Former Rockdale County Sheriff James Guy Norman III, 76, of Conyers passed away on Dec. 17, at Abbey Hospice in Social Circle, leaving a legacy of caring for the county’s youth.
He was born Nov. 6, 1936, in Wilkes County. Guy Norman was too young to be considered a part of the “Greatest Generation” but conducted himself in that manner. He graduated from North Georgia College in 1958 and received a commission in the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant. He would go on to serve in the Korean War and three tours in Vietnam and was wounded twice. After 27 years in the military, he retired as a Lt. Colonel.
Norman’s service in the Army shaped him. His son, Sam Norman, described him as a “man’s man.”
“He lived on orders; he ruled by orders, which was a wonderful way of growing up,” said Sam. “You knew where you stood. He said what he meant.”
Norman returned to Georgia to his wife Julia “Judy” Hill and family. He became an important part of the lives of many children and young adults in Rockdale County as a juvenile investigator for 12 years.
He decided to run for sheriff in 1987 against Vic Davis, who was running for a third term.
“He cared so much about the county and the people of Rockdale. That was one way he knew he could make a difference,” said his son Jeff Norman.
Norman won and served for eight years before being defeated by Sheriff Jeff Wigington in 1995. During his time, the Rockdale County Jail was at its Sigman Road location but was a campus of 173 beds and 125 employees., or one quarter the size of today's RCSO.
Norman was also actively involved with the youth of the county in many ways. “People didn’t realize about him was how much he did for kids,” said Jeff.
In addition to being involved in the high school program for students interested in law enforcement, Norman headed the youth baseball umpires in Rockdale for many years. Jeff recalled his father would charge a $1 “booking fee” and use the funds to pay for children who couldn’t afford to play and pay for their equipment and uniforms. “He never kept a dime of it.”
Those around him said Norman maintained a good nature, despite the things he saw in his life in the military and as a juvenile investigator and sheriff.
And despite the fact he could kill a man with his bare hands, Norman didn’t outwardly display aggression. He had a gun on him at all times, said Jeff, a Major in the Henry County Police. “He just did not wear one on his hip. He didn’t want to give off the appearance of violence.”
“He would seldom talk about his military stuff to someone who wasn’t there.”
Along with being sheriff, one of Guy Norman’s greatest accomplishments was raising his children. Sam Norman said his father would say that he managed to raise five kids, “and none of us were ever convicts or messed up.”
His daughter Becky Bala, a Henry County teacher, recalled her dad would attend every game and event that he could for his kids and was there for many of the grandkids’ events.
“He was just involved. He wasn’t a standoff kind of guy,” she said. At the jail, he would sometimes eat baloney sandwiches with the inmates for lunch. During his administration, Becky helped start a GED program at the jail.
“He would always tell us, everybody makes mistakes. It’s what you’ve learned from them that matters. That makes you the person you are,” she said.
When he retired, Norman and his wife dedicated their time to taking care of their 17 grandbabies in their home off Oglesby Bridge Road.
In the final days before Norman passed away from cancer at Abbey Hospice in Social Circle, a steady stream of visitors came to pay their final respects. “The lives he touched was one of the most amazing things to watch,” said Sam. “They came from everywhere, every walk of life.”
Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20, at Zion Baptist Church with Rev. Clay Manley and Dr. Jim Martin officiating. Interment was in Resthaven Cemetery in Washington, Ga., with a hand-carved wooden casket out of Washington-Wilkes yellow pine, an Army-issued white shirt at his head, and dirt from his farm at his feet. The family received friends at Wheeler Funeral Home in Covington on Dec. 19, and prior to the service on Thursday at the church.
He outlived his sister and his brother as well as his wife of 51 years, Julia “Judy” Hill Norman of Conyers. He leaves behind a loving family of five children, son and daughter-in-law Guy and Julie Norman IV; daughter and son-in-law Becky and Shawn Bala; son and daughter-in-law Jeff and Denise Norman; son and daughter-in-law Sam and Marla Norman; daughter and son-in-law Naomi and Chad Crawford. His 17 grandkids whom he loved unconditionally are Carla, Sara and Amanda Norman; Cody, Braxton, Aly, Bailey Anne, and Garrin Bala; Hillary and Clark Norman; Blaise and Samantha Norman; Brittani, Eli, Lyla Grace, Jorja Brooke and Jacey Crawford; Several nieces and nephews.