Bibb County ceremony honors deputies who died on duty

Mike Bright remembers hearing stories as a child about his great-great-grandfather, a Bibb County deputy, who was fatally shot while responding to a complaint at a craps game in 1918.

Bright, of Macon, sat with several members of his family Tuesday as the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office unveiled a memorial commemorating the sacrifice made by Bright’s ancestor, Leland F. Williams, and six other deputies killed in the line of duty since 1892.

“This wall will be a permanent reminder of our deputies, who they were and what they gave for us,” said Sheriff Jerry Modena.

Families of four of the deputies attended the ceremony along with about a hundred other people. Crowds of public safety representatives, community members and relatives filled the lobby at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center for the ceremony. Closed-circuit TV feeds of the ceremony were set up in adjoining rooms. Several people stood outside and peered in through windows.

Lisa Whitehead, sister of deputy Joseph Whitehead who was fatally shot while attempting to serve a no-knock warrant in 2006, said she traveled from New Jersey to attend the ceremony.

“It’s a personal honor and dedication for my brother,” she said. “The sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Jackie Thomas, mother of deputy Michael Sean Thomas, who was fatally injured in a 2008 traffic crash, said the memorial wall will serve as a legacy to her son’s children.

The children will be able to visit the sheriff’s office and know how much Thomas loved his job and how people respected his sacrifice, she said.

Bright said he learned more details about his great-great-grandfather after reading an article in The Telegraph about the upcoming memorial. He contacted the sheriff’s office. He said the memorial spurred him to visit the library and read old newspaper articles and look at photos of Williams.

Now, he’s determined to put together a book of family history to hand down to future generations.

Other deputies in the memorial are:

Ÿ Ben Wilder, who was fatally shot in the head in May 1892 by a 15-year-old who was later hanged.

Ÿ Walter C. Byrd, who was fatally shot outside a pool room in 1922. Deputies found the man accused of shooting Byrd days later and a lynch mob killed him.

Ÿ Harry “Tubby” Green, who was killed after shots were fired at his vehicle during the pursuit of a rum runner in 1925. After pulling over, Green was shot and killed. His body was dumped into the Ocmulgee River swamps.

Ÿ Chad Norman McDonald, who died following a traffic crash in 2007.

Modena said plans are being made for a second memorial to be erected outside the sheriff’s office that will honor all fallen deputies.

He said he hopes the memorial will be erected within the next three years.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.