More than a century after a town marshal was killed near a street corner in Claxton, his sacrifice will be remembered with the unveiling of a plaque in recognition of his service.
Marshal William A. Baggett, who was shot and killed Jan. 12, 1910, is the city’s only law enforcement officer to have lost his life in the line of duty. Over the decades after he was shot to death near the corner of Railroad and South Newton Streets, various city officials – for reasons unclear – never recognized the marshal’s sacrifice with a proper memorial.
Upon a request from the town’s local newspaper, The Claxton Enterprise, current and former city officials authorized the purchase of a plaque that will be placed in Claxton City Hall in memory of the fallen officer in a ceremony on Sunday Oct. 15.
It is not known exactly what year Baggett moved his family to Claxton, which was then in Tattnall County, but records indicate that he was performing various jobs for the city in 1906.
Between February of that year and January 1907, three men each served short stints as Claxton’s lone law enforcement officer. When the town’s mayor and council met for their first meeting in 1907, Baggett was chosen for the job at a salary of $30 per month.
As cars began appearing on the streets of Claxton, city officials considered it necessary to enact an ordinance to prohibit “fast driving” through the town. Approved on July 27, 1909, the ordinance required, in the interest of public safety, that drivers not exceed 10 miles per hour.
The marshal’s enforcement of that ordinance resulted in at least three encounters with a young man from the neighboring town of Hagan. The third incident, which occurred on a Sunday prior to his death, led to a confrontation that ended Marshal Baggett’s life.
On April 12, 1912, more than two years after the marshal’s death, his killer was found “not guilty” by a Tattnall County grand jury after deliberating for 24 minutes.
A ceremony for unveiling of the plaque honoring Baggett is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 15, at City Hall, 2-4 p.m. Law enforcement officers, as well as members of their professional organizations, are invited to attend the ceremony and reception to follow.
State Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville will speak briefly and present a proclamation from Governor Nathan Deal, and Peace Officers Association of Georgia Executive Director John Edwards will deliver the keynote address. The Georgia State Patrol Honor Guard, Troop F, will participate in the ceremony with the Presentation of Colors and performance of the National Anthem and “Taps.”
The memorial to Baggett and his service to the City of Claxton will be exhibited in the lobby of City Hall and later placed on permanent display.
The public also is invited to attend the ceremony. Light refreshments will be served.