Lowndes County mourns loss of sheriff

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Lowndes County continues to mourn the loss of Sheriff Willie Vaughner.

Vaughner, 58, collapsed due to an apparent heart attack at his home on Friday. He was rushed to Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, where he was pronounced dead.

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A funeral service is set for Saturday, July 21 at noon at the Jackson-Steele Community Center in White Hall. Black ribbons adorn the Lowndes County Courthouse doors and flags have been lowered to half-staff in memory of a man that’s routinely described as a “good person.”

“He’s going to be missed not only by his family, but the people of this county,” said Lowndes County Commissioner Robert Harris, who’s also Vaughner’s first cousin. “This county has suffered a great loss and it’s a great void to try to fill.”

Vaughner, who was appointed sheriff in 1993 by then-Gov. Don Siegelman, brought Lowndes County into the computer age, Harris said on Tuesday. Harris went on to recall several of Vaughner’s accomplishments during his tenure, including the construction of a new jail and the arrival of new patrol cars.

“He was community active throughout his career as sheriff,” Harris said.

Vaughner also served as a past president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, elected in 2004 by his colleagues.

Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman said Vaughner “will be missed.”

“His passing is a big loss to law enforcement, and a big loss to Lowndes County,” Huffman said. “Everybody loved him.”

Lowndes County District Judge Terri Bozeman, in an interview with The Montgomery Advertiser, said Vaughner’s death was a genuine shock to the community.

“He was the picture of health,” she said. “He was always out and about, going non-stop 24 hours a day. We’re all shaken by what has happened.”

Chief Deputy John Williams has assumed the role of acting sheriff until Gov. Bob Riley announces a replacement. Harris said he hopes Riley appoints Williams to the office.

The online community is also remembering Vaughner, who was a Vietnam veteran. Alabama State Captain Paul Reynolds posted on the Patriot Guard Riders Web site, “He was very well respected in the law enforcement community in Alabama, but most of all he was well respected by the citizens he served.

“Today Alabama has lost another great Law Man, as he will now take his place in heaven amongst the many heroes who have passed before him.”

Staff Writer Victor Inge contributed to this report.