Former sheriff dead at 71

By Ashley Vansant / Managing Editor

Three-term Shelby County Sheriff James Jones died Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.

Jones, a native of Columbus, Ga., and the son of a highway patrolman, began his law enforcement career with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in 1974.

He served as deputy sheriff and chief deputy before he was elected to his first term as sheriff in 1991.

Current Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry, who served as a chief deputy under Jones from 2001 until his retirement in 2003, remembered Jones as a “strong leader personally, professionally and in his faith.”

“He had the courage to do what was right and not what was politically right,” Curry said. “He was very committed to the citizens and their safety.”

As sheriff, Jones was involved in several high-profile cases, including the arrests of convicted killers Jerry Lee Bowen and James Edgehill Burnside.

He also led the search and capture of two teenagers who robbed and killed two people in a U.S. 280 pawn shop in 1996.

Jones is credited with a number of progressive changes in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, including writing the organization’s first policy and procedures manual, hiring the county’s first female deputy and partnering with Chelsea’s Citizen Observer Patrol.

James Jones is survived by his wife of 29 years, Debbi; son, Buck Jones; and daughter, Regina Sobczak