Moving up the ranks

Tue, 01/06/2009 - 3:33pm
By: Carolyn Cary

Three deputies in a 1975 photo became top sheriff

Moving up the ranks

In this 1975 photo of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, three of the people shown became a sheriff. They are all Fayette County High School graduates.

Wayne Hannah, back row, has just been sworn in as sheriff of Fayette County. He is a 1974 graduate of Fayette County High School and went to work at the sheriff’s department upon graduation as a radio operator.

He worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant colonel and before his election this past July, was responsible for overseeing the department’s traffic division.

The 34-year employee began work when the late James Jones was sheriff, and worked under Sheriff Randall Johnson for all of Johnson’s 32 years of service to Fayette County.

Hannah is married to Deborah, also a longtime employee of the sheriff’s department.

The Fayette County Sheriff’s Department had about 20 employees when Hannah first joined it, and now it has about 229 employees.

The population in the early 1970’s was about 12,000 people, and today the estimated population is about 110,000 people.

The sheriff in the photo, James Jones, followed the second-longest serving sheriff, Hugh Stinchcomb, who served from 1949 to 1968. Stinchcomb is also a Fayette County High School graduate.

Jones was hired by Stinchcomb and was the first full-time deputy to serve the county. Jones served from 1970 until retirement in 1976.

He married a school teacher, Violet Wingard in 1939, and they had two daughters, Janice Northcutt, and Ginger Gaskins.

His father, Felt Jones, was a sheriff’s deputy in the early 1900’s, although at that time they were called county police. He became the only law enforcement officer to die on duty in Fayette County.

In August of 1925, Felt Jones was in a Studebaker car along with two local law enforcement officers and another man. They were in the process of taking bloodhounds to Coweta County and at a sharp curve near Tyrone, the car overturned and Felt was killed.

Another deputy in the photo, lower left, is Jimmy Thomas. He became sheriff of Pike County in 2000.

He is a 1976 graduate of Fayette County High School and his family has been in the county for several generations.

He is, he insists, related to a good many native Fayette Countians.

Thomas, 50, first worked in debt collection because he was too young to be a sheriff’s deputy for a couple of years.

He worked for the Fayette County Sheriff’s office in 1975 and then was a police officer in Union City in 1980. In 1983 he went to work for the Fayette County Emergency Medical Service and remained here for the next 17 years.

He is married to the former Margaret Deyton of Tyrone, and they moved to Pike County 20 years ago. The are the parents of three grown children, Jamie, Jason, and Janna.

In 2000 he was encouraged to run for Pike County sheriff and has served since that time. In the last election there were three others in the race, but Thomas won with 85 percent of the vote.

Fayette County has long been blessed with good men serving in its law enforcement. It will be interesting to see who the next one might be.

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