WARRENTON - Deputy Jerome Jackson of the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department touched the lives of thousands of people during his long career in law enforcement. Last Saturday during his funeral services, he was remembered by Sheriff Logan Marshall as a friend and a deputy who will be missed by everyone.
"I lost a longtime friend," Sheriff Marshall told a large crowd that assembled in the gymnasium of Warren County High School - Deputy Jackson's alma mater. "Jerome and I go back a long, long way."
Sheriff Marshall said Deputy Jackson was a man you could count on if you needed someone to back you up. Deputy Jackson did such on many occasions during his law enforcement career, which began with the Augusta Police Department. He later worked as an officer with the Wrens Police Department, Warren County Sheriff's Department and later the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department. "If you were going on a call where you needed backup, Jerome was your man," the sheriff said.
"We've lost not only a good deputy in McDuffie County, but we've lost a good deputy in the State of Georgia, too," Sheriff Marshall said.
His comments were shared with an estimated 500 people - more than 200 of them affiliated with law enforcement agencies. The group included sheriffs, deputies, police officers, state patrol troopers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and dispatchers. Several of those attending the funeral service, representing various law enforcement agencies, either had a close personal relationship with Deputy Jackson or had worked closely with him through the years.
Deputy Leonard Neal, one of Deputy Jackson's colleagues, later performed a solo on his guitar, as a tribute to his friend. He received backup from the choir of Lithonia Baptist Church.
The 52-year-old Deputy Jackson died unexpectedly while on duty in his patrol car, just seconds after leaving from the sheriff's substation in Dearing and becoming involved in a minor mishap with a mini-van on North Main Street June 15. He was pronounced dead later that afternoon at McDuffie Regional Medical Center. His death is believed to have been linked to cardiac problems.
Deputy Jackson, who graduated from Warren County High School, later joined the U.S. Marine Corp. before deciding on a law enforcement career. He later became a certified volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Warrenton and volunteered as a youth football coach with the Warrenton Recreation Department for a number of years.
Deputy Jackson's daughter, Shakelia Smith, of Thomson, remembered her father with a poem entitled, "Daddy's Little Girl."
In addition, Deputy Jackson also served as a trustee at Lithonia Baptist Church. There, the Rev. Kenneth Elder described Deputy Jackson as "an officer and a gentleman."
The preacher pointed out to everyone attending the services in the school gym that "The Bible tells us that it is appointed to every man that we shall die. We're not going to be here forever. We need to make preparations to leave here."
Rev. Elder later asked, "What have you done today to prepare yourselves to see Jesus someday? The time is winding down, I assure you. Get your house in order. The way of sin is death, but the way of God is everlasting."
Following services at the school, the funeral procession, led by Sheriff Marshall and GBI Special Agent Teddy Jackson in Deputy Jackson's Mobile 14 patrol car, and dozens of other law enforcement and fire/rescue vehicles departed on the short drive to the cemetery.
At the cemetery, overlooking Georgia Highway 80, family members and other mourners gathered underneath a pair of funeral home tents, where two trees provided a little shade from the blistering heat of the sun, as members of the Georgia State Patrol Honor Guard performed the ceremonial presentation of the American flag, which had draped Deputy Jackson's casket.
Sgt. Ritchie Howard, of Thomson, and member of the state patrol honor guard, later presented Deputy Jackson's widow, Santeeba Jackson, with the flag. While taps was being played, Deputy Jackson's Mobile 14 car number was officially retired in a ceremony that was sounded over a loudspeaker intercom from a nearby patrol car.
On three different occasions, the male voice of a McDuffie County 911 dispatcher could be heard calling "Mobile 14." After the third call, the dispatcher put out a broadcast to all cars, saying, "Mobile 14, 10-7, 10-42." The codes mean off-duty, end of duty tour. There was complete silence at the grave site when the last radio message sounded aloud.