Most of us here would recommend ATGATT "all the gear, all the time". This includes gloves, jacket, pants, and over the ankle boots, in addition to the helmet.
Personally, I wear overpants on any ride not across town. I should wear protective pants even on my across town trips, but I don't, I'm taking a risk. Jeans on their own are useless. I prefer to wear my Sidi motorcycle boots. They offer better protection than my Docs, although the Docs I can wear at work too. I have an airbag jacket (Hit-Air, you can get them online at Safermoto.com). I wouldn't leave on any ride without it. I also routinely wear earplugs on any rides not just across town. The wind noise in the helmet will damage your hearing, and fatigue you faster. Earplugs are an often overlooked piece of safety equipment.
If you're looking for entry level gear, try Cyclegear's "Bilt" brand. It's affordable, and it'll work, but it's not the best quality.
In Georgia, I'm guessing you'll want some mesh gear for the summer. I don't know what your winters are like, but you might need two sets of gear.
Ride safe and have fun!