There are two oaths Jack Simpson has lived by for most of his entire life: “I will do my best to do my duty to God and County,” and “If you sit around when you get older you will rust.”
Both sayings, one instilled upon him as a Boy Scout in rural Pennsylvania and the other told to him by his grandfather, have modeled who he is today. A Newton County Sheriff’s Deputy who just celebrated his 91st birthday. Simpson is also a veteran of World War II who was in the invasions of Anzio and Southern France, a storied former FBI Special Investigator, husband, father and grandfather.
Last Saturday, July 4 his children and grandchildren joined him for his 91st from Washington, D.C. where his son is a research scientist for the National Institute of Health, for a full day of lunch at Butcher Block, a special dinner at Stalvey’s and a party back at his home near the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Rockdale County.
Two days later when he arrived at work, NCSO Captain Keith Crum asked to see Simpson in a conference room at the NCSO Law Enforcement Center. Once there many of Simpson’s peers and Sheriff Ezell Brown greeted him with a song and birthday cake.
“It was a total surprise,” Simpson said. “I had a really special day.”
Simpson has been with the NCSO for more than 15 years. Prior to joining NCSO, he served as bailiff for former Rockdale Superior Court Judge Clarence Vaughn, who personally requested the retired FBI special agent, Simpson, after a new circuit was made in the county.
When Vaughn retired, Simpson went to work in the newly opened judicial center in Newton County.
He now serves as a part-time investigator who works from the NCSO Law Enforcement making phone calls and doing online research three days a week to try and close cases. After all that’s what Simpson is famous for closing cases, one in particular.
Simpson was with the FBI during the civil rights era and was called over to Athens after Lemuel Penn was murdered.
Penn was an educator from Washington D.C. who was traveling back to Fort Benning and passed through Athens at the time when the Ku Klux Klan was out in white robes trying to prevent the integration of the Varsity.
“They were standing in the street and saw three blacks with tags form Washington, D.C., and one of them said, ‘there goes one of president Johnson’s boys.’” Simpson said. “They thought they were outside agitators coming through town and they followed them out of town and one of them stuck a shotgun out the window, pulled the trigger and killed Lemuel Penn.
Simpson learned all this from, not only being one of the investigators on the case, but also being in the questioning room with Penn’s murderer.
“I was lucky enough to get the confession that broke that case,” Simpson said. “I’m listed on the FBI’s most famous cases and in the National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C. for that case.”
During his time with the FBI Simpson also went with Attorney General Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach when he went to confront George Wallace at the University of Alabama, and was one of the agents who searched James Earl Ray’s car after he assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Now he passes on the wisdom earned through working all those cases to deputies at the NCSO.
“That’s one of the thrills of being an old timer,” Simpson said. “You’re able to mentor some of the younger officers. You offer what you can and hopefully it will be helpful to them.”
Even though he just passed 91, Simpson said he still wants to contribute and serve his community and continue to work as the state’s oldest, certified on duty peace officer.
“I’m hoping to serve as long as I can,” Simpson said. “I enjoy making my contribution to society. I still don’t want to rust sitting on my porch.”