Mr. Thomas E. "Duke" Watkins, age 80, of Rome, Ga., passed away on Tuesday evening, February 26, 2019, in a local hospital.

Duke was born in Washington, D.C., on May 18, 1938, son of the late Roy N. Watkins and Addie C. Rogers Watkins. He grew up in Anderson, S.C., attended Clemson University, Anderson University, and University of South Carolina, and was a veteran of the Unites States Army. Duke moved to Rome in 1971 and was associated with Sears Roebuck for a number of years. He also worked for a period of time with Garden Lakes Reality. In 1980, Duke opened the Biscuit Bucket in Garden Lakes and operated it until his retirement in 2005.

He was an active member of the Garden Lakes Baptist Church, serving as Chairman of the Sanctuary Building Steering Committee, was an ordained Life Deacon, member of the Fellowship Sunday School Class, the RAY Club and a previous member of the Administrative Committee. Duke was also a member and past president of the Noon Optimist Club. He enjoyed reading and spending time with his grandchildren.

Duke is survived by his loving wife of 55 years, Priscilla Randall Watkins, whom he married September 15, 1963; son and daughter-in-law, Thomas Randall "Randy" and Misty Watkins; grandchildren, Sara Katelyn Watkins and Thomas J.C. Watkins; step-grandchildren, Austin Adams (Alexandra and Rhett), Blake Adams (Summer and Athena), and Evan Adams; sister, Caroline Tarbox; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Clark Randall, Elizabeth and Daniel Crump, Michael and Hilary Randall, Patsy and Buddy Chastain, Jimmie and Bo Lowery, and Bobbie McCormick; nieces and nephews, Yvette Hood, Michelle Canady, Greg Canady, Hudson Randall, Hayden Randall, Mark Randall, Rick Randall, Hunter Randall, John Tarbox, Mike Tarbox, Ryan Crump, and Timothy Crump.

Funeral services for Duke will be held on Saturday morning, March 2, 2019, at 11:00 a.m. in Garden Lakes Baptist Church with Dr. Jimmy Gentry and Dr. Clarence Drummond officiating. Interment will be at Franklin Memorial Gardens in Lavonia, Ga., at a later date.

Duke's family will receive friends on Friday evening from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m. at Gardens Lakes Baptist Church.

Pallbearers are asked to meet at the church on Saturday morning by 10:30 a.m. and include Charles Graves, Bill Wilson, Brad Riddle, Bob Puckett, Bill Culpepper, Randy Robinson, Mark Booth, and Willie Nelson. The Fellowship Sunday School Class and Rome Noon Optimist Club will serve as honorary pallbearers.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to Children's Tumor Foundation, 120 Wall Street, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y., 10005, in honor of Sara Katelyn Watkins, granddaughter of Thomas E. "Duke" Watkins, or to the Garden Lakes Baptist Church Foundation.

The staff of Salmon Funeral Home is honored to serve the family of Thomas E. "Duke" Watkins.