Profile obituary: Jim Tarver

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Former Augusta City Councilman Jim Tarver died Thursday, leaving the city a little less colorful.

Jim Tarver was elected to the Augusta City Council in 1988. He was an honorary deputy sheriff in Richmond County.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Jim Tarver was elected to the Augusta City Council in 1988. He was an honorary deputy sheriff in Richmond County.

Mr. Tarver, 85, a cab driver for more than 40 years, was elected to the old City Council from the Fifth Ward in 1988 and served two terms.

Midge and Preston Johnson, at whose store, Johnson's Curb Market on Crawford Avenue, Mr. Tarver could often be found talking politics, remember him as their "super good friend."

"He hung out at our store, and we always did politics together," Mrs. Johnson said. "He was always deeply involved in politics and loved it with all his heart. On Election Day, we would get up at 5 o'clock in the morning and blow up balloons and put people out on the streets with signs."

One of Mr. Tarver's daughters, Paula Miller, said her father had a passion for life and for politics.

"He taught me to never give up on your dreams and always mean what you say and never back down," she said.

In 1992, the Augusta police conducted a sting operation on Mr. Tarver to see whether he would accept a bribe, but he refused the bait. Mr. Tarver pushed to have the U.S. Justice Department investigate, but the city council voted against the motion -- to the satisfaction of Mayor Charles DeVaney, who had been accused of masterminding the sting as political retribution for Mr. Tarver's position against consolidation.

Mrs. Miller said her father could be fiery and adamant, but he could never be a thief.

"That sting just totally broke my daddy down," she said.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said Mr. Tarver was a supporter of his campaign for sheriff the first time he ran.

"He had bumper stickers all over his vehicle, and after the election he would not take them off," he said. "He was so excited for me. He was a great supporter and a good friend."

Mr. Tarver was an avid animal lover, and in the 1950s he had a backyard zoo, which he hoped would be the beginning of a permanent city zoo at Pendleton King Park, Mrs. Miller said.

He got the animals for the zoo, but nothing came of his plan, and he let some of the ones that could survive in the wild go and sold or gave the others away, she said.

"A wealthy Chinese lady wanted to buy the red fox, and he said, 'No, you want to make a collar out of it,' " she said.

Mr. Tarver was a member of the Committee for Good Government and was an honorary deputy sheriff of Richmond County.

Funeral services will be Monday at 2 p.m. at Jones Creek Baptist Church. Interment will follow in West View Cemetery.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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