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Akins laid to rest
Former sheriff honored at funeral Tuesday
102709  AKINS FUNERAL 05 web
The Bulloch County Sheriffs Department Honor Guard prepares to present the flag that draped the casket of former Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins to his family at Tuesday's interment.
    Bulloch County buried a legend Tuesday as rain threatened and citizens mourned. Former Bulloch County Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins, died Saturday of complications stemming from colostomy surgery. Akins was 70.
    A long line of flashing blue lights lit the way as a menagerie of law enforcement and public safety officials accompanied the funeral procession from Statesboro First Baptist Church to Bulloch Memorial Gardens. Possibly 200 vehicles participated in the procession.
    The funeral for Akins, who was Bulloch County's sheriff from 1976 until 2000, drew several from the community who came to pay last respects. Akins' body lay in state for an hour before the funeral began, and the church began filling as members of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department, Statesboro Police Department, Georgia Southern University Police, Statesboro and Bulloch County firefighters, EMS and Bulloch County Public Safety and more were seated.
    His flag-draped casket was surrounded by an assortment of fall arrangements, with one grapevine wreath adorned by a bass figurine, reflecting Akins' love of fishing. Other arrangements were in traditional colors, including red, white and blue, symbolic of Akins' service to his country as a veteran (National Guard).
    Members of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Honor Guard stood at attention beside his casket, saluting with white-gloved hands as they changed guard.
    Everyone stood and sang "God Bless America" as Akins' family entered. Dr. Larry Guido, brother of renowned evangelist Dr. Michael Guido, recited the 23rd Psalm and prayed before everyone was seated.
    Terry Norris, executive director of the Georgia Sheriffs Association, gave the eulogy.
    "We all loved Arnold Ray for a lot of different reasons," he said. "We are just so sorry Arnold Ray is gone. He has been as tough law enforcement officer, a friend, a leader in this state as anybody can.
    "There are so many great stories about what Arnold Ray has said and done," he said. "Unfortunately, a lot of that we can't say today." This was followed by a ripple of laughter, as most were familiar with Akins' salty sense of humor and reputation for being mischievous, straightforward and sometimes a bit of a rascal.
    Norris spoke about Akins' interest in continuing education in the law enforcement field, and said he even participated in training after his retirement. Akins could have taught most of those courses, he said.
    Then Norris spoke about one of the many funny experiences Akins and his friends experienced.
    It seems Akins was attending a fishing outing at Ellis Wood's farm, and somehow exited his truck while it was still in drive. The truck, loaded down with coolers of food and drinks, ended up in the pond.
    Akins was fine, but angry, and hung up on current Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson when he called say he'd heard  "the bass down at the farm were hitting on F150's," Norris said.
    But Anderson called Akins back and asked him how deep the truck has gone.
    "He (Akins) said 'far enough for the honey buns to float out of the window,'" Norris said.
    Then, Norris grew more serious as he recalled a conversation he had with Akins during a recent hospitalization.
    "Any time somebody needed help, Arnold Ray was the first to get in the truck," he said. And, during the conversation with Akins while he was in the hospital, "He told me, 'let me know if there's anything I can do to help you.'"
    Elder Steve Taylor spoke next.
    "We have no idea what is going on in Heaven right now, but I imagine there are some stories being told," he said. "How do you describe Arnold Ray? He was a good man ... a good man is in the presence of, a good man is in the likeness of, Jesus Christ.
    "He was a man of humanity, a man of class." he said. "There was a force about (Arnold Ray's) presence that put you at ease - a force of peace, a force of wisdom, a force of humor, a force of understanding."
    Akins was "a man of deep faith," he said. "I never saw a time when there was a need in someone's life, that he did not stop to lend a hand. You look at the life of Arnold Ray Akins and you see a sermon... the Lord was with him Saturday morning. The Lord was with him in a mighty way. "
    Akins was "larger than life," Taylor said.
    Then, law enforcement and public safety officials left the church, paving the way for Akins' body as pall bearers took him to the hearse. As they went, the voice of Bulloch County Central 911 Operator Judy Smith was broadcast over the air:  "Bulloch Central to all personnel, stand by for special broadcast. The Bulloch County Sheriff's Department and all public safety personnel across this county and the State of Georgia wish to thank retired Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins for his 40 years of service to the citizens of Bulloch County and its municipalities. Although you are gone, you will never be forgotten."
     Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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