One week before he was to defend his long-running tenure in a primary election, Georgia's oldest sheriff died Tuesday at an Athens, Ga., hospital.
Wilkes County Sheriff Cecil A. Moore, 80, served just short of nine terms and 36 years in a county of about 10,600 on the mideastern fringes of the state. Counting his time as a sheriff's deputy, he served 45 years.
After Glascock County Sheriff James English died in January at age 82, Sheriff Moore became the state's senior county sheriff. He was tied for longest serving with Hancock County Sheriff T.J. "Slim" Walton, who also was first elected in 1965.
Sheriff Moore died of cancer at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary's Hospital. On July 18, he was to have faced Gary Rogers - one of his own deputies and his sole opponent - in the Democratic primary.
"He's done so much for this county, you can't name it all," said family friend Tim Crook, who lives not far from the Moore farm in Washington. "Everybody loved him, except for a select few."
Family members said the sheriff dedicated his life to protecting his home county. In his younger years, he was an avid hunter and fishermen, and had earned a Bronze Star for his service in the Army during World War II.
In his later years, he focused on law enforcement, the cattle business he ran with his son Sam, and raising his five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, family members said.
The county's law enforcement center, which houses offices, the jail, the 911 center and a courtroom, was named for Sheriff Moore.
"He helped a lot of people, and tried to do an honest job," said his son Mark Moore, who is chief deputy of the sheriff's department.
Next week, Sheriff Moore's name will appear on ballots because they already have been printed, Wilkes County Probate Court Judge Jim Burton said. Sometime after primaries, Judge Burton said, he will appoint an interim sheriff to serve out Sheriff Moore's unexpired term.
Chief Deputy Moore and Deputy Rogers are possible appointees, he said. Anyone who wishes to vie for the sheriff's job in November must run as a write-in candidate.
"At this point, I'm not giving it much thought," Chief Deputy Moore said. "After (the funeral) is all over, we'll look at it."
Other survivors include his wife, Mary, and a daughter, Linda Echols.
Hopkins Funeral Home in Washington is in charge of arrangements.
Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.