Hundreds came out to say their final goodbyes to a man they considered a stalwart champion of the Liberty County community. Robert Vernon "Bobby" Sikes was laid to rest Thursday after passing away Monday morning surrounded by family at Hospice Savannah.
His services were held at Hinesville First United Methodist Church, where Sikes was a long-time parishioner.
The Rev. Dale Thornton said Sikes was now in the loving arms of his Lord and that those in attendance should not mourn but instead celebrate the fact that Sikes had served his Lord well here, and is now at peace in Heaven.
Those who spoke said Sikes was a visionary a man well ahead of his times when it came to treating people equally.
"I remember the smile and twinkling in the eyes of Sheriff Bobby Sikes," the Rev. Douglas Force said, recalling the first time he met Sikes more than three decades ago. "He had a smile that was larger than the moon and brighter than the sun."
Force said he was the first African American ever appointed to a United Methodist Church, yet it was Sikes and his family who he said were able to look beyond race and welcome him like family.
Force said Sikes was a compassionate soul who treated all with dignity and kindness. Force said he was indebted to the Sikes family for all they did in making him feel at home.
Those sentiments were echoed by state Rep. Al Williams, who said Sikes treated people with respect, even those who wound up in jail. He added there was a lot that Sikes did for which he never got credit because he was a humble man.
"There are so many things that did not make the newspaper because Sheriff Sikes did not seek publicity," Williams said, then recalled a time when Sikes helped make possible a visit by Dr. Martin Luther King to Dorchester Academy. This was during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s.
"Here we are in the 60s at Dorchester Academy with the high sheriff of a rural southern county welcoming Martin Luther King," Williams said.
Williams said Sikes was a great man.
"He used to always say, if you get into trouble here in Liberty County and I can’t get you out, I’ll get in with you," Williams said. "He was so smooth…what a great example, and not just for coastal Georgia but for Georgia and this nation."
Williams said he watched all of Sikes’ sons grow up and knows that their father would be proud of the work they continue to do in service of their families and the community.
The most touching comments came from Sikes’ grandson, Scott Sikes, who recalled what it was like growing up in the Sikes clan. He called his grandfather iconic and legendary.
He said he often spent days with his grandfather at the old historic Liberty Jail. One day in particular, his grandad asked if he wanted to meet the prisoners.
Sikes said his grandfather led him toward a tall strong-jawed Latino man who extended his hand out from behind his cell and shook hands. He said the prisoner told him to be a good person and not end up in jail as he did.
Sikes said that’s when his grandfather looked over to the man and said that he wasn’t a bad person just one that had temporarily lost his way. That one day he would be out of jail and would do the right thing.
Scott Sikes said he never forgot the compassion that his grandfather showed the prisoner that day and it was a lesson in humanity that stayed with him as he pursued his own career as a lawyer.
He recalled the revelry and laughter and jokes that took place during several Thursday night fish fry parties at his grandfather’s home on the coast.
And he honored widow Lynn Sikes, his grandmother, by saying she stood by her husband through all the ups and downs for more than six decades. He said she is just as much the true matriarch of the family as he was the patriarch and that she and Sikes adored each other from the very beginning.
Bobby Sikes served as Liberty County sheriff after his father, Paul H. Sikes, died in office in August 1959. Sikes served the remaining two years of that term and two terms by election. He left office for other interests but was re-elected to the position after sheriff Bill Phillips died during his second term in office.
Sikes kept getting re-elected and served until 1992.
Despite his having been out of office for nearly 25 years, hundreds of law enforcement personnel, to include sheriffs from neighboring counties, all came to pay their respect to Sikes for his career in service to others.
Officers came to full attention as the pallbearers carried his casket in preparation of his final resting place. Sikes was laid to rest at Dorchester Cemetery.