Newborn Mayor Roger Sheridan died at Athens Regional Medical Center Tuesday, after suffering a heart attack Friday.
Sheridan, 92, was believed to be the oldest serving mayor in Georgia and was re-elected to his second term as Newborn mayor this November after running unopposed.
Fellow local elected officials and residents marveled at Sheridan’s energy and accomplishments at such an advanced age, accomplishments that came after successful careers in both the U.S. military and as a professional engineer.
Sheridan fought in the European Theater in World War II during the Allies’ critical push into Germany, including fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in the 8th Armored Division. His back was broken during the battle, but he recovered to continue fighting in Gen. George S. Patton’s 3rd Army.
He was later awarded a citation for bravery for his acts on April 2, 1945.
"…Although stunned by a bullet which pierced his helmet, Lieutenant Sheridan manned a machine gun and forced the crew of an enemy anti-aircraft gun to abandon their weapon. He knocked out a truck loaded with enemy personnel and pinned down infantrymen who were attempting to infiltrate our lines. He engaged an enemy tank and was endeavoring to blind it when ordered to withdraw. He then withdrew his section without loss," according to the text of his citation.
Sheridan also helped free captives in Nazi concentration camps and earned a Purple Heart for injuries suffered during the Ardennes Campaign. He would retire from the Army as a captain.
Sheridan worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was a professional engineer and land surveyor. In his 48 years as an engineer, he managed projects in more than 32 countries and 17 states, building airports, dams, ports, highways, buildings and water treatment plants. He worked on projects with budgets as large as $500 million, including two recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records for Structures: the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Volta, and the world’s deepest cofferdam, Akosombo Dam, both in Ghana.
His winding career path crossed that of famous men, including General Patton himself and UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Sheridan was raised in Indiana and moved to Newton County in 1972 when he was assigned to work on the I-75 project in Henry County. He and his wife Shirley had been married for 69 years and had six children.
Sheridan was a member at Newborn United Methodist Church, where he served as chairman of the finance committee.
Sheridan received a bachelor’s degree from Westminster College in 1955, and completed a one-year soils-in-construction course through Harvard Graduate School and a safety engineer program from New York University Graduate School. He also attended Purdue University, West Point and the University of Utah.
When asked earlier this year why he wanted to serve another term as mayor, Sheridan said he still had a lot to give.
"Everybody needs a challenge, and you don’t want to throw all of your experience away. This has been a situation where I can take my experience and put it to use. It’s a challenge to me," Sheridan said.
Those who worked with him saw him put his knowledge and wisdom to use.
"Mayor Sheridan was the best kind of mayor. He wanted to do all he could for the Town of Newborn, and in the four years that I worked with him, he accomplished so much, and I know he had so much more planned for Newborn in the next four years ahead," said Town Clerk Lisa Rowe, who worked with the mayor on a daily basis. "He had so much drive and determination and I learned a great deal from him. I admired him so much. He was so kind and supportive of me, and not only was he my boss, I considered him my adopted ‘grandfather.’ It was an honor to sit and talk with him and listen to his stories of when he was growing up and in the war. Mayor Sheridan was a remarkable man.
"I would like to add one more thing that I will never forget. I considered my dog my family and Mayor Sheridan understood what my dog meant to me. He allowed me to bring my dog to work when he was sick, not once, but twice, and when I lost my dog in October, he was so caring and understanding. He had such a big heart. I will miss him greatly; it was a privilege and an honor to work for him and with him."
Linda Williams Woodworth, an active resident of Newborn, recalled the mayor’s strong leadership.
"Despite his age, he has been a very active mayor, showing leadership in items as diverse as supporting the Rails-to-Trails movement; a quick and thorough recovery from the 2011 tornado; paving many of our last dirt roads in the town limits; and continuing the efforts to keep the Old Schoolhouse safe from decay and vandals.
"As a career engineer, he had a grasp of building and infrastructure needs that was invaluable. As an Army veteran he saw the need for decisive action. Our council meetings were always under an hour (genius!) despite controversial topics such as alcohol sales and gun control in the city limits. We’ll miss him a lot."
County Commissioner John Douglas said Sheridan put his heart and soul into the town, while friend Maurice Carter, who worked with Sheridan on trails issues, said Sheridan was a visionary.
"To say he was ‘one-of-a-kind’ or that ‘he will be missed’ is an understatement," Carter wrote on Facebook. "They don’t make men like Roger Sheridan anymore. At 92, with nearly all of his life behind him, Roger could see the future in a way many younger men disappointingly cannot.
"He recognized opportunity and seized it with a passion I would love to equal at a much, much younger age."
Columnist Pete Mecca contributed to this story.