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Bulloch mourns Sheriff Akins
Funeral at 11 a.m. Tuesday Statesboro First Baptist Church
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Cpl. Dustin Williams of the Bulloch County Sheriff's Department, right, stands at attention with his hat off at the Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home as guests come to pay their respects to former Bulloch County Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins Monday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    In spite of the circumstances, the atmosphere Monday night at the visitation for former Bulloch County Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins was not typical of most funeral home viewings.
    There were tears, but there were even more fond smiles and sentimental laughter as Akins' friends and family remembered his humor, his dedication to the community and his compassion for fellow man.
    Akins, 70, died Saturday of complications from a colostomy and other surgeries.
    The rooms were packed with visitors at Joiner-Anderson Funeral Home Monday, with long lines of people waiting to file past and give the family their respects. Fully uniformed Bulloch Count Sheriff's deputies mingled with working men in boots and jeans; ladies fresh from work and others dressed in church finery.
    People of all races, backgrounds, and ages dropped by between 4 and 8 p.m. Monday evening, an act that reflects how Akins, in his capacity as long-time sheriff of 24 years as well as a beloved community icon, impacted everyone who knew him.
    As people filed past in line, they watched a digital display of photographs that depicted Akins throughout his adult life - as a young man just beginning his law enforcement career; as a proud father holding his baby daughter Julianna; cooking out for various engagements; smiling as he sat on a golf cart at the local fair.
    The photos drew comments and chuckles: Arnold Ray as a parade grand marshal; working with others to help with natural disaster relief efforts; asleep on an airplane; fishing and once, with his truck immersed in a pond, because he got out of the truck and left it in drive.
    "Arnold Ray was fun to be around," said Terry Harville, long-time employee at the Bulloch County Jail. "We had a good time. He kept you on your toes. He knew a lot of things before you knew it. He was a walking encyclopedia and had his hands in everything."

Friends remember Akins
    As visitors came and went, deputies stood at attention, hats in hand, as a show of respect. Every so often there would be a changing of the guards as deputies traded places, taking turns "guarding" Akins' casket. Akins' mother, 91-year-old Neva Newton Akins, sat in a wheelchair beside her son's body, greeting visitors as they offered condolences. Other family members, including Akins' daughter Julianna Akins Waits, stood nearby.
    "If you think of Bulloch County, you think of Sheriff Arnold Ray Akins," said Bulloch County Sheriff's Capt. Howard Nessmith. "He was Bulloch County."
    Deputy Ed Akins recalled Arnold Ray stopping him for speeding when he was only 16 years old. "He took his gun belt and his belt off  - I won't go any further than that," he said.
    Akins was known for his tenacity in pursuing criminals, and in expecting the best from anybody he encountered. Many present at the visitation Monday night reminisced, sharing tales of exciting times they had with Akins. Current Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson recalled a time when he and Arnold Ray "arrested a fellow in Brooklet for armed robbery of catfish."
    It seems the man robbed another at gunpoint of three catfish the victim had caught. Akins and Anderson located the culprit and found the fish in his refrigerator. They seized the fish and the robber served prison time, he said.
    "There are so many (memories) it's so hard for me to tell you," he said. "I started riding with him when I was 15 years old."
    He said anyone who ever rode with Arnold Ray would know this for truth: "He would take that left foot and put it on the dash, hold that pipe in his left hand and steer with his left hand and try to talk on the radio at the same time. I'd say 'please, Mr. Akins, let me talk on the radio or hold the pipe.'"
    Akins was rarely seen without his pipe, and many of the photos shared Monday night proved that. He would even smoke his pipe in court.
    Anderson remembered one judge who told him to tell Akins not to light the pipe in the courtroom - no smoking was allowed. "I told the judge - I'll hold your robe and you go tell him," he said.
    Anderson would not name the judge, but likely it was not Bulloch County Superior Court Judge John R. "Robbie" Turner.  Akins was always available when he needed him, Turner said.

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