with his 5,000-square-foot home and adjacent guest house in Millen, Ga.

Ronald Bryan Ginn was born May 31, 1934, in Morgan, Ga. He was a 1956 graduate of Georgia Southern College. Early on, he taught high school and later was a businessman and cattle farmer.

After leaving the House, he soundly lost his gubernatorial bid to Joe Frank Harris in the 1982 Democratic primary. Harris became governor.

His wife, Gloria Averitt Ginn, died in 1998.

Survivors include three children and seven grandchildren.

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