Editor's note: Cecil Nobles, who served as Long County Sheriff since 1969, died Monday morning. This tribute was published in Sunday's Courier:
This column is about a man from Long County, but there probably are as many people in Liberty County who also know him.
The Coastal Courier is the official legal organ for Long County, so it contains much news about the county. In law enforcement, the work sometimes overlaps into another county. These are my personal recollections of Long County Sheriff Cecil Nobles.
James Cecil Nobles was born Feb. 21, 1935, in northern Long County, just off Highway 301. He now lives less than two miles from where he grew up. In fact, that stretch of highway was named Cecil Nobles Highway on June 8, 2001.
His parents were Raymond Elliott Nobles and Minnie Lee Baxter Nobles. He has a brother, Gus, who still lives on the old home place. He had two sisters, Florrie and Freda. Florrie married my second cousin. I recall that she rode our school bus each morning and worked in the board of education office in the courthouse back in 1953.
Cecil has been married to Peggy DeLoach Nobles for more than 50 years. They have three sons, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Kenny and Craig Nobles both work in law enforcement. Jimmy Nobles is an attorney in Atlanta. When Jimmy was in Mrs. J. W. Jackson’s first-grade class, he was selected as our 1965 graduating class’ senior mascot.
Many people think of Cecil as “the sheriff of Long County,” but I usually do not think of him in this manner.
He and his family were our next-door neighbors across the woods when we lived on our farm behind St. Thomas Church. His daddy was a truck driver and farmer and a great friend of my father’s.
I remember going with Mama to their cornfield, and Mama climbed across the fence and broke a mess of roasting ears. She threw them across to me to put in the foot tub.
I was scared that she was stealing Mr. Raymond’s corn. I did not know that he always had told Mama to help herself whenever she saw the corn was ready for eating. Mama also picked all her tomatoes that she canned from the Nobles’ field.
I recall several times going to visit with Cecil’s grandmother when she was sick and bedridden. Even our old mama cat enjoyed going to their home. Every time she had a batch of kittens, she carried the little red one in her mouth and left it at their house. Perhaps the father lived there!
Working on the farm and selling produce provided a small income for Cecil when he was young. Later, my brother Tommy sold watermelons for him under the small shelter in front of Winn Howard’s store. Many tourists passed by on Highway 301 back in those days, around 1957. Tommy sat there all day waiting on tourists for $3 per day, but he had all the watermelons he could eat. They usually sold for $1.50 each.
Cecil attended Central School, near his home, in his early grammar years, and then went to Ludowici High School, where he graduated in 1953.
He received an associate degree from Brewton-Parker College in 1955. In 1957, he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia Southern University. He earned his master’s degree in education in 1961.
In 1959, he began teaching seventh grade at Ludowici High School. He served as assistant principal to Principal J. W. Jackson.
He taught seventh grade until 1968, when he ran for sheriff and won. He was a great educational leader in Long County and taught one of the first integrated classes in Southeast Georgia. Cecil also served as coroner for Long County for eight years during the time he taught school.
I saw Cecil almost every day at school as I walked to the lunchroom to take up the lunch tokens.
One day in the spring of 1962, he stopped me and asked me if I would hoe the weeds out of his tobacco field after school. I told him that I would, and each day as soon as I got home, I changed clothes and headed across the woods and over the fence to his tobacco patch.
That was a big field, and I was the only one doing the weeding around the little plants. It took me several evenings, but I completed the job. We also picked butterbeans for them and helped shell them.
Both of our families eventually moved, but we were neighbors again. We lived in the log cabin, and Cecil lived in a house near Beaver Hill with his wife, Peggy, and little boy, Jimmy. He had a large field of watermelons that he grew and shipped to other places. He told us to help ourselves to all we wanted.
Many times, my sister Hazel and I went through the woods to the field and picked a ripe melon from the hundreds. I handed it across the fence to her and then we busted it open on the ground. We sat on an oak log and ate the heart from the delicious, juicy melon with the juice running down our arms to our elbows. My, what sweet memories!
When those little tobacco plants grew big in the early summer, we helped Cecil harvest them. That is, we strung them on sticks and hung them in the tobacco barn near the field. There were a bunch of young folks working there, too, and we enjoyed the fellowship and fun with each other, even though it was nasty and tiring work.
However, we appreciated having some work to do in order to get money for our school clothes and supplies in the fall. It was fun to work with Cecil and Gus with their tobacco crops. Taking off the dry tobacco was much more fun than stringing up the green leaves.
I remember my sister Hazel and I took off tobacco for Gus the morning of his wedding to Beatrice in the afternoon. The tobacco had to be taken off and packed in the sheets before he could get married! First things first!
Cecil drove a Doodlebug or a Volkswagen. One day at lunchtime when we had finished “putting in tobacco,” he was going to take us all home.
Now, Cecil was not stingy, but he did like to s-t-r-e-t-c-h his dollars and gas. He had us all pile in the Doodlebug. There were at least 12 of us!
No sardines ever have been packed inside a can any tighter than we all were packed in that little car! Cecil, was that legal?
If there had been seat belts back then in 1962, there would not have been any room to buckle up. Most of us were teenagers, and we thought it was hilarious.
After the tobacco crop was finished and all the tobacco was hauled to the markets and sold, the tobacco farmers got together and held a huge fish fry down at Moody’s Fish Camp, which everyone really enjoyed. I guess that is where Cecil got used to buying large quantities of flounder and whiting from the coast. Through the past years, we have enjoyed many messes of fresh flounder that we purchased through him. Cecil and my brother Tommy were great friends, and he always called Tommy to let him know the flounders were available.
There is one strange thing about James Cecil Nobles. One may question how he ever grew up in South Georgia not eating chicken. That’s right: He does not like fried chicken or any other kind of chicken.
As many dinners as he has been invited to over the years, he has had to turn down a ton of fried chicken, I am sure. I guess that’s why he sometimes has been called “Porky.” He eats a lot of “the other white meat.”
Cecil began his career in law enforcement in January 1969. January 2012 marked his 43rd year as the Long County sheriff.
Cecil is the first sheriff in Georgia to hold a master’s degree in education. His wife, Peggy, has served as his secretary since 1971. Cecil also serves on the state board of corrections.
It seems that most law-enforcement officers have a nickname, and everyone in the surrounding counties and probably throughout the state know Nobles as “Good Buddy.” Cecil is one of the longest-serving sheriffs in the United States.
The Georgia Senate during the 1995-96 session passed State Resolution 271, which commended James Cecil Nobles for his outstanding work in education and law enforcement and recognized his meritorious service to his community and state.
Over the years, Cecil and I have shared many conversations and have had much in common. One similarity is that our birthdays are on the same day, but he is a few years older than me.
My first husband was a law-enforcement officer and had the opportunity to work with Sheriff Nobles on many occasions.
My son is a Georgia State Patrol trooper and also has had many opportunities to be associated with Cecil.
Being in law enforcement is a huge challenge, a great responsibility and one not to be taken lightly. Thanks, Cecil, for your public service!