Originally created 08/19/04

Mailing targets sheriff's military past



EDGEFIELD, S.C. - Black politicians and activists in Edgefield County predict a recent mailing campaign attempting to discredit Sheriff Adell Dobey's military service record won't have much impact on the sheriff's race.

In recent weeks, anonymous letters and photocopies of the sheriff's October 1970 military discharge records have been sent to several news media outlets and residents. The letter charges that Sheriff Dobey had "bad time" on his record and that he lied about serving in Vietnam.

Sheriff Dobey has declined to comment to The Augusta Chronicle about the claims, but he told Edgefield's Citizen News that he never said he went to Vietnam and that he lost 44 days of pay for run-ins with superiors as a brash 17-year-old recruit.

"I got into some fights, and I learned some valuable lessons," he told the newspaper.

Sheriff Dobey's Republican rival, Dan Choate, and a supporter, Columbia County sheriff's Investigator Wayne Collins, deny any connection to the mailing. Both, however, say Sheriff Dobey told them he went to Vietnam during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

"I think he's sullied the name of the office by not telling us the truth," said Mr. Collins, a former Marine.

According to the record, known as a DD214 form, Sheriff Dobey served for one year and 23 days in a post in Hawthorne, Nev., and was discharged under honorable conditions. He had 44 days of "time lost" or nonpayment for service.

Edgefield County Councilman Willie Bright, one of the county's more prominent black leaders, said the controversy has created very little stir since it first surfaced two weeks ago.

"I've been all around, and I haven't heard anyone mention it," he said. He also doesn't believe Sheriff Dobey would have claimed to have served in Vietnam.

"I never heard him say that, and I've known him since he was in high school," Mr. Bright said.

Edgefield County activist Nate Jackson labeled the claims a smear campaign.

"Anytime a black man runs for office, it's all about what they've done in the past," he said. "What do people know about the last two sheriffs' military records?"

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or stephen.gurr@augustachronicle.com.