The Fairmount community is mourning the death of retired Police Chief Bruce Kelley, who passed away on Tuesday, June 27. Kelley, 63, served for nearly 20 years as Fairmount’s police chief beginning in the early 1980’s.
According to Gordon County Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Paris, Kelley first served as a policeman in Fairmount. He also spent time serving as a policeman in Calhoun and as a deputy under Sheriff Pat Baker with the Gordon County Sheriff’s Office before returning to the Fairmount Police Department in the early 1980’s, where he would serve as the police chief until 2000.
Kelley was known in Fairmount as an honest policeman who served the small community in a way that was similar to a popular fictional sheriff you’d find on TV serving a small town called Mayberry.
“His policeman’s heart was in his home community,” said Paris.”I worked with Bruce on many, many occasions. Bruce had an almost Andy Griffith-ish approach to policing the small town of Fairmount.”
That didn’t mean Kelley couldn’t be tough when he needed to be.
“Bruce was personally responsible for the arrest of a major drug dealer in eastern Gordon County in the mid 1980’s,” said Paris. “A dangerous man who was subsequently imprisoned. I vividly remember Bruce laughing off the death threats he (and other officers) received afterwards.”
Others remember Kelley’s honesty and compassion.
“He was a man that you’re lucky to meet and you’re a better person for knowing him,” said former Fairmount City Clerk Janie Lambert, who worked with Kelley for 16 years. “The compassion he had for his fellow man is unbelievable.”
Lambert said that during his time of serving Fairmount, Kelley treated everyone the same. “As an officer, he was fair to everyone; it didn’t matter if you were at the top or bottom, he treated everyone the same. And if he saw somebody down and out, especially children, he would help them any way he could, with money or his time.”
Kelley also had a keen sense of humor and story-telling ability, sometimes using these to his advantage in law enforcement.
“He had a story or anecdote for every occasion, seldom failing to evoke laughter,” said Paris. “This boisterous sense of humor masked a keen insight and wisdom which enabled him to communicate with anyone and to put people at ease.”
Outside of law enforcement, Kelley was an avid outdoorsman. According to Paris, he was an expert hunter, trapper and fisherman, and was a strong proponent of wildlife resources conservation.
Kelley was also a master automobile mechanic and, after his retirement from law enforcement, operated his own automobile repair shop in Ranger for many years. He was a member of Morning Star Lodge of Freemasons and a Scottish Rite Mason as well.
Kelley is survived by his wife, Betty Herndon Kelley; two sons, Brandon Kelley, and Dustin Kelley; three daughters, Miranda Kelley, Jessica Howell, and Valerie Young; and ten grandchildren, Bryan Howell, Tyler Kelley, Ashley Howell, Kayleigh Kelley, Dawson Young, Chase Roberson, Kolter Kelley, Camden Cusick, Will Howell and Parker Young.
“He was a crack shot, an excellent driver and nothing moved in Fairmount of which he wasn’t aware when he was chief,” said Paris. “Mostly though, Bruce was a true friend. If something was wrong, he helped you without question. I never knew a more truthful man. I recall him saying to me, ‘Most people judge a man by how much money he’s got. I judge a man by how truthful he is.’ I will miss him very much.”