Twenty-six years after deciding to devote his life to the well-being of Early County citizens as their sheriff, Jimmie Murkerson is now the recipient of a legion of prayers from those same well-wishers as he battles for his life in an Atlanta hospital.
This man is no run-of-the-mill public official. Not only did he undertake the job of keeping the people of Early County safe, he also teamed with then-Blakely Police Chief Charles Middleton to lead the city and county to consolidation of their law enforcement agencies. I cannot imagine anything much more controversial than that in rural Georgia, but they pulled it off and the combined force has thrived ever since.
According to a recent report in the Early County News, Sheriff Murkerson is battling stem cell therapy for myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder. He is a patient at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
There is not a prayer list in the Early County/Blakely area that does not begin with the name of Jimmie Murkerson. Go to church, the service clubs, the hot dog stand or barber/beauty shop, and it will not be long before someone asks, "What's the latest on Jimmie Murkerson?"
His legacy of community service and as an all-around good fellow has in recent days extended well beyond the home region: Sheriff Murkerson "has been named the recipient of the prestigious 2011 Georgia Sheriffs' Association Sheriff of the Year award for his tireless, unwavering commitment to the citizens of the State of Georgia and the Office of Sheriff," said the Blakely newspaper in announcing the award,
It is presented each year to a law enforcement official "who has made outstanding contributions to the office of sheriff, law enforcement and the community."
Due to his serious illness, Jimmie's daughter, Tracie Guzman, and his son, J.D. Murkerson, accepted the award for their father during the Georgia Sheriffs Association's annual meeting held at Stone Mountain.
"During the past 26 years, Early County has been well served by Sheriff Jimmie Murkerson. It is because of his honest, hardworking and forward thinking nature that his colleagues have selected him for this most prestigious award," said Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs' Association. "The sheriffs could not have chosen a more deserving recipient."
We could not agree more in Blakely and Early County.
As the Early County News reported, the consolidation of city/county law agencies has not only saved money, but has enhanced the overall effectiveness of local law enforcement. Of course, his fellow sheriffs have kept him on the road over the years making presentations to them about the combined agencies.
Obviously, Jimmie's fellow sheriffs across Georgia have recognized this trail-blazer long before 2011. They elected him in the past as president of their association and as head of their association's youth homes. He has twice been named winner of their Distinguished Humanitarian Award for an association that numbers 159 elected sheriffs and 45,000 honorary members.
Jimmie is a member of my wife's 1965 graduating class at Blakely High School. I know from being around them at various times, Jimmie Ray Murkerson is a revered figure. Another class member, Blakely Mayor Ric Hall, has begun a fund-raising drive to help offset the Murkerson family's expenses. Please mail any contributions to: Jimmie Murkerson Fund, Bank of Early, P.O. Box 527, Blakely, Ga. 398233.