In loving memory of Sheriff Donnie Haralson
August 11, 1955 - March 4, 2014
Our community mourned Friday as our greatest mentor and friend, Sheriff Donnie Haralson, was laid to rest after a lengthy and valiantly fought battle with cancer.
I have recently spoken with numerous people who knew Sheriff Donnie and were willing to share their personal thoughts and experiences with him. As they did, I was reminded of times I shared with him.
My first encounter came when I was just a kid in the D.A.R.E. program. I won’t say how long ago that was.
I came to work with this newspaper over six years ago and during that time had the privilege of getting to know him better.
Most of our conversations always began with me saying, “There’s my favorite lawman,” and him responding with “There’s my favorite news reporter.” That exchange was always followed with a smile, laugh and big hug.
My favorite lawman was a man of great character. He loved Cordele and Crisp County. Many people can tell you numerous things he did for this community and its citizens. The things he did were not for his own personal glory but for the good of the people he was sworn to protect.
He was instrumental in bringing the D.A.R.E. program into our schools not for folks to pat him on the back, but to teach the children of this community the dangers of drug abuse and the importance of “Just saying NO.”
Throughout his years, he served as a mentor to countless young people many of whom went on to careers in law enforcement. He always stressed the importance of education and working hard to be the best one can possibly be.
He was a driving force behind the Crisp County Emergency Management Agency, not because he wanted people to say “Good Job, sheriff,” but because he wanted our citizens as well as our first responders to be safe in the event tragedy struck our community.
He established programs that taught personal safety and firearms familiarization for women because as a sheriff, husband and father he wanted all women to have some knowledge of self defense.
He began a Junior Deputy program to help educate the next generation of law enforcement.
My favorite lawman upheld the position of sheriff with dignity and integrity. He also valued honesty and loyalty.
Throughout his years of law enforcement, he encountered many people who found themselves on the wrong side of the law. He worked to establish GED classes and other programs as well as church services for inmates because he wanted to help them realize there’s more to life than a life of crime.
Working as a news reporter at times, I have felt some people run when they see us coming thinking, “Oh, no, there comes the media, in search of a story.”
That was never the case with my favorite lawman. If that scanner at work sent me out to the scene and he was there he found time to ensure I got the information I needed to help keep the public informed.
Many days I called the office asking Cathy for ‘my favorite lawman.’ I can’t remember a time he did not pick up the phone. He always answered my questions.
When asking for a direct quote for whatever story I was working on at the time. He would laugh and respond by saying, “You know what to say; just don’t let me sound stupid.”
My favorite lawman was much more than a sheriff. He was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend and, most importantly, he was a man of God. His faith remained strong even during the toughest times of his life.
In an interview with my fellow Dispatch employee Harvey Simpson in January of 2013 he was quoted as saying, “I’m going to keep fighting the fight, running the race and — most of all — keeping the faith.” And he did just that.
He has crossed the finish line of that race and now walks in paradise with his King — a reward for all his years of unwavering faith and loyalty. Rest in peace “my favorite lawman.” While you will be missed, you will never be forgotten.