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Jail complex named after former sheriff Arnold Ray Akins

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Posted: May 21, 2008 8:49 p.m.
Updated: June 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Jail complex named after former sheriff Arnold Ray Akins

Bullolch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson, left, Statesboro Police Chief Stan York and Bulloch Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, right, unveil the sign honoring former Bulloch sheriff Arnold Ray Akins.


      Former Bulloch County Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins was visibly moved Wednesday as he watched current sheriff Lynn Anderson unveil a new sign in front of the Bulloch County Jail.
    The sign is for the property where Bulloch County Public Works, the Bulloch County Jail, Bulloch County Central 911 and Bulloch County Correctional Institute are all located - now officially known as  the Arnold R. Akins Public Safety Compound.
    The sign naming the compound after Akins was a hard secret to keep, and possibly it wasn't that big a secret. "I'd heard some rumblings a few months ago, but it was a surprise," Akins said later Tuesday afternoon.
    Anderson said the sign was completed earlier than he expected and he arrived at the jail one day to find workers preparing to display it. He asked them to keep it covered until the surprise could be sprung.
    He and several other county leaders had discussed the potential names for  the compound, and after some consideration, the vote was unanimous to honor the long-time former sheriff by giving the compound his name.
    "I appreciate it," Akins said to the crowd of pubic safety officials, employees and friends. "I told them after I died they could do anything they wanted."
    "Well, we tried to wait," Anderson joked.
    The relationship between Anderson and Akins is almost like father and son. As a matter of fact, several current law enforcement officers feel the same way about Akins as Anderson does, and some expressed those feelings during the unveiling.
    "I know of no one more deserving than Arnold Ray," said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn."I can't tell you all the things he's taught me over the years. He's been a great mentor for me."
    Statesboro Police chief Stan York said he has known Akins since the mid-1970's.
    "I consider him one of  those people you can always look to and learn from," he said. "This county is a lot better because of his leadership."
    "We were all raised by Sheriff Akins," said Georgia Southern University Police Chief Ken Brown. "He taught us a lot of things ... how to apply it in real life, to use common sense. He taught all of us to enforce law with a fair and decent hand."
    Anderson recalled a conversation between he and Akins when  they were on their way home from an out-of-town trip. While parked at a traffic light in Millen, Akins asked Anderson "So, I'm gonna retire, what are you going to do?
    It was then that Anderson decided he would run for sheriff "if Arnold Ray would support me," he said.
    A large crowd gathered in front of the jail Wednesday morning to watch as the sign was uncovered. Bulloch County Commissioners, Statesboro City Council members, local businessmen, and officers from a variety of law enforcement and public safety agencies in Bulloch and surrounding counties were present.
    "We're very happy and excited to be here," said Bulloch County Commissioner Garrett Nevil. "This is a small way we can show our appreciation to a fellow who has given most of his life to serve the citizens of Bulloch County. He's had an impact on so many lives around here I couldn't begin to tell you who and how."
    Akins was humble in accepting the honor, but said he didn't seek the glory and gave credit to the people he served.
    "What folks in this county have done for me is unbelievable," he said.
    
@Subhead:Still making his rounds
@Bodycopy:    After serving as sheriff for 24 years, Arnold Ray Akins is still making rounds.
    He still keeps a scanner going in his home, and still checks on neighbors every evening to make sure all is well in his neighborhood.
    After graduation, Akins leaned towards the law enforcement field and applied for a job with the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department under the supervision of Sheriff Paul Nevil. He was deputy for about four years, then served as chief deputy for a little over eight years.
    When the sheriff's seat came up for grabs, he ran for the office and was elected. During the next 24 years he faced opposition during elections only twice - and both times defeated his competition.
    During those years, Akins became something of a legend - a piece of Bulloch County history. Almost everyone who knows him has a tale to tell, and Akins holds their utmost respect to this day.
    "My thing is, I like to enforce the law but I also like to help people," he said. "I'm too compassionate in some cases, and some thought I had no heart at all."
    He loved the job so much, it was hard to retire. He almost did eight years prior to his actual retirement, but his wife died and everything changed.
    "I said, I can't do this now,?" he said. "I'd go crazy as a bat with her gone and nothing to do."
    And when he did retire eight years later, he was sheriff up until  the last minute.
    "I sat in my office until the clock struck midnight," he said. "Then I said, well, I'm not sheriff anymore."
    Yet, to this day everyone - even Anderson, calls him "Sheriff Akins."
    "I don't miss all those headaches, but I miss the people," Akins said. "I've been lucky. I got to stay in the loop."
    That means when he hears something interesting going on over the scanner, he gets in his car and gets into the mix of things right along with the deputies and investigators.
    Maybe that's why such a large crowd showed up to pay respects Wednesday.
    Akins sat under a tent in the front row with his daughter as the sign was unveiled. His facial expression remained stoic, but his blue eyes sparkled with emotion.
    "I actually broke down," he said afterward. "To tell you the  truth, I never would have sought that glory. It (everything he did in office) was just part of my job. I promise you one  thing, I never did anything I didn't think was right, and I enjoyed every day of it."
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